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Political careers can survive high-profile sexual scandals

Aug 23, 2013


By The News-Register Editorial Board

Here is a hypothetical question posed for our readers: Would you consider voting for former Newberg City Manager Dan Danicic if he ran for a public office?

Last week, Danicic was asked to resign after officials learned he was involved in a lengthy affair with a city employee, Tabrina McPherson. She now claims her position was terminated, at least in part, because of the affair. 

This is the latest in a slew of recent sex scandals we have been reading about. It raises considerable alarm as to why these men have no fear of repercussions for such inappropriate behavior. A more daunting question, perhaps, is how much does the public care? 

In Portland, Multnomah City Commissioner Jeff Cogen is facing pressure to resign after his extramarital affair with an employee in the Health Department was made public. That employee lost her job. Across the nation, several politicians are battling for their professional careers in high-profile scandals, most notably San Diego Mayor Robert Filner and former congressman and current New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner.

Each sex scandal is perceived differently by the public, depending on the array of actions involved. These affairs often incorporate lies, hypocrisy and abuse of power in one form or another, and sometimes misuse of funds. Reports of such scandals usually are cause for public scorn but, sometimes, the affairs are brushed off as simply randy behavior deemed the private business of public officials. 

The recent rash of scandals has sparked debate about where voters draw the line when it comes to second chances for officials or politicians caught with their pants down. 

In Danicic’s case, he carried on an affair and lied about it to those who entrusted him to run the city effectively. Whether he orchestrated McPherson’s termination, as she claims, may be the subject of legal action. But City Attorney Terry Mahr was right to say that Danicic deserved to lose his job for putting the city in this situation.

However, back to the original question: Hypothetically speaking, if Danicic stayed off the radar for awhile and then mounted a run for a political position, how would his affair and its cover-up weigh on voters at the polls?

There are many examples of the public forgiving infidelity — See Rep. Mark Sanford and Sen. David Vitter. In America, and elsewhere, breaking the Seventh Commandment does not disqualify one from being considered a viable political leader.

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