Candidate buys ad to defend his character

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) State Rep. Jim Whitaker bought a newspaper advertisement Wednesday to deny rumors that he has abused alcohol or drugs or cheated on his wife.

Whitaker, R-Fairbanks, is running for mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

He said his daughters told him they were hearing rumors that he used drugs, drank too much and philandered.

He said he could have ignored the reports as normal political assassination but decided to deny them.

''There is a choice a candidate has,'' Whitaker told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''You can ignore it or you can deal with it aggressively and straightforwardly.''

The News-Miner ad is in the form of an open letter to the residents of the Fairbanks North Star Borough. In it, Whitaker denies allegations of substance abuse and infidelity and mocks the rumors.

''In the game of politics rumors are inevitable; from the subliminal to the outlandish,'' Whitaker's letter read. ''To pre-empt such foolishness, I'll say this: I've never tried drugs, don't have a drinking problem, always been faithful to my wife, and don't have aliens living in my brain or anywhere else.

''On the political side, I am not a liberal radical, but rather a somewhat right-of-center businessperson who recognizes the need for both personal and community responsibility.''

He provided his home, work and cell phone numbers in the ad, welcoming people to call him to discuss real issues.

Whitaker said he placed the ad to take a stand against character smearing. It undermines the political process and keeps good people from running for office, he said.

''If someone wants to attack my character, they may,'' he said. ''I will defend myself. It's a very aggressive, no-nonsense approach.''

Whitaker said he does not blame incumbent Mayor Rhonda Boyles for the rumors.

''I'm not prepared to jump into a he-said, she-said situation,'' he said.

Boyles said she learned of the rumors after reading Whitaker's letter.

''I'll have a positive, energetic campaign and would hope that things be kept positive,'' she said.

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