Home Politics Going Negative in the Champagne Room: Sex Work in Local Campaign Ads

Going Negative in the Champagne Room: Sex Work in Local Campaign Ads

“I knew I was going to go negative. I had to. And part of it is because of that so-called poll. That was one of the primary reasons I had do this”

Philadelphia Republican mayoral candidate John Featherman is going after Dems and his fellow Republican primary candidates alike in this ad that shows two machine pols discussing how they fleece the system with a stripper in the champagne room. Of the three characters in this ad, the stripper is the one who comes off as the best person, by far. Be sure to watch for the twist ending!

This is far from the first time there’s been sex work content in a political ad. Both parties have used sex workers as shorthand for questionable character traits, unethical business behavior, and economic hardship. Imagine, say, being so desperate because of reduced Medicare spending that you have to be a geriatric stripper. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released the following web ad intended to admonish Congressional Republicans for the financial consequences of Medicaid cuts.

Last fall, Democrats in Washington Township NJ trumpeted Chris Del Borello’s family’s ownership of stripper agencies in negative ads, with the ludicrous premise that no one involved in such shady business should sully the pristine world of New Jersey city and county politics. Now he’s the president of the township council. This is clearly an instance of misjudging your audience.

In 2006, the National Republican Congressional Committee ran an ad insinuating that New York candidate Michael Arcuri had used public funds to pay for a call to a phone sex line. As it turned out, the line was one number off from a government office, and phone records easily debunked its premise. Half a dozen television stations refused to run it, and Arcuri won his race.

Would that the image of a male stripper with a walker could damage John Boehner’s reelection prospects, but judging by the above evidence, you lose the race when you demonize a candidate’s real or imagined connection with sex workers in a negative ad. This bodes well for our collective political futures should we decide to run for office but works against Featherman and the DCCC in Ohio.



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