Fake newspaper raises questions in Mesquite Council campaign

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on May 8, 2010 at 12:13 AM

Updated Friday, May 14 at 10:37 AM

MESQUITE — The insults are flying in Mesquite, where fake newspapers landed on doorsteps this week ahead of one of the city's most contested local races in years.

"If you just pick up the paper like my neighbor did and look at the headline, you automatically veer one way without knowing anything else," said homeowner Nan Zaragoza.

It's being delivered as "The Mesquite Times," but the articles in it were lifted from The Dallas Morning News in the mid-1990s.

Most of the "paper" focuses on City Council candidate Gary Ward, when the former school board member was fighting drug charges. He was later acquitted.

"This whole thing is an attack piece," Ward said. "It's very skewed. They give half the story. The fact is, I was cleared on all those charges — not only cleared, but record expunged."

Ward calls it a low in politics, designed to look like a real newspaper, unlike campaign fliers or handouts. The "Times" comes complete with with cartoons and a crossword puzzle.

Ward's main opponent, Brian Hutcheson, concedes that an acquaintance of his printed the papers, but says he did so without Hutcheson's knowledge.

"I was not aware of the paper," Hutcheson said. "I had nothing to do with the paper."

He says this race for City Council has gotten so nasty that he's afraid for his family's safety.

"I don't appreciate threats, don't think anybody does," Hutcheson said. "I don't appreciate signs disappearing by the hundreds."

Hutcheson and Ward are battling for Mesquite's lone contested City Council seat in an aging suburb that's been struggling with crime.

A third candidate has been largely ignored in this spat. Robert Drennan, 26, called it an eye-opener.

"It really upsets me it has to be this way," he said. "Just small-town politics; just Mesquite politics. You wouldn't think there would be this much hate out there."

Drennan, like others, is shocked at how quickly this race has been dragged to the gutter.

The Mesquite City Council race is one of about 300 News 8 will be watching on Saturday after North Texans cast ballots for mayors, council members and school board trustees. There are also several city propositions to be decided.

Once the polls close at 7 p.m. Saturday, see who is winning at WFAA.com, and watch for a wrapup on the News 8 Update at 10 o'clock.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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