When this hits print, the midterm elections will be decided. For others, reading online before you’ve voted, you get to determine whether the egregious nature of the full-page ad in these papers (also in a printed flyer mailed to homes in Rockland and Owls Head; towns served by Democratic State Rep. Pinny Beebe-Center) will affect your vote.

It was an attack ad and in poor taste, using graphics of razor blades next to Pinny’s name and a screaming baby with wording suggesting Beebe-Center was unwilling to protect girls from genital mutilation.

The full-page ad was strategic, used emotionally charged graphics and was placed in the papers so close to Election Day that Pinny’s ability to answer the charges was compromised, and the Courier papers' effort to apologize and distance themselves was limited.

The ad, placed by a PAC led by Republican Rep. Paula Sutton of Warren, was meant to do one thing; disparage Pinny, and other Democrats in Maine, where the PAC used the same ad to suggest their opponents were somehow “for” female genital mutilation because they did not vote to support a partisan bill whose purpose was to put state Democrats into a “lose-lose” position. If they voted for the bill, it would be viewed as anti-immigrant, and if they didn’t, it opened them up to cheap attacks like this.

Anyone who knows Pinny understands what she stands for and her belief in people. Supporters were unnerved and angry at this mean-spirited ad suggesting she was pro-mutilation.

The ad should have been refused at submission by the Courier papers because the graphics were over the top. It was not rejected; when alerted, the Courier issued an apology to Pinny and readers in the communities they serve, taking the ad down from its Village Soup website, but was unable to change what had already been printed.

The visuals chosen by Sutton and her group for this ad are not defensible and should not have been allowed in these newspapers. The claim that Pinny is unwilling to protect young women from abuse is misleading and contrary to everything Pinny has spent a lifetime doing; working with women’s groups and the homeless in a life that has always served others.

The apology by the newspaper contained no ifs, ands, or buts — it read: “We failed to live up to the standards the community has a right to expect from us. Rest assured, seeing flaws in our tracking systems, we have established new internal policies to ensure nothing like this happens again.”

Some readers applauded the apology, while others wanted more; I'm not sure what more one can do but accept and own a mistake, which was done, and make changes to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Pinny’s explanation that “This bill was not meant to protect anyone but to smear a population” holds water, while the position taken by Sutton and by Pinny’s opponent, Republican Maynard Stanley, don’t. Neither would apologize for the graphic content, doubling down and saying this bill was necessary to protect females from genital mutilation, rejecting Maine State Attorney General Janet Mills' statement that laws already prohibit this in Maine, or the fact that there have not been any documented cases or federal prosecutions in Maine that would lead to the need for additional legislation.

Pinny added, “This was the most racist bill to come before us this year.” Rockland Mayor Valli Geiger weighed in, adding; “I just received this same disgusting piece of garbage in the mail. Paula Sutton, how could you do this?”

Geiger added; “Pinny is one of the finest people I know, working tirelessly getting the homeless shelter back open, interim director of New Hope for Women, the list goes on. What have you (Paula Sutton) done besides vote to decrease children’s funding, vote to decrease mental health services, vote to decrease child protective services and vote against Medicaid expansion? What is wrong with you? Such a vicious unethical act.”

What was Paula thinking; that is for voters to decide and act on. The fact that a bill was introduced, knowing it wouldn’t pass, purely for political reasons, is a system failure. No apology has been forthcoming from Sutton, Pinny’s opponent, Maynard Stanley, or the PAC Sutton leads.

If we don’t hold these acts accountable at elections, this will continue to be seen as acceptable behavior. Political battles should be determined on issues, not by graphics meant to horrify and distort a person’s character and moral integrity.

Rather than use graphics that stigmatize our Muslim and immigrant population, we would be better served finding positive ways to shape policy that protects and embraces; contrary to many who support this PAC, including Sutton and the anti-immigration policies of the LePage administration she openly supports.

As a society, we are better than this.

Or, are we?

Tuesday, Nov. 6 will give us a clue.

“A king can stand people fighting but he can’t last long if people start thinking.”

— Will Rogers, humorist (1879-1935)