Dick Spotswood writes a weekly column on local politics for the Marin Independent... (Robert Tong)

In politics, a "Saturday night special" is a negative advertising blitz that's mailed immediately before Election Day. It's typically a hit piece loaded with half-truths designed to put the targeted candidate in an unfavorable light.

The timing is precise, since an ad distributed so close to an election doesn't give the victim time to respond.

This year a target was San Rafael Councilman Damon Connolly, who was running to oust Marin Supervisor Susan Adams. The slam, received in voters' mailboxes this past Saturday, was directly funded by Adams' campaign. It was aimed at those less-involved and easy-to-confuse voters who don't closely follow local politics.

To say that Adams' broadside was audacious is an understatement. The Yiddish word "chutzpah" is more accurate. The piece leads off with, "Damon Connolly: ready to approve massive developments for campaign donors."

It goes on to list "Damon's Donor's" including "CEO Melissa Bradley" and a slate of real estate-related contributors, including "Lobbyist Gary Giacomini."

While the piece is accurate about Connolly's donations and his support from former supervisor Giacomini, it wasn't true that Connolly supports "massive projects (that) would decimate our open space." It also ignores that Adams, like all incumbents, received substantial contributions from development interests.

The incongruity is that the three-term supervisor earlier survived a recall attempt based on her support for development at Marinwood Plaza that was perceived by some as massive. She was also criticized by opponents for her tenure on the board of the Association of Bay Area Governments, a regional agency strongly promoting high-density housing.

That's not to say that Adams is an across-the-board supporter of big-time construction. Her actions regarding San Rafael's St. Vincent's-Silveira Ranch site were critical in preventing overdevelopment on those open lands.

It is to say that opponents of urbanizing the eastern corridor of Marin lined up against Adams' re-election bid. That includes Bradley, the hard-charging real estate executive who's an outspoken adversary of dense housing adjacent to single-family neighborhoods. Connolly has been knocked by housing advocates for his criticism of regional alphabet agencies' efforts to promote so-called "transit-centered development" outside of established downtowns.

This last-minute stunt tells you as much about Marin public opinion as it does about a candidate's tactics.

The fact that Adams would label an opponent as favoring "massive developments" represents a perceptive understanding that Marin votes are adamantly opposed to such efforts. Adams perceived that high-density development, symbolized by the blockbuster apartment complex going up on the WinCup property in Corte Madera, is widely unpopular across the Marin political spectrum.
The broadside was effectively a compliment to high-density opponents. They've generated such passions that even Adams thought she need to blast "massive development" to politically survive. Of course, one person's "massive development" is another person's "transit-centered housing."

Read More at the Marin IJ