Of all the campaign strategies available, perhaps this wasn’t the best one.
Last spring, Gary Dodds was trailing in the Democratic primary for New Hampshire’s 1st District Congressional seat when his crashed car was found empty. He went missing for more than a day, creating a national story about the missing candidate. He later explained that following the collision, he’d stumbled into the woods, crossed the river, and then lay down under a pile of leaves, where he was eventually found. Police were immediately suspicious of Dodds’ story, a suspicion that later led to charges for false public alarms and falsifying physical evidence. Now prosecutors are saying he made all that up to gin up publicity:
In a motion filed at Strafford County Superior Court last week, prosecutors seek to introduce evidence that Dodds had taken out two mortgages on property without the approval of his wife, Cynthia, to fund his campaign and that his campaign had received letters from the Federal Election Commission indicating they were contemplating instigating an audit into discrepancies in campaign finance reports.
“It would be argued that Mr. Dodds fabricated the story he told police and falsified his physical appearance in an attempt to gain publicity to help propel his campaign for the United States Congress,” the motion reads. “The state would argue that Mr. Dodds believed the publicity garnered from this accident would increase the visibility of his campaign, allowing him to pay back the mortgages, avoid further FEC investigation, and right a campaign that was lagging.”
Police have earlier said that Dodds seems to have faked a head injury and lied about swimming across the river. When he was found, his feet were so wet that police had to pour water out of his shoes, but the rest of his body was dry. And when they questioned him about how the water had tasted, he’d gotten the answer wrong (it’s brackish). The list goes on.
It’s still unclear to me whether police think Dodds staged the whole thing from top to bottom, or whether the idea struck him after he’d had his private fender bender. In any case, other campaigns should be wary of adopting a similar strategy: Dodds got little more than a 1,000 votes in the primary (Dem Carol Shea-Porter went on to win the general election).