Ten years ago, state Sen. Jeff Wentworth filed a defamation suit against his Republican primary opponent, John Shields, 11 days before election day. The lawsuit was a response to a Shields ad that depicted Wentworth as an unscrupulous lawyer who had accepted money from a discredited HMO. Wentworth announced that he would donate any damages he was awarded to charity, and said his purpose was simply to put a halt to ads that went “far beyond customary (political) exaggeration.”
Thursday morning, Wentworth played out the same scene. Oh, there were small differences: This suit was filed 12 days before the primary, instead of 11; this time the primary challenger was former Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones; and this time Wentworth had been accused of billing both the state and his campaign for travel expenses. But otherwise it was a note-for-note simulation, down to Wentworth's complaint about his opponent's ad exceeding the bounds of typical campaign distortions, and his promise to donate any damages he may collect.