A series of chalked incendiary messages on the Diag this week about Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has led student leaders of both political parties to condemn what they called “dirty campaigning and fear tactics.”

On Monday morning, Diag sidewalks were covered with partisan messages praising Republican nominee John McCain. But among the chalkings of “I heart McCain” and “McCain & Palin in ’08,” were slogans with a harsher tone.

According to Nathaniel Eli Coats Styer, chair of the College Democrats and a junior in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, one message referenced Obama’s pro-choice stance, saying he “kills babies.” Another simply read, “Buck Ofama.” And another chalked message linked Obama to controversial figure Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, who endorsed Obama earlier this year.

After that endorsement, Obama denounced Farrakhan and his support because of anti-Semitic remarks made by Farrakhan.

The chalkings prompted Styer and College Republicans chair Brady Smith, an LSA junior, to co-author a letter to The Michigan Daily denouncing the messages and mudslinging campaign tactics.

“The slander left behind on the Diag amounts to little more than dirty campaigning and fear tactics; not representative of the caliber of dialogue we expect at the University of Michigan,” they wrote.

Styer drafted the letter after seeing the messages Monday. He then called Smith and they agreed it was important to take action.

“We’re taking a united stand against this kind of campaigning on campus,” Styer said in an interview.

Smith said the College Republicans weren’t involved in the incident.

“We’ve run a good, clean, positive campaign on both sides leading up to this point, and we’d like to continue that,” said Smith, who said he never saw the chalkings. “We’re very excited by everyone’s passionate civic engagement and we’d just like to make sure that it’s on a completely constructive level, like most of the (positive) comments that were written.”

The question of what is appropriate in the race for the presidency has been analyzed on a national level for months, but has become more local as Election Day draws nearer.

A week ago, an Obama billboard was vandalized on the US-23 Highway near Ann Arbor. The sign was defaced with racial slurs in black spraypaint, swastikas, the letters “KKK” and drawings of Ku Klux Klan hoods. Obama, the first-ever black presidential candidate from a major party, has also been the target of several recent threats. The Secret Service is investigating threatening letters against Obama that were received separately in Livingston County.

Both Styer and Smith stressed the importance of working together to set a positive tone on campus leading up to the election. Their letter focused on the necessity of making campaign education events a collaborative effort.

“This election is far too crucial to be denigrated by dishonesty and hysterics,” they wrote. “Let us work together to strengthen America through a respectful, issue-oriented campaign.”

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