All 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for election this year and more of them than in recent cycles have major two party competition. This is because Democrats — fresh after the 2007 capture of the Virginia Senate and gains in the House, and the 2008 Virginia victory by Barack Obama — thought they had a realistic chance of taking the House. Competitive campaigns are welcome. They bring out the best in candidates, good ideas, and illustrate the differences between the two primary strains of political thought. But there is a sure difference between tough competition and despicable conduct. That's the case in the 73rd House of Delegates campaign between Democrat challenger Tom Shields and Republican incumbent, Dr. John O'Bannon

With 100 campaigns, it's difficult to keep up with them all, but this one sticks out because it was an early Democrat target. Shields, who teaches "leadership" at the University of Richmond, went low and dishonest from the start, claiming Delegate O'Bannon never held constituent meetings or mailed newsletters. He continued the falsehoods even after confronted with physical evidence.

He's only gone lower since and his mailer yesterday defies description: It claims that Delegate O’Bannon, the only physician in the House — and a neurologist, at that — has not only worked against Alzheimer’s patients, but also is to blame for the lack of a cure for the disease! Not entirely shocking coming from a hard-core campus leftist ideologue who only cares to help secure control of the House for his party, but still difficult to contemplate how he and the state Democrat party hacks advising him manage to think up such low and despicable rhetoric — and how they find ways to top their previous dishonesties.

The fact is, Delegate O'Bannon has been a leader in funding research for this disease and, for it, the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Richmond presented him with its Advocate Award. I guess Shields knows more than the Alzheimer’s Association. Either that, or he's calling the Alzheimer’s Association a stooge front group. Competition is good. Unfortunately, Shields isn't interested in that. Instead, the fervor of taking power for his party leads him to the gutter.