Every day the messages arrive in mailboxes and are broadcast on radio and television, filled with shocking accusations and righteous indignation.
The critics say state Sen. Peter Courtney is a tax-and-spend liberal who has been in public office too long, and Marion County Commissioner Randy Franke is part of a government that wastes money but benefits him.
But Democratic incumbent Courtney and Republican challenger Franke are not the ones hammering each other in campaign debates or advertising.
The accusations against Courtney were contained in mail brochures sponsored by Citizens for Truth in Government and Politics, represented by a Keizer couple, and the political action committee of Oregon Citizens for a Sound Economy, an offshoot of a national group promoting lower taxes and less regulation of business.
The accusations against Franke were contained in a mail brochure sponsored by the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund, the campaign committee for Senate Democrats.
The Courtney-Franke race in Oregon Senate District 11 may be the most prominent local example of negative advertising, but far from the only one. Often the ads are generated by the candidates themselves, but sometimes THEY are done by others.
Voters say they have come to expect such attacks during campaigns - and generally discount them.
"All of those candidates are trying to play up their better sides - and make the other guy look like the devil," said Dick Warnock of Salem, a Republican.
Warnock said even Ted Kulongoski's positive ads have not swayed him to vote for the Democratic nominee for governor.
Aileen Kaye, a Democrat who lives outside Turner, is critical of Republican nominee Kevin Mannix for attacking Kulongoski. Mannix's photo appears in the ads, but women speak the critical words about Kulongoski and taxes.
"People think because we have regulation of TV ads, lies couldn't possibly be put up on the screen," Kaye said.
Mudslinging TV ads have been around only a few decades, but negative campaigns have been around almost as long as the United States has had elections. Even the Founding Fathers were subject to bitter partisan attacks.
Opponents of Grover Cleveland's presidential candidacy in 1884 sought to capitalize on his fathering an illegitimate child with the slogan, "Ma, ma, where's my pa? Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha." But Cleveland got the last laugh - he was elected.
Eighty years later, a national television audience saw a child picking daisy petals and counting to 10, and heard her voice melded with a male announcer counting down before a nuclear explosion. The "Daisy" ad, shown only once on NBC, never mentioned its real target - Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, who lost in a landslide to Democrat Lyndon Johnson.
One of the first studies of negative advertising, by two political scientists, concludes that it divides voters into increasingly partisan camps and turns off those who are not so partisan.
"As the independents in the middle stop voting, the partisans at the extremes come to dominate electoral politics," said Stephen Ansolabehere and Shanto Iyengar in their 1995 book "Going Negative."
Television has magnified negative advertising - and campaign consultants promote it.
"But the effect is not always as predictable as the campaign consultants imagine," said Stephen Ponder, an associate professor of journalism and communication at the University of Oregon.
"The ads may discredit your opponent and discourage your opponent's supporters from turning out. But they also might blow back at you if you are identified with turning the campaign negative."
Franke and Courtney, who are locked in one of a half-dozen races that will determine which party controls the Oregon Senate, said each feels he is the injured candidate with the negative brochures.
The mailer from the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund, dubbed "Government Gone Wild," depicted Franke in a variety of computer-generated images while criticizing his record as a Marion County commissioner. Franke called it "a piece of trash."
"Records like Courtney's or mine are what define us as individuals and elected officials," Franke said. "I expect some pushing and tugging on voting records, and being dramatic with how our voting records are portrayed. I can live with all that. But I am insulted by the piece that the friends of Courtney put out there."
Franke criticized its tone and singled out a specific reference to a $400,000 county grant of state lottery proceeds to The Oregon Garden in Silverton, where his wife, Jacqueline, is development director.
"What offended me the most was that it dragged my wife into the campaign," he said.
Courtney said he never authorized it, and he asked Senate Democratic Leader Kate Brown not to do anything else on his behalf.
"I will tell you that I did not know anything about that until I read it in my own mail," he said. "But it was done."
Courtney said the increasingly negative tone of the campaign was "unfortunate" but perhaps inevitable.
"At this point, confrontations take place and things happen," he said. "But issues and records are being discussed, and differences in styles and experience are being discussed."
Still, Courtney said his own record has been distorted in brochures and letters mailed independently of the Franke campaign.
"I've been misrepresented on the Public Employees Retirement System, the sales tax and taxes," he said.
One brochure, "Tax and Spend," listed Courtney as voting for a gasoline tax increase he actually opposed in 1989, and voting for another bill that ended a tax exemption for fallout shelters - but was converted later to a gasoline tax increase. A third bill, mentioned twice, was the biennial bill that sets the tax rate for timber producers to pay for forest practices enforcement and fire suppression.
Courtney sponsored a 1983 sales tax bill, which went nowhere, and voted for referral of a 1993 sales tax plan that voters rejected.
"I have seen the one you are talking about," Franke said. "I do not know that it is not accurate. But it is a far cry from the insulting and demeaning piece that came out on Courtney's behalf."
While some observers believe exposure and independent analysis can reduce the frequency and impact of negative ads, others disagree.
The political scientists who wrote "Going Negative" and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, question whether independent analyses of negative ads do any good.
They say voters tend to remember only the negative material, and that "ad watches" reinforce rather than correct impressions.
Kaye, the resident from outside Turner, said she has a differing view.
"I think one reason negative ads are effective is that reporters do not have the time or resources to do good investigations of them," she said. "People watch the ads but do not have the time to do that research on their own."