Jo-Anne Dobson slams election rivals as sexist for abuse over her looks
The Upper Bann election battle has turned personal, with UUP candidate Jo-Anne Dobson the target of snide remarks about her appearance.
The Alliance Party branded her "glamour-seeking" and claimed she had little interest in serving the community, before apologising.
And the son-in-law of outgoing DUP MP David Simpson appeared to defend graffiti by vandals on a Mrs Dobson election poster, saying it was a "massive improvement".
Mrs Dobson said the criticism was "embarrassing". "Others may wish to focus on negativity, but I will not be derailed from running a positive campaign based on the issues that are important to local people," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
"It is sad and embarrassing that some people still attack women in public life for their appearance rather than debate their policies. It is counterproductive when we are trying to encourage more women into politics."
In the first incident, the Alliance Upper Bann campaign's Facebook page accused Mrs Dobson of having more interest in being photographed than serving voters.
In a post supporting its candidate Peter Lavery, the party wrote: "Voters of Upper Bann, ignore glamour-seeking non-camera shy Jo Ann [sic] appears more interested in prestige than service to community". The post was taken down and the party apologised. It said: "This post was removed as soon as it was brought to our attention. It doesn't represent the views of the party."
The UUP was also angered by comments from DUP MP Mr Simpson's son-in-law. After vandals drew glasses and blacked out one of Mrs Dobson's teeth on a poster, Dave Cassells wrote on Facebook: "Spotted Nanny McPhee in Scarva. Massive improvement".
Asked by the Belfast Telegraph if Mr Cassels or Mr Simpson wished to comment, the DUP said: "We are unable to comment because it is the subject of legal action."
Dismissing the jibes, Mrs Dobson said she had received "a fantastic reception" from voters. "My campaign is based on a proven track record on issues including health and backing local business," she added. "I believe the people of Upper Bann will vote out of hope and not out of fear."