Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Lessons Learned from the Campaign Trail

     What a quick three months; and what lessons I have learned.  In my first attempt at public office there are several things that become somewhat "painfully" obvious as you go through the progression.  There are even more rewards.  The rewards come in the form of people.  People you meet or encounter.  People that just want to be encouraging.  People that feel they have no voice.  People that have had their lives affected by bad policies, bad government and bad decisions made to benefit the very few.  People that want to make things better but are at a loss to understand how.
     You develop a want to help these folks.  You identify with them as you are them.  Candidates that have yet to be elected more closely identify with the folks not the incumbents.  You hear things said that sometimes want to make you jump up and yell "are you serious".  I chose not to get "personal" with any of the incumbents in this race and some I even respect for what they bring to the table as representatives.  I was treated well by all of them and even encouraged by a few.  This interaction served to confirm some beliefs that I have with regards to how Greensboro currently operates; and after observing the political campaign process front and center this experience has opened my eyes to what has to be done if I choose to re-enter the ring in the future.

Campaigning

     In retrospect, I was correct in telling folks that successfully defeating one of the three sitting at large council members was improbable.  Starting from absolute zero with only three months to make a dent in their built in advantage of name recognition would prove to be an insurmountable task.  While receiving 9.3% of the total vote seems weak, it actually is a pretty good showing for only three months of active campaigning by a newbie.  I have not yet looked to see where I was most successful but I seemed to jump a couple percentage points late.  I look forward to seeing where I actually did the best.
     The community forums were fun.  Again, I felt that my background was different than the incumbents and that I should concentrate on selling those differences.  The reaction from audiences during and after was strong.  I felt that each time I was able to get on stage with all the other candidates I improved my standing.  Points that I made were rarely disputed by incumbents which told me that they didn't want to talk about numbers such as poverty, food stamp percentage and unemployment, all of which we are at the top in state.  They also did not want to specifically address the fact that our tax rate is the highest in state.  Some pointed out that we have not had a tax rate increase in two years but quickly retreated when rises in water rates and parking fees were brought up.  The sitting council very much campaigned for each other and it was obvious to others as evidenced by the News-Record's Doug Clark asking in our interview, "Do you feel as if you are running against a team"?  After a few events it was clear that the Mayor and incumbents went on the offensive with regard to making excuses and defending downtown development as they were significantly questioned during the Young Democrat forum about their apparent prioritizing of downtown.  There were no "new" ideas presented by the incumbents.  The same plans and ideas that some of them have shared for years that never come to fruition have been regurgitated, ideas that are probably not fiscally achievable.  Most continued to take credit for things that they had no major role in; a couple seemed to not be able to start a sentence without "I agree with the Mayor" or "I echo what Yvonne said".  I fear that this council somehow is going to consider the results of this election as some sort of a "mandate" to continue down the road they are on though only 11 percent showed up to vote.  If you are unhappy with the last two to four years of the direction of council and you did not vote then too bad; the next two years will not look any different.
   
"Got to haves" 

     Running your own campaign is tough.  I learned a few things that I consider to be "got to haves".  A campaign manager or at least a treasurer; not necessarily to direct a local campaign but to take care of things like soliciting money, arranging meet and greets and communicating with the party you represent.  All of the information thrown at you can become overwhelming, even if you write it down.
     You have to have MONEY and as much as you can get.  I have no built in capacity to solicit funds.  I was very thankful for the dollars I received and stretched them to the limit.  Signs, bumper stickers, door hangers and even the Internet can only take you so far.  Advertising in the form of mailers and ads are the more expensive items and without them you eliminate reaching the greater populace.
     You have to have precinct workers.  That little extra personal touch goes a long way.  I received a vote at Claxton School from an elderly woman because I closed her car door that she had forgotten to close.  It caused her to ask my name and she chose to vote of me because of my act of kindness.  It makes a difference.
     Though Greensboro City Council is a non-partisan race, everyone knows who is who.  You need party affiliation.  The Greater Greensboro Republican Women's Committee, Guilford County GOP, Northwest Republican Women, Conservatives for Guilford County and Wake Up Republican Women all contributed with precinct staffing, literature, meet and greet events and for me personal support and encouragement.  I have had the pleasure of making new friends that I hope to continue to know for the rest of my life.
     Old friends are the best.  My school mates, work colleagues, church members and family were very encouraging through this three months.
     Last but not least; time.  All of these "got to haves" must begin well in advance of even filing to run for office.  Three months, even in a local election is not enough time especially when only 11 percent of the voting population cares enough to show up.

Media

     As many of you have read I have been somewhat critical of the media in this blog, particularly the print media.  Susan Ladd not withstanding, the newspaper writers were absolutely fair to me during this campaign.  Most importantly they were accurate.  Jeffrey Sykes, Allen Johnson. Doug Clark, Joe Killian, John Hammer and Eric Ginsberg are to be complimented.
     The electronic media; that's another story.  I did not receive a call from any reporter from TV until Monday night wanting to know where I would be in case they needed to interview me.  Their coverage of this election was non existent at best and did not serve the community one iota.  They should be ashamed and not allowed to call themselves "local" media.

 So what's next? 

     Well, there's this blog I like to write and I may have even picked up a few new readers.  There is also the matter of a certain inaccurate historical marker I would like to address.  Hopefully in the not too distant future my first book will be completed and possibly a second one started.  Now that I have a better insight and perspective into the world that is campaigning for office I hope to become more "readable" as a writer; or dare I say, an activist?


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