I thought this might be interesting: How a reader responds to an editorial suggestion that interested citizens take out papers and jump into a political race, and just what happens
In early February, only a few weeks before the close of the nominating period, I decided to get the necessary signatures to put my name on the ballot. That very weekend, the Times had run an editorial suggesting that interested citizens take out papers.
At first, there were six Democrat candidates for the open Assembly seat, and it seemed anything could happen. 25% of the vote might be enough to win the Primary. My resume and experience matched up very well. If this were a normal hiring situation, I’d get the job. So, I threw my hat into the ring. Suddenly, in the course of a few days, all the other candidates but one dropped out. It was pretty obvious to me what had happened. The Democratic Party big shots in Sacramento had stepped in and told the locals to pick one candidate and to get everyone else out. They wanted no surprises and to rally all the resources to winning the November election against the Republicans. Joan Buchanan had been elected five times to the Danville-San Ramon School Committee, had raised some $200k, and was plugged into the Ellen Tauscher organization.
The Party made the decision to simply ignore me. The local Democratic organizations cancelled their candidate nights. At a Democratic event in Sacramento, Joan Buchanan was reluctant to shake my hand. A League of Women Voters roundtable was similarly frosty. When a couple of other organizations invited us to speak, she didn’t even show up. Of course, I didn’t know her or any of the rest of them, and I didn’t take it personally. Early on, I signalled I had no money and no organiszation and had no intention of making waves. There was no need for anyone to be concerned about me or campaign against me.
The District is huge, 415,000 people running from Walnut Creek to Sacramento. How does one reach so many people? I raised about $8k from friends and family. A local schoolteacher gave me $100, a retired college professor gave me $30, a friend of my daughter’s $100, my minister $100. Their thoughtfulness really touched my heart. The County elections people advised me that if I accepted campaign spending limits I could place a 250 word statement in all of the 100,000 or so sample ballots that would be mailed out. I took great care in drafting that statement and wrote the $5k check to cover the printing cost. I decided to do paid advertising in one location, Rossmoor. The 9,000 voters there participate at a 90% rate, even in primaries.
My strategic thinking was this: No one knows me. My name recognition is zero percent. But no one knows Joan Buchanan either. She has run in a number of minimally contested School Board races to which most people pay little attention. I suspect her name recognition may be as low as 1%. Since Joan did not accept the finance limits, she’s not allowed to place her candidate statement with the sample ballot. I have 100,000 of these going out and I think people actually read this literature so they can understand referendum questions etc. So, I had a few things going for me. I got a nice email from someone who had run before. She said “in the end, it all depends on the candidate”. Joan portrays herself as competent, but she is not a candidate of new ideas. She adheres mainly to the “progressive” agenda of the Democratic party. My political philosophy is centrist and non-ideological and is, I think, more in line with that of most voters in this area. My campaign themes are the need for reforming taxes, public sector pensions, and the political structure of government. Maybe the newspapers would take notice and shine a bit of light my way.
As we approach the election, the Contra Costa TV is running a televised debate between the two of us. Comcast is running a five minute interview. The Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, the Times, the Stockton Record and the local weeklies have all been in touch. Hopefully, they might write favorable articles. I have met a number of nice people who have all been encouraging.
The election is June 3. People have already started to vote by absentee ballot. My estimate is that Joan’s advantage from her party endorsements and School Board activities may amount to 2,000 votes. About 20,000 people should vote, so she has about a 10% advantage out of the box. My advantage is my strong resume and the candidate statement in the sample ballot. I actually think I have a chance of winning this. Of course, that’s what every candidate thinks. (and everyone in prison thinks they’re innocent) In any event, it has been a fun and stimulating experience, and one I would recommend to anyone.
I may check back with you after June 3. I’m curious how this turns out.