Lessons learned trudging the campaign trail

June 13, 2014
Mike Byrd

Mike Byrd

By MIKE BYRD

Our South County has changed.

Our sense of independence may have died with Paul Teixeira. This was, inarguably, the most partisan campaign ever in the South County. Historically, voters have avoided electing candidates who were actively partisan. The large number of newer residents from the big cities, however, don’t share that same strong sense of independence which was once prevalent here.

The first sign of this significant shift was demonstrated by a retiree from Irvine who was astounded that anyone would think there’s something wrong with the political parties putting up candidates for non-partisan office. I should have taken her more seriously.

Jesse Unruh – “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”

Mike Byrd – “You won’t go far with a lactose-intolerant campaign fund.”

Money, or the lack thereof, can’t be discounted as a determining factor in the outcome of an election. The fact that the two winners claimed 82 percent of all contributions raised then claimed 89 percent of all votes cast cannot be ignored. Or put another way, here is each candidates share of all cash raised compared to their share of votes cast: Compton: 44/47; Ray: 42/42; Byrd: 14/11. Hmm, wonder what that means.

Like tennis, campaigning is a game one can’t play alone.

Most of the money came from special interests, not from partisan interests. But the true factor of the parties which cannot be discounted is boots on the ground. Without a large number of people walking precincts and working GOTV, an independent gets lost in the crowd.

Winning isn’t everything, but losing’s nothing.

One day everyone wants to talk with you. Strangers come up to you in public. The media competes for a few moments of your time. Your opinions are important. News photographers want your photo. The next day you’re alone. No one left to talk to. Strangers are strangers again. Your opinions are about as important as a pocketful of rocks. And none of those photos are published. The speed and severity of this change is such as might induce whiplash.

Beware the jackals.

The best line of the entire campaign was brought to us by Eve who, upon exiting the election night party in the company of a loser said, “At least you never have to talk to that asshole Congalton again.” Eve has never used that word before and probably won’t ever again, but it fit the context perfectly this one time. Congalton was the most biased of the crowd, actively trying to damage me at every turn. I don’t know what I ever did to him.

On the flip side, The Tribune which has a long history of going after those out of grace with Adam Hill, covered the campaign in an unexpectedly fair manner. Well, there was that one article with three significant mistakes in a single sentence but that was likely without malice. The most thorough, accurate and well-written coverage was by young Rhys Heyden who cut his journalistic teeth on this, his first campaign. Take note of his work. He’s worth reading.
Never underestimate the ignorance of voters.

Leland Yee who did no campaigning, presumably because he’s under indictment for gun running, graft and other such things, received 10 percent of the vote for his office, only slightly worse than my 11 percent. Maybe if I had been caught selling semiautomatics to school shooters I could have taken some of the NRA votes away from Compton and Yee.

A politician’s aptitude for deception and exception is astounding.

A Tea Party Republican tells Democratic voters she’s the Democratic candidate. A sitting county supervisor refuses to remove scores of illegal signs so public employees are sent out to gather them up and return them to her after which she reposts them. Then public employees are sent out again and so on. If it’s against the law, why are there no consequences for the criminals who violate it?

If you’re going to lose, it’s better to lose small.

Someone who loses small becomes a footnote. Someone who loses big becomes nonexistent.

How can you tell if someone’s lying? They say they’ll vote for you.

If everyone who said they would or had voted for me really did, things would have turned out differently. It’s kind of like how by 1975 you couldn’t find anyone who had voted for Nixon, yet he had somehow been reelected President.

Don’t quit your day job.

Campaigning is a full-time job. Unfortunately, so is keeping a roof over your head and putting food in the belly. If your income, both present and future, depends on your current efforts, as a candidate, you will find yourself impaled upon the horns of a dilemma. Choose carefully.

If you expect those you respect to respect you in turn you’re delusional.

Don’t count on everyone who shares your views, even those with whom you may be close, to go out on a limb for you or even remain your friend. People are complicated creatures who will sometimes offer plaudits in private but remain mum in public. If you’re counting on logical endorsements you’re being illogical.

Once you file candidacy papers you officially become a cynic.

When you’re a candidate nobody will believe a word you say. Every utterance that passes your lips is a pandering line designed to make people like you. If you appear sincere it will be assumed you are faking sincerity.

Politics is like a Viagra disclaimer: Ask your doctor if you’re healthy enough…

Campaigning is grueling work best left to the young and carefree. The ups and downs of each day will leave you spinning physically and emotionally like a woman with the worst case of menopause ever. And forget the food pyramid. Meals, when you get them, will consist of fast food or quesadillas wolfed down just before bedtime, a recipe for spectacular weight gain. In my case 20 pounds.

The world outside the bubble of the district just doesn’t exist.

During the campaign period I knew less about what was going on in the real world than ever before. There simply was not time enough to even browse the cartoons in The New Yorker let alone digest the in-depth pieces of The Atlantic. Even the encapsulated news in The Week and the interesting articles in The Smithsonian went ignored and unread. And my daily New York Times? Only in my dreams. In the end I am poorer for what I missed out on.

Above all, don’t take yourself too seriously.

Nobody else is taking you seriously, so why should you?

Postscript: The hangover.

I don’t mean to beat up on Congalton the way he beat up on me but the fact of the matter is he’s the only one who made any attempt to analyze the election results. For that I’ll give him credit even if he proved to be as clueless as a dog chasing its tail. Poor Dave speaks with the confidence of he who knows all but he’s about as dense as a slab of concrete. He focused repeatedly and banally on how Compton or Ray could lure the Byrd voters to win in November.

The fact of the matter is, they need the Byrd votes about as much as they need a pebble in their precinct walking shoes. Consider the real results: 17 percent of all voters voted for Compton, 16 percent for Ray and 4 percent for Byrd. 63 percent voted none of the above by refusing to participate in the election. So if you were Compton or Ray would you be chasing after the 4 percent or after the 63 percent? If you answered the former you’re smart enough to be a talk radio host. . .or a candidate.

Post Postscript:

The accusation has been made that I was just a straw candidate dividing Democratic votes to keep Ray from winning a majority in June. After talking with many who voted for me it is clear that our votes will be going to each surviving candidate pretty equally come November. If true, that would mean my candidacy kept Compton from winning outright in the primary and Ray lives to fight another day because of that.

The most perplexing November intention comes from my mother-in-law who has never failed to cast her ballot in the 63 years she has been a registered voter. The day after the election she announced that she’ll be voting for Compton in November. She’s an old school Democrat who has never once voted for a Republican for anything. Politics is so strange.


46 Comments

  1. Ugluk says:

    Leaving a trail of burning bridges behind him, Mike Byrd departs from politics.Those grapes are so sour, they set my teeth on edge.

    The strange part is that the Mike Byrd interacting with the commenters here seems like such a nice guy, unlike the guy who wrote the screed posted above.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

    • Mike Byrd says:

      The only grapes are in my wine glass and they’re quite pleasant, actually. With just one exception I enjoyed everything about the campaign and wouldn’t have changed a thing. There was just one bridge burnt but scores of new ones built and I’m richer for the experience. You are, however, correct about my departure from politics. Glad I tried this time but the main lesson I learned is I’m not cut out for it. And those who voted agreed :)

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

    • kettle says:

      Ugluk complains about others by name, yet hides as an anonymous commenter.

      Mike Byrd interacting with the commenters here seems like such a nice guy, unlike Ugluk who wrote the anonymous screed posted above.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  2. Local says:

    Just because a person does not share your view does not mean you should call them names – It’s in very bad taste especially for someone who wants to be elected. Far from being classy – far from being reasonable – and far from being smart.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

    • Mike Byrd says:

      Sorry, but you have this one wrong. I embrace folks who don’t agree with my views because sharing ideas is how we grow. If I had the opportunity to share a meal with one who thinks like me or one with views the opposite of mine I would chose the latter.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  3. r0y says:

    Politics: where we scream to get “outsiders” running, and then when they do, complain they do not have the proper “pedigree” to hold office. Yeah, about the intelligence of voters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

  4. Jorge Estrada says:

    Good run Byrd! Yes politics suck and for some appointees, they’re a natural. I do not vote in your district but if I did, I’d vote for Compton and my reason would be for the preservation of what I can do for myself. Politics is a luxury lube that the taxpayer can’t afford, especially these days, so again my vote will remain in the realm of rational behavior and not for the Gov fix all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 9

  5. Perspicacious says:

    If money matters so much, how did Brat(about 200k), beat Cantor(5.5mil)? Also, if the NRA is so powerful, how did Cantor lose? The NRA supported Cantor and donated heavily to his campaign. Those are two major arguments in Mike’s piece that don’t hold water.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

    • pasodowny says:

      You’re talking about the Tea Party, voting in a gerrymandered district to ensure a conservative seat. It’s very easy for rabid grass-roots enthusiasts to move mountains in that setting. The republicans outsmarted themselves when they drew up their districts.

      The county supervisor is entirely different. If you had read Mike’s piece you would have noted the 63% of eligibles did not vote. What hurt Mike was apathy and ignorance on the part of the voters. If you’re in district 4, I’d wager you’re one of the 63%.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

      • Perspicacious says:

        Well, if 63% did not vote due to apathy, then Mike should have done a better job of exciting people.

        Last I checked, Brat was a Republican too. Not sure what your point is about that as mine still holds. Whatever the reason, big money does not always help.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 8

        • pasodowny says:

          You’re not getting it. The district where Cantor is from is like a fraternity voting on whether they should go out and buy more beer. A county supervisor race just doesn’t compare. And I challenge you to expound on how Mike “should have done a better job exciting people.” It is so easy to toss out such a bony statement and far more difficult to put meat on it.

          Don’t bother.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

      • Perspicacious says:

        No, not in D4, but why would you assume I didn’t vote anyway?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. fishing village says:

    I’ve been campaigning for 30 years, 15 campaigns , about. Sometimes 3 people and an initiative. Don’t like to do what the campaigners say ‘works’, door to door, phone calls, standing in front of markets! But, I do it because ‘they’ say it works and I care and want specific candidates to win. I feel anxious from beginning to end, it bothers my sleep and disrupts what I like to do for ‘fun’. I like the people I meet and because I always feel like I have superior candidates I work hard for them. I believe in the people I work for! I’ve met great people on the ‘campaign’ trail. Thrilled when my preferred candidates win! People have said we get the government we vote for and I believe that (well, when those I like win), when they don’t I don’t believe it. I’ll read your article more carefully later tonight.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 7

    • Perspicacious says:

      Amen to that! I feel your pain re: lost sleep, anxiety, etc. However, when you are campaigning for someone who the establishment is against and says has no business being there, and your candidate wins…awesome!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

  7. fishing village says:

    Why? would your mother in law vote for Compton? very strange

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  8. Reality Check says:

    Running for an elected office is VERY difficult. Only those with the dedication and stamina to ignore / deal with un-truths, negative comments, and just plain hard work of getting out among constituents, volunteers and donors every day for the entire campaign have any chance of winning. Even then some highly qualified and excellent people are not successful in their bid for office.

    Mike Byrd entitles his commentary “Lessons learned trudging the campaign trail”. That statement alone shows a naiveté about what it takes to get elected and also calls into question whether Mr. Byrd was truly prepared for the process. As I read his comments, I didn’t find much in the “lessons” promise of the title, but found much self serving whining about the realities of campaigning and a huge lack of insights into his own decisions,and his own responsibilities to his own campaign. No amount of money can make up for a candidate’s own internal stamina and grit needed to mount a successful campaign.

    He also complained about his need to work that took time away from campaigning. Did he really think with three candidates in the race that he could work at his “day job” and still do justice to running his campaign? Did he really not anticipate the level of competition in the race?

    The forums and other venues where I observed Mr. Byrd, he seemed like a pretty reasonable, likeable person. While Caren Ray did cheat with her illegal signs and was rather arrogant and shrewish during forums, I’m very disheartened to see that Mr. Byrd felt the need to whine and rant rather than engaging in some genuine soul searching. If he had chosen to go below the surface, he might have gained deeper insights into what failed in his campaign. And thus been able to provide the readers with true “lessons learned”. Blaming the other candidates, lack of funds, other work / personal commitments just make him sound bitter, shallow and a poor loser. Mr. Byrd, I thought you were better than that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

    • kettle says:

      “felt the need to whine, sound bitter, negative comments, shallow and a poor loser”

      Win or lose Mike Byrd stepped up, “Reality Check” hid behind an anonymous comment.

      Speaking of bitter, shallow, negative, anonymous comments.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 8

    • Mike Byrd says:

      The presentation of the lessons learned was a light-hearted attempt to enlighten. Did I expect all of tbem? No. Did I expect some? Of course. We knew we were going against the odds but my grandfather taught me long ago that the odds should not dictate your actions if you believe something needs to be done. For the most part I was making fun of myself for not anticipating some of what i encountered.

      Of all the lessons there’s only one that might be construed as a complaint. The rest are just realities that I feel blessed to have able to come to understand better. I’d never do it again but have no regrets for having tried.

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