Lessons learned trudging the campaign trail
June 13, 2014
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.
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.