What’s most interesting about this is the political strategy. I’m not a candidate this year. I’m on the board, but I’m not up for re-election until 2011.
This negative mailer mentions my name three times, but doesn’t mention the names of any of our candidates. A similar mailer mentions my name four times and only mentions one of our candidates’ names once.
Breaking down the strategy, at first it appears they’re trying to avoid building name recognition for our candidates. This is a common approach, especially for well-known incumbents facing relatively unknown challengers. If the voters don’t know who your opponent is, then attacking your opponent helps voters recognize the name.
The part about attacking me is, for me of course, fascinating. It would appear that the incumbents think my name is mud. It’s hard to say whether this is accurate. I tend to think most people don’t even know who I am. People don’t come up to talk to me in the supermarket, nor do they sneer at me in disgust. They don’t seem to notice me at all.
So did they do a poll which showed I have high negatives? It’s possible, but I suspect not. Usually when a poll is done in town, word gets around that people got a poll call. The odds are that someone who knows me, my wife or my mother would have gotten one of these calls and would have told us. That’s what happens when you’ve been part of a community for 36 years.
More likely, the people making the decisions think I have high negatives. Maybe they’re right. It’s still not clear that voters will transfer those negative feelings to our candidates, but we’ll see.
On some of the points in their mailer:
1. “Chaos, rudeness, negativity and a circus-like atmosphere at Town meetings”
While we have had a couple of over-the-top meetings, most have been calm – perhaps even boring to watch. The number of unanimous votes is somewhere over 80%.
The circus moments are entirely attributable to Ken Runion. He’s stormed out of two meetings. I’ve stayed to the end of every meeting. He’s orchestrated incidents, such as the DWI meeting (I’m a DWI lawyer) where several people attacked my proposals to reduce court congestion. More on that below.
Negativity? Yes. I have been negative. When Runion wants to give inappropriate tax breaks to large corporations, politically connected insiders, and felons, I’m going to be negative about that. I’m not kidding about the felon thing. The gas station at 1611 Western Avenue was purchased for $350K in 2004, but assessed for $185K in 2005. The owner is currently doing 7 years in federal prison for money laundering. See article in The Business Review.
When Ken Runion hides critical information like a massive sales tax shortfall, or a looming pension crisis in Guilderland, I’m going to be negative. When he raises his own pay while cutting paramedics, I’m going to be negative about that too.
2. … direct police not to arrest certain driving while intoxicated offenders
That is grossly inaccurate. The proposals I made had nothing to do with arrests – they concerned decisions made by our police after the arrest. I did a blog post explaining this at the time: DWI DWAI Aggravated DWI and Plea Bargaining.
Then there’s this bit:
I didn’t know I was going to get control of Town Hall. Sounds great! Runion does have control of Town Hall because everything he does is backed by two reliable yes votes. They have voted unanimously on just about everything for about 6 years.
But reality creeps in. I will be, as I am now, one of five board members. And unlike the Supervisor, I will not be there full-time. The candidates on my team are strong-willed. No one is going to control them. The biggest problem will not be one person controlling things, but resolving disputes among ourselves.
Then there’s this one:
It definitely will be a message. If the voters support Runion, I will respect their wishes. But here’s the bigger question – if the voters reject Runion, will the Democrats accept the result?
In 2007 the Democrats rejected the voters’ message. The following appeared in the Altamont Enterprise, 11/8/2007:
The town’s highest vote-getter with 5,401 votes was incumbent Democratic Town Clerk Rosemary Centi. She cried as she made her acceptance speech, saying, “That’s what you get when you’re a master of communication,” a reference to Grimm, who runs a communications consulting business. “A little bit of truth, wrapped around a lie.”
“This was a campaign of one lie after another,” Connolly angrily said of the town board race.
Caputo said that the race was “an injustice to the rest of us and to the town of Guilderland.”
“It’s easily lost in one night all of the things that have happened. You have to put it in perspective,” Bosworth told Democratic onlookers. “This was not a mandate for change like some have suggested. We’ve had three months of negativity.”
Compare that to how the Republicans responded to their loss in the 11/10/05 Enterprise:
Wednesday, Donegan sent a letter to the Enterprise editor congratulating Slavick and Pastore and thanking everyone who worked on his campaign.
Glenning, a vice president for the Bank of America, told The Enterprise Wednesday that he congratulates the winners. He did not go to Dorato’s Tuesday night with other Republicans, but watched the results on television at home with his wife and daughter, he said.
“The greatest thing in an election is the public gets to be heard,” Glenning said Wednesday. “We ran a good campaign, everybody did.”
Makes you think a little more about where the rudeness and negativity comes from.