07 May 2014
Lessons from the campaign trail
First off....for the record....it is 10:10 a.m. on election day. I've already voted and have no idea what the outcome will be. I say that because if I win in the Republican primary tonight, I don't want this to come across as gloating. And if I lose, I don't want this to come across as sour grapes. This post will go up tomorrow win or lose. This is intended to be both therapeutic for me and seasoned with humor.
Here are several observations I've made from stumping on the campaign trail.
I should maybe drop my middle name from my campaign literature. I'm not sure how, but some people get confused that I'm running for the west precinct, or West Township, or some other office related to being in or of "west". I thank my great-grandfather, Wesley, for the confusion and in turn he can thank John Wesley.
Or maybe I should just change my name to that of a candy bar. In speaking with one lady at Marbucks (our Martins grocery has a Starbucks in it...hence my name for it), and engaging in several important issues with her, she indicated that one of the other candidates gave her a candy bar so she committed her vote to him. Based on the issues important to her seems like a bad trade for a candy bar. I'm not going to buy votes with candy bars.
But I will buy votes with shamrock shakes. One young man I teach Sunday School with turned 18 several months ago, so I said, John, we need to get you registered to vote. I offered to help him through the process at the clerk's office and suggested afterward we could grab a cup of coffee or something-thinking it would be great to get to know him a little better. But, time was of the essence the day he registered, so we just went through the drive-thru and I bought him a shamrock shake.
I attempted a grass-roots campaign with social media. I now owe over 100 Facebook friends a major party since they met my challenge of 100 shares of my campaign video. I honestly didn't think it would happen.
Lots of folks have offered to pray for me...and that's great and all....but I sure am hoping the roughly 20 nuns I sat down with to discuss the current state of politics in the county are thinking of me today. I can't think of a better defensive line, nor can I recall feeling more at home ideologically when we met. Maybe it was because there was apple pie and coffee involved. God bless 'em.
Shameless self promotion is a difficult thing for an introvert.
When my wife and I voted, my mother came in the doors to the community hall......without my dad. "Mom, where's dad?" I asked. "I don't know....he was supposed to come with me, but I think he's in Bremen." My dad avoids things like this....he, along with a LOT of other Hoosiers, don't like to have to declare party affiliation. It seems like there could be a way around this. Meanwhile, I've been driving around for the last 3 hours trying to find him to escort him to the polls.
I already know that I have lost the used car lot vote. If used car lots, mechanics garages, muffler shops, etc. can vote I am in big trouble. All three of my fellow-candidates are in those lines of work and without hardly an exception these establishments have one or a combination of their political signs. Notice: I am in the market for a low-mileage truck....part of the deal includes removing my competition's signs.
Speaking of signs....one thing that has always rubbed me raw is the willful violation of the city and county sign ordinance which prohibits signs from being placed on any public property or right-of-way. So I am extremely cautious about where my signs go. The other guys-not so much. I've never understood how people can vote for someone entrusted to uphold the law when they knowingly break it. But, hey, sticking to my principles-win or lose.
Adversity builds character. It also costs a great deal of time and money. Things like having "late ad" boldly printed over your newspaper ad, the wind mysteriously taking away both signs and wire frames planted a foot into the ground, and finally receiving the Republican mailing list the morning after your mailer landed in voters' mailboxes are all great lessons in character development.
Based on my door to door glad-handing, I may well be related to one-quarter of the county. Heck, one of my competitors is a cousin.
I can only handle so much fish. Though last Saturday was a spaghetti supper. Oddly enough, I was the only politician there but after getting a tongue-lashing from one older gentleman about not attending "HIS church's fish fry", and consequently losing his vote, I figured I had better attend HIS church's spaghetti supper Saturday night. The supper was a benefit for the church. On Monday morning I saw him at Marbucks. I asked "Hey, why weren't YOU at YOUR church's spaghetti supper?" The other old folks at the table got a good laugh out of that one.
What would you expect to be the most frequently asked question on the campaign trail? Taxes? Roads? Economic development? Nope. Not even close. The most frequently asked question was "How are you going to be able to get along with those other commissioners?" Telling.
Some folks were disinterested during my door to door campaigning. Only one was hostile. I apologized and told my mom that I would be back to pick the kids up later.
One lady was truly confused. She let me know that she had already voted for someone else but couldn't understand how I could be on the Republican ticket. She said "Aren't you a democrat?!" I said, nooo. She said "Well you used to be a democrat!" I said, nooo...you must have me confused with someone else. Still with a bit cross and confused look in her face I said "Well-the Republican mayor appointed me to the plan commission way back, and then I ran and won my city council seat on the Republican ticket." Hoping that would persuade her. Then she said her name. Ooops....oh yeah....her husband and I differed on a pretty major issue 14 years ago and I didn't tow the party line. That's me-guilty as charged.
Fortuitous and timely. That describes my visit to the assisted living facility the day before they voted. My wife says I have a great rapport with older folks. I think it's because I have an old soul. And I also have an exhaustive wealth of useless historical information about most towns and buildings in a 20 mile radius.
While on the trail....I asked if one individual would vote for me. He countered with "did you vote for me?" I wanted to so badly ask if that was his litmus test because I'm thinking he might have been surprised by a few answers he would have gotten from others.
I have avoided "gauntlet style" campaigning where one would lay in wait for unsuspecting voters going in or out of a fish fry or other venue. I would much rather go in and break bread with neighbors and friends and get to know a handful who may or may not vote for me. To me, that's what building community looks like. It may not win elections-but it is better for the soul.
Finally-there are good people all throughout our county with some really wonderful stories. I'll be humbled either way tonight when the results come in. If I lose, that will be a humbling experience for certain....but if I win, or lose for that matter, I will be and have been humbled by the kind words and support that I've been shown by folks who I've gotten to know recently or have known for years. And it makes me wonder if people just talked with each other......if we just worked together......how much better our communities would be.