Monday, November 12, 2007

No, I'm Not On Suicide Watch

Disappointed? Of course. Distraught? Not at all.

When Jeff and I first discussed his run for the Senate, naturally strategy and tactics were a part of the conversation. We decided, sitting there at Honduras Coffee in Stuart, that he needed to get his name recognition up, we needed to point out the shortcomings of the opposition, and we needed to get him "out front and personal" with the people of the 20th District. We did all of that.

The most important item we discussed and completely agreed upon was campaign ethics. We agreed the campaign was to be run against the current 20th District Senator, not a person named Roscoe Reynolds. By that I mean that Senator Reynolds' record would be used in the campaign, not Mr. Reynolds' personal life. Every mail piece, every radio spot, every debate topic was based upon the facts as presented by the General Assembly website. Not once did we quote newspaper articles which necessarily reflect some reporter's opinion, however slightly. None of Martinsville's idle gossip was used. No, we would stick strictly to facts.

For example, If Mr. Reynolds had decided at some point in his personal life to start a faith-based ministry for out-of-work and destitute people in Martinsville and Henry County, you would have never heard about such a "dangerous homeless shelter" from this campaign, for activities of that sort by Mr. Reynolds have nothing to do with Senator Reynolds.

The main point is that Mr. Reynolds is different from Senator Reynolds in that Mr. Reynolds deserves his privacy and respect. Senator Reynolds holds an office that deserves respect, but as the holder of that office he is open to criticism, of course. Unfortunately, Senator Reynolds does not agree with that concept as it applies to Board of Supervisors member Jeff Evans and private citizen and pastor Jeff Evans.

We were accused of running a "negative, nasty campaign." No matter. As many people in the 20th District know, we held ourselves to a higher standard.

A man I respect and appreciate as a friend once said " beat someone to the minimum necessary, not the maximum. Don't bludgeon them to death--you might need them down the road." Thanks Barnie. That's very good advice, and it's the path this campaign chose to follow.

Enough of that though, let's move on to what I've learned and what I can draw from this election.

Since October of 2006, Jeff made an attempt to visit every Ruritan club function, attend every local festival and go to as many events as possible, right up until the election. Jeff got an apartment here in Henry County in an effort to make that goal more feasible, yet he still managed to put over 60,000 miles on his car during this campaign. Jeff met thousands of people, handed out over 45,000 cards and shook even more hands, yet he apparently did not meet enough VOTERS. There is a difference folks, club members, festival goers, and event attendees are not necessarily voters. Even those who are very enthusiastic about a candidate they meet at such functions do not always translate their enthusiasm into votes that can be counted on election day.

Someone once said "All politics is local...". That is very true, and more true in a Virginia Senate race than I realized. The more people we met, the more apparent it became that people seemed to want to talk about State issues, so we focused on Statewide issues. Apparently though, when people go into the voting booth, they are focused on their local Board of Supervisors race, the local Commonwealth Attorney race, the local Sheriff race and finally, the local Senate race. All issues have been narrowed down to a local focus in their mind. Unless they are voting a straight party ticket, the candidates who have most successfully targeted some local issue will get their vote. Not just any issue will qualify as a "local" issue either. Illegal immigration may impact an area very heavily, like it does here, but it may not rise to the level of some other issue like a recent utility rate increase. Despite our best efforts, and some very compelling proof that the local media chose to ignore, Senator Reynolds simply did a better job of presenting his case. Dump truck loads of cash helped too, of course.

I could include a link to a very elaborate spreadsheet that I put together in order to help me forecast this race. But why? Despite its elaborateness and, in my opinion, faultless logic, it turned out to be grossly misleading when applied to real voters and these two candidates.

I once rode a bull in an amateur rodeo in Oklahoma. Well, I tell everyone I rode that bull. Actually, you have to stay on board the beast for 8 seconds in order to have "ridden the bull". I managed 4.3 seconds. The longest 4.3 seconds of my life. But given the chance, I'll ride that bull again someday. Or one just as mean and ornery.

In politics, this was my first rodeo. It won't be my last. I'll get right back up on that bull as soon as possible. The next time my spurs will be shinier, I'll have a better instinct for the unpredictable turns and twists and shakes that bull will make, and I'll certainly aim once again for the full ride.

No clown will be there to pull my ass out of harms way, either.

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