Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Two More For The 5th

I've been busy lately getting back into real-life from the campaign. I'm slowly getting there, though. Maybe that explains some of the lack of content here lately, but there are other things as well. I'm a world class procrastinator, and I've been working on-and-off at a few projects I've neglected for way too long.

One project I've been working on is re-writing and tidying up my three part Jenny Wiley story and I hope to re-publish it here soon. I've also been reading my favorite blogs, of course, and discovering a few new ones as well.

One new blog that certainly deserves your attention is "The Legend Billy Jack", a conservative blog by a Democratic Party member. Or he used to be. Maybe he will be again if his party ever returns to what it once stood for. In his latest post Billy tells what inspired the naming of his blog, and how it roughly parallels his own experiences in a political party. His background is full of stories from the other side of the aisle that many would not believe, but I know to be the truth. Enjoy Billy Jack. My favorite so far is his offer to the 37th Senate District for a trade in the lineup, a great idea I think.

Another new blog was actually created way back in the summer, but due to the campaign its contributors had little time for blogging. Yes, I said contributors, as in plural. Morning in Virginia promises to provide insightful commentary, political analysis, and possibly even a bit of gossip from a Southside and SWVA perspective.

Now the 5th District has two more conservative blogs to offset all of that leftist rhetoric blowing out of Charlottesville.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A New Virginia Political Blog

Some time back I welcomed a newcomer to the Virginia blog community, Mike Sizemore started a blogspot blog called "Southern Democrat" or something very similar. Like most new blogs it didn't last long, folding after just a few weeks.

Little did I know that Mike would soon thereafter become "Ghost of A.L. Philpott", a sometimes caustic commenter on various left leaning blogs.

Today I welcome Mike back to the blog community that he never really left. In collaboration with 2 or 3 others Mike has started "The Crooked Road Commentary", designed " carve out a niche for Southside Virginia in the political blogosphere." (Judging by the PhotoShop appearing in one of the blog's first posts, I'll go out on a limb and guess that one of Mike's collaborators is Joey Stanley, but I have been wrong before.)

While "The Crooked Road”, Virginia’s official Heritage Music Trail is “a driving route through the Appalachian Mountains from the western slopes of the Blue Ridge to the Coalfields region of the state”, it comes no closer to Southside than Patrick County. That's merely a result of shortsightedness on the part of Henry County politicians and should not be considered nit-picking by me on Mike's choice of a name for his new blog. (Well, maybe it is nit-picking, but I'll deny it forever. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

Nit-picking or not, go over and check it out and let's all keep an eye on Mike and his cohorts, you never know, like the Roanoke Times they may just occasionally get something right.

Disgruntled Republican

Readers of the comment section a couple of posts back will remember a "Disgruntled Republican" demanding accountability for the past election. He (or she) is demanding that everyone from the 20th District committees be expunged from the party, drawn and quartered, or simply tarred and feathered and ridden out of town.

Now, that might solve a problem or two, but it does nothing to resolve the larger issue.

All across the state many, but not all, local committees are weak on active membership, and have a hard time recruiting committed volunteers for candidates. Campaigns have had to adjust for that, often forming teams comprised of volunteers from several campaigns to work on behalf of each other. See Chris' excellent article about how the Cuccinelli campaign did just that. [Link]

In a similar effort the Evans, Marshall, Merricks, and Poindexter campaigns combined forces in this area. Here in Henry County we are fortunate to have a solid core of committed members, but it's not enough. Many of those will only work to put up signs, for example, some others refuse to make phone calls, and even more say, "wait until it's closer to the election and I'll do something." I'm not complaining about those members, nor do I think that the local chair is responsible for any lack of workers. I certainly appreciate them all, I just wish there were more of them.

Which brings me back to "Disgruntled Republican" and his demands for accountability. DR, you are a big part of the problem. Get out to your next committee meeting, become a voting member, work to find more people just as disgruntled and disappointed as you are and get them to work organizing the local party.

One of the hardest workers the Evans campaign had was (still is?) a member of the Democratic Party. He is now asking me about joining the local Republican committee. I welcome him on board. It's young, energetic, committed people like him that this party desperately needs. DR, your mission is to go out and find more like him, bring them and yourself to the committee meeting, and begin becoming less disgruntled and more committed. Stop looking for someone else to blame and accept the responsibility that is yours.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Learnings And Confirmations

A few more observations;

Newspapers failed the voters miserably this election. Not just the Martinsville Bulletin, which no one really expects to publish anything remotely informative about candidates, but also the Roanoke Times which should have performed much better. Both focused much more on the horse race aspect of campaigning than on substance and platform.

I mentioned earlier that the Evans campaign had a compelling argument against Senator Reynolds' claim that he alone fought the APCO rate increase. That information was in the hands of every media outlet in the district, but it was completely ignored. During a phone call a very telling exchange occurred between Martinsville Bulletin Editor Ginny Wray and myself. After detailing the facts of an item, and having to painstakingly walk her through how to find those facts for herself, I asked if she ever put Senator Reynolds through the same process during an interview. Her response floored me, "Of course not," she said, "He's a Senator." The Martinsville Bulletin is not a hotbed of investigative journalism.

There were few, if any, words printed in either paper that informed their readers about the candidates and their positions on subjects that matter. At the end of each financial reporting cycle both could be counted on to print an article touting which candidate out raised the other. That applied to almost all races, even local constitutional offices. The Martinsville Bulletin did do a fair job reporting on some differences between the Henry County Sheriff candidates, but spent way too much time and ink on a letter from Mike McPeek that assured all Sheriff's Office employees that there would be no mass firings should he be elected.

Henry County's radio outlets did not do much better, but local TV did at least attempt to highlight the candidates. Especially WYAT TV40 here in Martinsville. Owner Bill Wyatt offered each candidate a soap box in the form of his "Talk of the Town" show aired each evening around 7:00. He was flexible enough to offer two formats, 30 minutes without phone calls, or one hour with phone calls. Jeff took advantage of that as often as possible. As far as I can recall, every candidate took Mr. Wyatt up on that offer at least once except for a couple of BoS candidates, one an incumbent who has her own daily show on a different station, the other a challenger that did little or no campaigning at all.

Politics can be expensive, largely because so much money is simply wasted. Most of that waste is thrown away in the form of high-priced political consultants who, for the most part, do not live in Virginia, and have no idea of the personality of the area they are campaigning in. In one month the Senate Leadership Trust saddled us with an idiot from Georgia who did no more than alienate volunteers and supporters with inane stories about "how we do it in Georgia." For that the Senate Trust spent over $3500. In one month. For practically no observable production. That $3500 would have provided 2 weeks of radio spots, one per hour, on local radio.

Speaking of radio spots, at a late date in the campaign I decided to produce radio ads "in-house" instead of through consultants. I did have the good fortune to have a friend of the campaign who works in radio to provide a voice, but two of our spots were done using the voice and writing talents of ODBA members. The savings were enormous, and the results just as professional, with the added bonus of a very quick turn-around time. For the same $15000 spent by the Senate Trust for two weeks of radio we could have produced six weeks. Unlike those consultants we would never have wasted dollars placing a radio spot on a Danville AM station that does not even reach into eastern Henry County, or a Roanoke Station that barely covers a portion of the 20th District with enormous ad rates based upon a listnership from VA Tech and Roanoke.

In one case a mail piece from the opposition arrived on Tuesday afternoon, the next day at noon our radio response was playing in every market. I still believe that at least a portion of our financial disparity could have been overcome by responding quickly to mailings with radio if we had begun doing that much earlier in the campaign.

We did not do enough mailing, though I'm still not convinced it's as valuable a tool as the experts say it is. Universally, people say they despise them. But consultants who are paid those big bucks swear they are effective. I don't know. I do know they are a huge drain financially, with most of the dollars going to friends of those same consultants. Like radio, I believe mailings can be produced much more efficiently in-house if a campaign has someone on board with the necessary writing and graphic design skills. In the future candidates and workers should remember that all of these radio, writing, and graphic design skills can be found right here within the ODBA.

During the past year I've spoken with many candidates, most running for the first time and trusting their party to provide them with consultants. Very few that accepted their party's offering was satisfied with the person sent to them. One candidate hired his own, a very impressive lady who worked hard and efficiently, but she was an exception. Most seemed to use the position to funnel media work to friends from outside the area, often leading to waste like I mentioned earlier.

Learning all of this does not make me an expert, it just means I've learned a few things and confirmed a few things I always thought I knew.

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.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Roller Coaster Is Coming To A Stop Now

I'm off to work the polls at Axton Elementary School today.

This has been a hellava ride, it's been fun but it's just about to come to the end. My statistical research shows Jeff with a considerable lead, but we'll just have to wait until the end of the day to see how it all shakes out.

I've missed writing during this campaign, but I will be back tomorrow with a very long post about the experience. Look for it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Would Roscoe Deliberately Mislead? Or Is He Completely Clueless?

I've posted this letter before, but in light of Roscoe Reynolds recent statements here in the Martinsville Bulletin and other local media, I feel the need to let his constituents know once again how he really feels about them. Read the letter on the left (click to see it full size) and see that he thinks that we here in the 20th Senate District are too stupid to know when he's being disingenuous.

Surely Roscoe did not truly think that I would believe him when he says that Supreme Court decisions do not apply to Virginia. If he is this disingenuous in a letter to a constituent, how can we believe anything he says to our local media?

It's really quite simple. We can't believe him. This letter is proof that Roscoe will tell the "locals" whatever he thinks they will fall for. Or, perhaps even worse, Reynolds truly does not know that Supreme Court decisions have far reaching implications. Either way, it calls for the end of Reynolds' service as our Senator.

You will notice that Mr. Reynolds references a document by Frank Munyan in his letter. I'm not an attorney, but Mr. Munyan is. A simple reading of Mr. Munyan's legal opinion shows that the Supreme Court decision does, indeed, apply to Virginia. The document is titled "Economic Development as a Public Use: Kelo v. City of New London", and can be downloaded here [link]. (Link is a PDF file.)

Well Roscoe, I for one, ain't falling for it anymore. From now on, whether you are talking about electrical regulation, eminent domain, transportation compromises, or even chicken fighting, I'll do my own research and find the truth for myself. And I'll shout from the rooftops my suggestion that others in the 20th District do so as well. Thank you.