Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Running for Congress: Getting on the Ballot

When I started this blog, I promised to document my run for Congress as best as possible. It won't be easy to recall all of the exciting elements of the experience and I may over explain some non-sense and under explain some important items. Please leave a comment if there is a hole that needs to be plugged, questions about my story or if you met me somewhere and want to add to my story, please comment. This recap may make me look like a genius or it may prove me to be the average no one I have always insisted that I am. It might help me if I ever wanted to run for office again, or it might hurt me if I ever try to run for office again but I'll at least be as honest and open as I can remember the experience. My perspective of the story might be damaging, embarrassing, insulting or give more credit than is deserved to certain individuals or it might not be any of those things and might leave out important individuals or minimize the importance of some people. In any case, what I will write as my time permits is my experience, from my perspective, and I will preface each entry in my blog on the topic of "Running for Congress" with this same disclaimer, or a like disclaimer if I think it needs to change. Here goes...
Part 1 - Running for Congress: The Beginnings
Part 2 - Getting on the Ballot
Part 3 - Getting on the Sabrin Line
Part 4 - Realization that the Sabrin line meant failure
Part 5 - The Monmouth County GOP Nominating Convention
Part 6 - Meeting the Bloggers
Part 7 - The Middlesex Convention and Meeting my Opponents
Part 8 - Learning How to Campaign
Part 9 - Steve Lonegan Becomes My New Best Friend
Part 10 - Trying to Capitalize on a FEMA/”BEMA” Meeting
Part 11 - The Last of the "Big Events"
Part 12 - The Calleia Murder Trial and the Wrong Priorities in Media
Part 13 - The Door to Door Effort, and Notable Characters
Part 14 - Primary Day, and Night
Part 15 - Random Observations During the Campaign

Challenge number one was to convince at least two-hundred people to sign a petition that would get my name printed on the ballot. While some people might think that getting two-hundred signatures on a petition sounds easy, and I did think this would be easy at first based on my results considering an independent run, the petition needed to be turned in by April 7th meaning I only had a month to get them together and these two-hundred signatures must be signatures of registered Republican voters within the district, not just any voter in the district, like the independent petition, which would have been easy.

To be quite honest, back on March 8th, I had no idea what towns were even in the district. I had started a petition to run as an independent, had over one-hundred signatures, but most of the signers were family/friends who turned out to be democrats and weren’t willing to “convert” to Republicans. I was able to convince about fifty of them to switch to the Republican party, if not just to sign my petition and vote for me in June, and then I even offered to help switch them back to Ds or unaffiliated. I probably should have run as an Independent, unfortunately, it’s seemingly impossible to win an election as an Independent as voters seems to go vote R or D, even if the Independent candidate has a better platform and better character, so knowing that much about voters, running for office as a Republican was the only option that made sense since I planned to win.

So off I went to the streets of Long Branch, my home town, with nothing more to work from other than a list of supposedly registered Republican voters that I had from being a volunteer “precinct leader” for the Ron Paul campaign. There doesn’t appear to be a long list of Republicans in Long Branch, but I had enough addresses to at least get my two-hundred signatures. It was still reasonably cold in March and a few times I ended up getting rained on, one day I even got hit with a few snow flakes, but what kind of a candidate would I be if I let those things slow me down?

With no experience or knowledge of what I was doing, I knocked on each door and delivered my “line” which was something along the lines of:
Hello. My name is James Hogan. I’m trying to run for Congress here in the district against Frank Pallone. I’m not a politician; I’m actually a software engineer who works in a cubicle and I just want to represent average, working class people. I’m just looking for signatures on my petition, it only gets my name on the ballot, and you can go to HoganForCongress.com to find out where I stand on the issues. This isn’t a vote for me, and you can obviously vote for anyone you want to vote for, this just gets my name printed on the ballot.
If it wasn’t that speech, it was very close to that speech. I should just ask my girlfriend, who was my only dedicated help during my campaign, as she found it humorous that I delivered the same exact line, with the same exact results, time after time; and the results were shocking.

The first shocking observation I had was that most, but not all, of the people I approached were willing to sign their name and address on a piece of paper without asking a single question after I delivered my “line”. Curiously enough, if you haven’t seen the state authorized petition form, these people were essentially signing their name on a page with twenty blank lines (ten “petitions” per page, two lines for each person) that provides no additional information as to what is being signed. The form just asks for printed name, address, city and a signature. These people could have easily been signing a petition to give away their first born child to slave labor, most never looked or considered what they might be signing, which worked out well for me as I breezed through signatures and didn’t have to work too hard to convince people to sign. In general, no one asked to see the rest of the petition and nothing on the form they signed indicated who or what they were signing for; they could have been signing a petition for James P. Hogan, or for Marsha Brady (Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!) and this was clue number one that most people just didn’t care about the political process and most of these people wouldn’t remember me, or vote for me. In fact, no one, not a single person, asked me for proof of who I was or proof that the form was legit, not one single person. Good thing I’m an honest, upstanding citizen otherwise I might have slipped a few “I hereby sell my home and property, as is, for $2 to James P. Hogan” as some houses I visited were impressive to say the least.

Second, since I had to verify that the people who were signing were Republicans, I had to ask and verify that the signers were the people on my list and that they were still registered Republicans. Sadly, most people had no idea if they were registered Republicans, others insisted that they were life-long Democrats despite indeed being the person who’s name I saw on the paper I had indicating they were Republicans according to the state; I had them sign my petition anyway; even more interesting were the number of people who had no idea that they were registered to vote at all! Clearly, voting is just not a priority for the majority of people, even in a year when we’re told by the “experts” that “everyone is watching”, most people just didn’t want to be bothered about their Congressional candidates. This was clue number two that most people just don’t care about the political process and I shouldn’t count on votes from these people even if they signed my petition.

Lastly, or the last shocking item during the signature phase at least, was the overall lack of support from the people on the meetup group who convinced me to run for office to begin with just weeks ago. Despite dozens of emails and even a few phone calls from people who were pledging their time and resources to help, there was only the sound of crickets to be heard when it came time to hit the streets. Perhaps I shouldn’t say that, four people, none of whom were part of the core group who convinced me to run for office, did indeed collect a whopping thirty-five signatures or so for me. Some of the signatures weren’t even from people in the district but I turned them in anyway; others were missing city or printed name so I guessed at the city and tried to figure out the name from the signature. Maybe this admission qualifies me for some fine or jail time, so in my own defense, I’m making this up of course and all of these were 100% legit to the best of my knowledge, true story. The signatures these few helpers gathered for me is much appreciated, but clearly I didn’t have the support of the dozens of people or the hundreds of people on the meetup who were claiming they wanted “freedom”, whatever that is according to you, or the next guy in line, because even among the meetup full of supposed freedom seekers, there were often heated debates over some policy; never with a solution suggested, just complaints vented.

Some people on the meetup who read this will say “but you never called me for help” and to those people I say, the meetup is mailing list and I sent plenty of emails begging for help. The few people I did call just wanted to chit-chat about all kinds of random non-sense and really just cost me time I could have been knocking on another door. Sorry, but the goal was simple, get on the ballot, and to get on the ballot, I had to ask people, live in person, to sign a petition. The hours of phone calls and meetings some of you were suggesting just wasn’t needed with a month to get the job of getting on the ballot done. Even if I did call, I do not believe a single one of these people would have come out to help my campaign. Had I won the nomination, then there could have been plenty of meetings and talks to figure out the exact platform to move forward with and how best to represent the majority of the people, not just the interests of the fanatics from the meetup who were more than likely not even Republicans.

Now. to prove just how easy getting on the ballot could have been, had even just a dozen people on the meetup each convinced their immediate family and two friends to sign a petition and those dozen people handed me twenty signatures each, I’d of been on the ballot, and turned in more signatures than any other candidate in the district. Getting on the ballot should have been an hour of work at most. Instead, I spent two or three weekends collecting signatures. In fact, I was able to get almost one-hundred signatures just in family and friends alone, maybe all I really needed was a second person who had a family and some friends. Even without their help, getting on the ballot, or at least getting the two-hundred signatures was relatively easy, and if you are interested in running for Congress, aside from being time-consuming to get together with these people, since you need a physical, written signature, it’s easy enough to get two-hundred people to sign some piece of paper as long as you put in the time. You too can get on the ballot if you want to run for Congress.

Next: Getting on the Sabrin Line - I'll write about this today and try to get it posted tomorrow.

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