Thursday, June 26, 2008

Running for Congress: The Monmouth County GOP Nominating Convention

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 - Running for Congress: 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

Fortunately, no one “challenged” my petition signatures because truth be told, I have no idea if more than my girlfriend and I were really registered Republicans who lived in the district, except of course for those who signed outside of the Monmouth County GOP Nominating Convention which I can be reasonably sure were Republicans (maybe not in the district though).

And yes, you read that correctly – I said outside of the convention, meaning physically outside of the building where the convention was being held.

The Monmouth County GOP Nominating Convention, as I would learn, is some gathering of the “party leaders” where they get together, deliver the same rhetoric in a speech to one another, and ultimately go “vote” for the one person, who they already chose to represent you and I, and is the person that they have already chosen through the “screening” process. This person then gets “nominated”, then gets “the party line” on the ballot and presumably, and sadly, we the people then vote for the person “they” pick while we the people then pretend “we” elected someone to represent “us”.

So why was I physically outside of the Convention if I was running for office and not inside the convention? I wasn’t allowed in apparently.

I had received an email on March 14th from the Monmouth County GOP Mailing list. It’s a free mailing list you can signup for on the Monmouth County GOP website. The email notifies the public, only list members really, that the convention is coming and in fact the email then goes on to say when and where and included the “Offices To Be Considered” as shown below:
(4) Offices To Be Considered.
The office to be considered is: Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders (2 seats).

As an average nobody running for office, I read this email and made the assumption that this convention was indeed in regards to the county freeholder race, and only the county freeholder race, as that is what the email reads, and sent the email off to my trash folder. It made sense to me, County Convention… County freeholder, not something for the federal candidate for Congress which spans several counties, what did I know?

The following Tuesday, March 25th, I received a “reminder” email about the convention, this time with NO details and later in the morning, a phone call from Paul at Sabrin campaign provided me with the details of the convention and Paul suggested I should go there. He then explained the process and that the convention will indeed cover Congressional candidates and suggested I call the number provided to gain access to the event; so I did.

I left a message, on what sounded like a Sprint cell phone voicemail not some office system voicemail, for a Kathleen. My message was along the lines of “this is James Hogan, I’m a candidate for Congress in the 6th district and I would like to attend the convention. Please give me a call back at …”. About 2 hours later, I received a call back from the same number I had dialed earlier and Kathleen was asking for a “Brian Unger”. Huh?

Now being from Long Branch, I recognized the name Brian Unger as one our councilmen. I also recognized the caller ID and after explaining to Kathleen that she reached the correct person, me, James P. Hogan himself, which was confusing enough for her, she then told me that it was too late to attend the convention and only those who have “screened” can attend.

In case you’re not aware, as I wasn’t aware, “screening” is some process where the party big shots get together, go through their book of friends, and decide which friend they want to nominate for the office. They then have this friend come in to the screening committee, they tell this friend exactly what to say, what to do, when to speak, when to say nothing, and confirm that nothing in these people’s backgrounds will be too embarrassing for the party big shots. Other people who want to run, like me, were supposed to go to the screening committee to be shot down by the party leaders who also force you to agree not to run for office on another line or as an independent as a “thanks” for failing their screening process, essentially ensuring that there is no competition for the position from anyone aside from the friend they nominate themselves. Also, in the past, part of the “screening” process was an expensive, complete, criminal background check on you, paid for at your own expense. That background check was eliminated for this year so I wouldn’t have had to “pay to play” just to get through the screening process, which I didn’t even know existed.

So I obviously didn’t “screen” with the committee, because I didn’t know about this screening process and the screening process was never advertised on the mailing list or anywhere else as far as I know. Fortunately for yours truly, I had learned earlier that day after talking to Paul that someone named Andy Unane (which I might be spelling incorrectly), some rich fellow from the Goya foods family, had managed to “screen” over the phone, from Colorado, the night before in order to get considered for the Senate race, so I offered Kathleen my time for a phone screening like Andy, or I could arrive at the convention early and screen in person prior to the event. Kathleen [not so] politely explained that Andy was a party member, to which I replied that I too was a registered Republican. There was awkward silence on the phone but before hanging up on me, Kathleen explained that I could attend the convention, but wouldn’t be able to speak to the audience, wouldn’t be able to “screen” and wouldn’t be able to circulate my petition inside of the convention, essentially that I could attend to do nothing other than observe.

Needless to say, I showed up at the convention around 6pm with intentions of doing more than observing. After leaving work, in my jeans and collared shirt, I stood outside for over two hours until the last people were leaving around 8:30-9pm. I was very polite to everyone and most party members who were in the district were willing to sign my petition. I must say that the party members themselves were very polite to me that night. In fact, if the Kathleen from Keansburg, who I had met that night, is the Kathleen that I spoke to on the phone, then Kathleen is also very polite and I like Kathleen. I don’t blame the Kathleen I spoke to for following the party bylaws and not letting me screen or into the convention, but I can blame the party leaders for allowing Andy to screen and have a surrogate at the convention outside of their own rules. It wasn’t just Kathleen who was polite, through the whole process of running for Congress, the party members were all generally polite, but the party leadership leaves much to be desired. A fortunate item to note is that the Monmouth County GOP chairman, Adam Puharic, won’t be the chairman much longer or is already gone by the time you’ve read this, which is good because he isn’t helping any Republicans as far as I can tell.

I also can’t say that all of the party members were nice as there was one older woman, no idea who she was nor would I recognize her as she ran away so quickly, at the convention who essentially ignored that I was even attempting to speak to her and as she ran away just shouted at me “No Thanks! The system works!” and marched off to the parking lot, full of mostly expensive German cars. I might have drooled on a few of them while I was standing around.

Next - Meeting the Bloggers - what a fun group of people - *IF* they are real people and not computer programs designed to emulate real people! hrm.

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