Friday, July 11, 2008

Running for Congress: The Door to Door Effort, and Notable Characters

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

Despite the personal issue of the Calleia case, the lack of media coverage, the lack of support from the Sabrin campaign, the lack of support from the meetups and just one frustrating experience after the other, I spent most every night after work and most hours every weekend continuing my door to door effort.

I had purchased, well really my brother had purchased for me, the entire Republican mailing list from the county clerk’s office. It seems anyone can go get this information relatively cheap; $100 gets you names, addresses, age and some other random information (some phone numbers even) on a CD with one HUGE pipe delimited text file on it. George at the Sabrin campaign had also provided about 3800 names/addresses of "likely primary voters" that I guess is somehow available through the Republican party and so I eventually had good lists of voters outside of Long Branch to work from. (As I said, George and all of the guys with the Sabrin campaign were very helpful personally, as you can see, but I still maintain that it was the campaign as a whole that was the problem.) It was kind of amazing to me as a software guy who always thinks about data security just how much personal data is available about people, at a cheap rate, if they are a registered voter. Having seen just how much aggregate data is available, I’m tempted to un-register to vote just to get my name, address, phone number, etc off of those lists and have some form of privacy and/or safety, but alas, that would not help as you can find "formerly registered voters" as well. Creepy.

Being a software guy, I bounced George’s list of likely primary voters (which appeared to be a few years old) up against the "new" list I had from the county and only about 1800 of the 3800 names/addresses on George’s list were still registered Republicans at the same address according to the clerk’s office. I had hoped to send a postcard out to these people but after reading the press releases from the Sabrin campaign that I had mentioned previously, I couldn’t bring myself to spend the money to send them, nor did I think my single postcard would help my cause and overcome the damage the Sabrin campaign had done, and I couldn’t afford, nor did I have time for, multiple postcards. My dad offered to fund sending the postcards out but I couldn’t accept his money either since as time went on and more and more garbage press releases were sent from the Sabrin campaign, I could see the writing getting more and more clear that I would suffer from Sabrin’s negative, and media branded as insane, campaign. As I went through each town, I did make it a point to knock on doors and talk to the "primary voters" while simply leaving a flyer on "registered republican" door handles and quickly moving on, making the most of my time. I suspect most people who jsut got a flyer on the door were just annoyed by a flyer on their door and tossed it in the trash (then didn't vote for me).

The total cost of my campaign was about $64 for flyers, a pair of sneakers I wore out, $100 (that my brother spent for the mailing list) and many hours of my time and my girlfriend’s time. At the end of my campaign, I had distributed just over 6000 flyers (many of these printed myself so I don’t know my own cost in time, paper and laser printer toners so I didn't included that in my $64 claim) in 17 towns on my own and really did the best I could do to win, and certainly far more than Bob or Peter had done. No one on the meetups helped me out aside from one guy, Dan who helped for one night for an hour or so. Aside from Dan, I can say that those 6000 flyers (and I can only guestimate the actual number based on the total number of flyers I had printed) were handed out door to door by my girlfriend and I. Some other people may have printed my flyer and distributed a few flyers on their own, some people at least claimed they were doing this, but I have no evidence that this ever really happened. If so, thank you for your help if you were helping and silent about your help.

Having visited at least 6,000 houses, in case you’re not from this district, or you are Frank Pallone and just never got out to see the people you represent, we live in a nice, but very diverse area. In Monmouth Beach, part of D6, my girlfriend and I talked to people and left flyers on doors at houses that must be worth double-digit millions of dollars and had driveway’s full of nice, clean, expense cars – kind of a hard sell for me to claim I represent the average working class fella when I was making that claim to millionaires. In many other towns, we talked to people and left flyers at houses that might have been condemned after my flyer became the final piece of litter that made it possible for condemnation to take place and had driveways full of rusted, old, beat up cars that probably didn’t run. Regardless, I met many wonderful people in each of these towns I visited. I certainly can’t remember them all, but I will mention a few “interesting” individuals (some names changed to protect the innocent) who come to mind, only because they demonstrate the diversity that exists in this district, and because it was my experience with many of these people, among others, that fueled my motivation and kept me going. In no particular of when or where I met them:

While begging for signatures on my petition here in Long Branch, I met a woman, we’ll call her “Sue” (not her real name). I would say she was probably mid 20s or so (ok, probably mid 30s or so, but I’m trying to score some brownie points in case I run again!.. fine, MAYBE she was even mid 40s but my girlfriend said that, not me – see I’m such a politician!). When I knocked on her door, she tried to tell me to “Go Away. I don’t want to buy any magazines.” I suppose she mistook me and my clipboard for one of those college students who sell magazines “to go on a school trip”, or to fund a keg party, whichever. It was probably 8:30pm by this point, I was tired and “Sue” was the last house on my list for the night so I yelled to her through her screen door, foyer and front door “no no no no… please….. I’m not trying to sell anything. I just want to run for Congress”. I suppose for some reason she believed me because she came to the door and I delivered my line. She was one of a few who asked at least one question. She asked me “great. I’m a single issue voter. Where do you stand on the 2nd amendment?” I explained my position, she explained that she agreed but suggested I keep my position under my hat before the gun control groups beat me with sticks. I later posted my position, nearly verbatim, on my website. If nothing else, I try to be brutally honest, even if my honesty is the wrong answer. I later left a flyer on “Sue”’s door, she didn’t seem to be home when I stopped by, or thought someone selling magazines was knocking. I hope the wind didn’t blow my flyer away and even circled the “Pro Right to Bear Arms” item and wrote a note, something like “Hope you remember talking to me. Please come vote! – Jim”. I’m almost tempted to go knock on “Sue”’s door and see if she really voted for me, but it doesn’t matter too much and she doesn’t have to tell me anyhow. Either way, I like “Sue”, regardless of if she voted for me or not, and hopefully “Sue” doesn’t fire off a few rounds to those individuals playing the loud rap music across the street from her house.

Another interesting character I met while knocking on doors for signatures on my petition in Keansburg was an older woman who came to the door, heard my speech and asked “Is this some kind of joke? Is this one of those TV shows? Where are the cameras? Are you serious?” After some explanation of my insanity, she agreed to sign my petition – I somehow doubt she came out to vote as I left still thinking she’s looking for those candid camera guys and wondering how serious I was. If you, the reader, were this woman, don’t put on a foil hat, this is and was real, don’t panic. I didn’t note her name or address and I don’t remember even what street I was on so I might not have reached this woman a second time with a flyer, sorry.

I also met “a dumb plumber” in Long Branch. This man is no “dumb plumber” but that’s how he described himself to me when I explained I was just a dumb software guy pretending I could make a difference by running for Congress. This guy really understands that our freedoms are being eroded by over-government and our wallets are being drained by over-taxation and he even had some interesting ideas on how to solve some of the problems. This guy really does get it, and he was well informed about many issues. I could probably have learned a lot from him but after talking to him for over an hour and a half, the sun had set and it got cold and we both needed to seek warm shelter. Again, this man is no dumb plumber although I don’t think he came out to vote. He admits to being very apathetic and skeptical of the whole process. Maybe I inspired him to vote or maybe even better he’ll come knocking on my door looking for a signature so that he could run for office. This man is a true patriot and would probably make a great congressman. I spoke to him a second time when I left a flyer at his house. He commended me for my efforts and I firmly believe that this man, having voted for me or not, believed in my cause and efforts. Thank you sir and should I ever need a plumber, I’ll come knock on your door again.

I also met a MLB Hall of Famer. His brother, also a hall of famer, apparently lives next door to me (but is a registered Democrat), who’d of known I lived among celebrities? Hopefully the Yankees won that day and I apologize for interrupting your game watching. He told me Frank Pallone was his cousin. Maybe he was serious, maybe he was joking, maybe he just wanted to get rid of me so he could watch “his Yankees”. I won’t blow his spot and say if he signed my petition or not, just in case he is Frank’s cousin, but he did show me his hall of fame pictures and some other cool memorabilia only a true Hall of Famer would have. Awesome stuff, someday I might make the trip the MLB Hall of Fame to check it out.

Another person I met was the wife of Art Gallagher, the blogger who had been helping me out so much for the past few months. I didn’t have names printed on my list for Highlands and I suspected I would eventually run into Art if I hit all of the houses, so after walking up a big hill, and then walking up an even bigger driveway, I bothered the woman who was just trying to mind her own business and do some gardening. She told me that she’s a “big fan”. I suppose “fan” is the right word… a “fan” of a “politician”? Interesting. She then told me that her and her husband have been following my efforts. I quickly realized who she was, chatted with her, asked for Art, but had missed him by minutes. Apparently Art is a busy guy and a hard worker… here I thought Art just sat in his basement all day and night writing a blog, but it turns out that Art is like a Big Shot™ and is president of a Northern Monmouth Chamber of Commerce, or something along those lines, and a committeeman along with some other elected titles and volunteer positions as well as a working stiff. Having traded many emails with Art, reading his blog, and finally meeting and talking to Art after the primary, I have to say that Art is certainly a person who I would support to physical exhaustion if and when he runs for a major office. Oddly enough, aside from Art signing my petition outside of the Monmouth Convention while rushing out and yelling “Murray is crazy!” I only spoke to Art one time on the phone during my campaign and traded some emails with him. It wasn't until after the primary that I finally met Art, in person, again.

I also met “Chad”, again not his real name, but “Chad”sounds like a funny name to me and if your name is really Chad and you’re offended, too bad, it’s funny to me and I’m allowed to find your name funny. I don’t regret meeting “Chad” at all but I think my girlfriend started to think I was finally abducted by some irate citizen whom I bothered when I didn't meet her back at the time and place we agreed to meet. While in Monmouth Beach, after visiting some jaw dropping houses, I reached a dead end road and “Chad” was out on his front lawn keeping a careful eye on me as I made my way up "his" street knocking on random doors, talking to everyone and leaving a paper on doors where no one answered. “Chad” was probably as weary of me as I was of him. I slowly approached “Chad” as I could tell that “Chad” meant business. I handed him my flyer, delivered my usual intro and “Chad” immediately asked “Polluted Rivers? What do YOU know about polluted rivers young man?” I explained the “Danger” signs at the local park that I’ve been seeing for the past two years and before I could finish a sentence, “Chad” said “come here a second, I want to show you something”. Now, if I wasn’t a big strong gym rat, I probably would have said “ohh would you look at the time, gotta go, sorry” but I’m in good shape and “Chad” is an older gentlemen, no offense, so I’m pretty sure that I could have put the hurt on him if I needed. In his garage, “Chad” had papers, STACKS of FOLDERS of STACKS of papers detailing and outlining Monmouth Park’s role in the pollution of the Shrewsbury River. Papers that detail the political non-sense surrounding the issue, papers that detail the expense to you and I, the taxpayers, from the pollution; papers with broken promises and resolutions and a law suit that was to be filed against the State DEP, mayors, NJSEA, Monmouth Park, etc, etc. etc. I learned much from the hour or more I spent talking to “Chad” and with my race over, I’m going to stop by “Chad”’s house one day soon and find out what, if anything, I can do to help the cause. I don’t know where “Chad” stands on anything else, he didn’t want to talk about anything else and I don’t think he could care less about anything else as he makes a living off of the water. I don’t think he cared about where I stand on anything else, and I don’t know if “Chad” really voted for me, but I like “Chad” and I hope that “Chad” continues to battle our elected officials and state agencies to get our river cleaned. I generally despise people who file lawsuits against the government, since we the tax payers pay for those lawsuits, but in this case, we’re already paying for the monitoring/pollution so without a lawsuit we’d continue to pay for Monmouth Park’s pollution forever. Thanks for your work “Chad”!

I also met a woman who didn’t want to sign my petition because while she is very much a Republican, she told me that she always votes for Mr. Pallone “because he got my son into West Point”. I won’t rat her out either, she may or may not have signed my petition, and our conversation was brief, but it is mind boggling to think that this woman votes for someone (Pallone) who then votes against things she believes in, because the person she’s voting for “got her son into West Point”. My advise, never sell your vote for a buck. Truth is that if your son was accepted to West Point, he was accepted based on his own merit, or should have been. Be proud of your son’s accomplishment and I’d like to think that We the People are proud of your son’s commitment to our nation, but your vote should not be for sale, or for lease, for favors from elected politicians; such is the "problem" that leads to corrupt politics. Don't feed the broken system and vote for the Pallone just because he provided "favors" to you.

These are just a few notable characters, I certainly met many people that were inspiring, friendly, helpful, supportive or otherwise memorable in their own way and if I had a better memory or infinite amounts of time, I could tell a story about each person I met in my journey to become a congressman. I also met a few not so friendly people along the way, like the woman who told me "the system works" and even they inspired me in some strange way. In fact, as an update to that part of my story, after reviewing some mugshots – I now know EXACLTY who the woman who told me "the system works" is, but I won’t rat her out – other than saying that she is a "big shot" in some small little world of her own.

FWIW - of the 1000+ doors I knocked on, only ONE person slammed the door in my face and no one threatened me - maybe there are friendly people in New Jersey afterall???

Coming up next - Primary Day, and Night - What a big day! Like all of the other big shots, I must have been wearing my suit and hosting a big party, right?

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