Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Running For Congress: Random Observations During the Campaign

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

I’m certain that there are some other notable events that occurred along my journey before primary night that I either forgot or are hard to put into my timeline and story. If I ever recall other details, I'll throw them up as an update of some sort.

In no particular order, these are some other issues and things that happened while I was a candidate for Congress. I didn’t know about, or expect, most of these things.

I received postcards. LOTS and LOTS of postcards. I received these post cards from the "right to life" people, from the NRA people, the people to save this, the people to do that, the right for who, the anti-this or pro-that group, etc. Every day I would get home from work for lunch and find at least a half dozen, sometimes two dozen, postcards from some group(s) in my mailbox.

In general, the postcards are "friendly" and are just black and white text where some organization pre-prints the message and all you do as a member is write your name and return address, throw a stamp on it and drop the postcard in the mail. However, the "pro-life" groups, and I’m pro-life, but these fanatics are nearly intolerable, apparently like to send half page postcards (a normal postcard is quarter page) where the whole front of the postcard is a picture of what I suppose is an aborted fetus. Something like a head, with something like eyes, in something like a dish, in something like liquid goo and it’s just a horrific and awful picture. You can see the scan of one of the several of the same postcards like this I received to the left.

Now, I suppose they send this type of postcard to make a point but I’m rather squeamish; I pass out when I get basic routine blood work done. I skipped lunch after I dry heaved from the picture. I’m pro-life, so if these pro-life people spend a second of time in the future to learn about the candidates before sending that kind of postcard, I would have been able to digest my breakfast that day and I wouldn’t have had to explain the picture to a 12 year old when he saw it.

Regardless, when I saw my mail woman that weekend, even she was offended by the postcards and asked about it. Truth be told, I was so offended by the postcard, in thinking that by supporting the pro-life position I was supporting this group of fanatics who send that kind of postcard, that I considered declaring myself pro-choice that very day just to NOT represent the fanatics who find it acceptable to send those kinds of pictures in the mail; at least put it in a brown paper envelope like my dirty magazines have to be sent in. Fortunately, I do believe in the pro-life position enough that I’m willing to put aside the thought that I’d represent the person or people who sent me that postcard and maintained my pro-life position.

In any case, I suspect the other candidates received similar postcards, in similar quantities. I have to wonder if their cause would be better served spending the time and money to just talk to their family members or neighbors about the prolife platform and maybe they should convince the majority of voters that pro-life is the most sane position for our society as clearly the majority of voters in this state seem to vote pro-choice as represented by most Democrats, or maybe voters in this state just don’t care about abortion so much and are tired of religious fanatics and such forcing the issue upon them, or sending them disturbing postcards like these.

As a final note on the whole issue of abortion, the only reason I even addressed abortion in my campaign and address it here in my recap is because for some reason this one issue seems to set the bar for a majority of voters as the make or break issue; I find this to be disturbing on many levels. First, the issue should really be a throw away issue as the percentages of the population seeking an abortion is so low that I suspect most women haven’t had an abortion and aren’t seeking an abortion. From the numbers I’ve seen, there is only a relatively small percentage of the population seeking abortions and oddly enough, it seems that abortions are more common in the "poorer" and "richer" populations, i.e. those who can’t afford to raise a child if they were to give birth and receive some taxpayer money to pay for the abortion, and those who are so wealthy that spending the money for a medical procedure like an abortion is no different than buying a new face, breasts, buns or car. With all of the issues we as American tax payers face, pollution, high gas prices, high food prices, decreased value of the dollar, loss of jobs to overseas companies, etc, I simply can’t comprehend why this one issue seems to top so many people’s lists of important issues. I assure you, while I am pro-life and would vote pro-life as a congressman, I certainly wouldn’t the congressman introducing new legislation or fighting this battle everyday, although I might fight the battle to stop using my money, taxpayer money, to fund abortions on day one as I, for one, don’t want my money being given away to other people while I receive no benefit. Of course, it's also interesting that we have federal laws that protect the lives of migratory birds like those disgusting geese (you can't go stomp on goose eggs) but we don't have federal laws to protect humans (ie, human eggs/babies). It's an interesting topic really, but again, so many other issues seem so much more important.

You also get surveys. LOTS AND LOTS of surveys. Again, every group, every organization, every topic, sends you a survey. “on HR ####, you would: (a)…(b)…(c)” and you’re expected to provide answers to these surveys. Since I was reasonably busy going door to door and working a real job, I did my best to research the questions and answer to the best of my ability and beliefs, hopefully I got the answers right. I was a straight A student through high school so if my testing skills were good, I could have passed! You don’t get back a “thank you...but we (will or won’t) ask our members to support you” – you just have to assume that you sent the right answers and/or someone cares about your response. I took all of the surveys seriously, answered them all, and never heard back from any of them. If I ever run again, I might just mark “c” for all questions and see what happens, or not send them back and see what happens. In either case, I would love to see 200 people decide to run for the same office one year and see if these fanatical organizations would send a copy of their silly survey to all 200 candidates, or get enough candidates to get these organizations to go broke trying to print and manage enough surveys for each candidate. The issues these organizations stand for are important issues, but then I’ve never received a paper in the mail from “The Right To Work Foundation” before a primary that provides me with the responses from all of the potential candidates that they surveyed so that I can make an informed decision. I don’t even get a piece of paper endorsing one candidate so that I can make a decision based on some organization’s (biased) interpretation of the survey results. These organizations are out to serve themselves and their own interests over the interests of the majority of public. If these groups cared about the public, they would publish their survey information, if not just online, well before the election. The organizations instead appear as useless as their surveys.

You also get PHONE CALLS. LOTS of phone calls. I provided a “Google Grand Central” phone number as my “contact phone number” rather than give out my actual cell phone number or home phone number. The Google Grand Central number is a real 10 digit phone number you can dial from any phone and Google routes the call to any number, or numbers, you designate. Anyone who did some searching could have found my actual cell phone number posted online, but I didn’t make them obvious in my campaign and only advertised my Google number. It’s a good thing because from about 7am to about 8pm, my cell phone would ring (and show the Google number on caller id) and I would essentially ignore the call because I was eating breakfast, driving, at work, talking to voters door to door, etc. Most people didn’t leave a message, those who did generally left messages asking me to support positions I already showed my support for on my website, others were asking me to support some HR# as if I was already in office. To be quite honest, I answered ALL calls for the first few days or weeks after I published the number, spoke to a dozen or more people at length and from that point forward, I let every call go to voicemail. I want to hear what people have to say and what their issues are, but every person I spoke with either went on and on about one issue that I had already addressed on my website, or just wanted to yell and complain about some government mistreatment they were suffering from. I’m suffering too, that’s why I’m running for office…. Stop complaining and get out and make a difference. It’s not that I DON’T want to talk to voters, but I DO have a day job, and I DO have to afford $4/gal gas, and I DO have to afford higher food costs just like you. I was TRYING to get into office to address those problems but am/was powerless now. Again, no offense, the issues people were calling about were important, but then, go out, talk to your neighbors, friends, family, etc and tell them. I understand. In fact, if you took the time to visit my website and get my phone number, you certainly could have read my position on the issues while you were there, leading me to believe many of these calls were calls from people who some group provided a number to and told them to call. I shouldn’t complain about phone calls since I was running for office AND provided a number, however, I believe that I can complain about people calling to reiterate the same issues I’ve already addressed because some group told these people to call without telling these people who I am or what I stand for before they handed over a number.

You also get EMAILS. Interestingly enough, many of these email are also form letters from some organization and the sender probably has no idea who they contacted or what they sent. The sender probably just fills in their name/email address and clicks “send”. Again, the issues are important, it’s good to see support for the issues, but in general, I was getting form letter emails about positions that I support and show my support for on my website, go figure. If the organizations that hosted this “complain to your candidate” form did some leg work and/or provided a candidates position on the issues, perhaps the number of emails would decrease and the ability to reply would increase. Then again, neither of my other two primary opponents had websites, email addresses or any position statements so perhaps I was just to the guy to complain to in the district since no one else, Pallone included, listens to the voters. I replied to MOST all emails that had a questions/comment that needed a reply as I could reply late at night after I knocked on doors all day and night.

I also received emails from the grammar Nazis commenting on the misuse of an apostrophe, the spelling of a word, or the lack of a citation, quote, comma, period, parenthesis, etc. Again, if you wanted “trimmed and proper” positions written by some party hack rather than honest, passionate opinion and positions from an average concerned voter, then I certainly wasn’t the guy you wanted to vote for as anything written and on my website was written by me, on my own, without consulting some party PR guy, running it through the publication editor, checking it for PC or potentially “outrageous” content. What I wrote was just my opinion, many items were clearly written in jest, implying sarcasm, and many emails were from people who just didn’t get it.

For example, would I really spend your tax money and mine to have rabid dogs patrol the border between the US and Mexico as I suggested? Of course not! That would be cruelty towards animals making them work in the hot desert for no pay, not to mention, who knows what diseases those border crossers might give a dog if the dog should bite one? See the sarcasm? Offensive, maybe, but the point is clearly that I simply oppose illegal immigration and open borders and think we need to do SOMETHING about it rather than the NOTHING we are doing right now. There surely is a “better” solution than rabid dogs, but my suggestion clearly demonstrates my concern that SOMETHING is better than the NOTHING we have right now. So why would I even suggest such a thing? What sane person thinks of that? Well…. “when I was your age….” you would see some junk yard and “protecting” that junk yard was a fence and inside were a pack of large and scary Dobermans, ready to tear apart anything that crossed that fence. I’m really not suggesting that we unleash dogs on border crossers, but the concept of using dogs to protect a border isn’t so outrageous and unheard of after all if you stop and think about it for just one second, in fact, it’s slightly humorous in a topic that is very serious and emotional. Maybe we need more candidates willing to be honest, show some humor or taking risky positions rather than try to appease everyone and everything with rhetoric. We don’t need to train rapid dogs but we do need to address border security.

You also get advertisements. Yes, advertisements trying to sell you, the candidate, “stuff”. The advertisements ranged from hundred page, full color, high gloss brochures showing you any possible item you can imagine with a “someone for something” printed on it to more postcards pointing you to a website that contained all, or more, of the same items for sale. Apparently, there is a huge industry that has grown around campaigns as I counted just over twenty different companies who I received such advertisements from, some of them contacted me more than once, in case I might have been using another company.

But these were just the advertisements received via postal mail. I also received several phone calls and voicemail, both on my private home and cell phone numbers and on my campaign line from companies that appear to be campaign management firms of some sort. I didn’t pay much attention to any of them, but one that caught my attention for some reason was a company that seemed willing to work for me for free! Their business is to basically be in charge of handling all campaign donations, at no cost to you, and they even were willing to figure out and file all of the paperwork you needed to file. They do this at no cost to you and simply take a significant cut off of the top of each contribution to handle their management expenses. I bet it’s a decent service and a good company and having received the “House of Representatives” booklet regarding campaign finance reporting, I must say that if an average no one like me wanted to collection campaign contributions, I’d need such a company if not just to free me from the days it would take to read and understand the reporting requirements.

Another notable advertisement was a phone call from Comcast, who wanted me to purchase some television advertising on their cable network, if only their customer service would call me back when my cable service was problematic or my bill was wrong, I might have been more polite and listened to the guy who called me. I canceled my Comcast service because I couldn't get a call back from them on a problem with my internet service even, imagine that.

The last notable call, and some emails, was from a campaign manager/management firm that was willing to write the platform, flyers, campaign materials, organize press events, etc. The interesting item here is that they seemed to mean what they said – they were willing to write the platform, their platform, not mine, and all I had to do, in exchange for their free service, was be the talking head behind their platform. Does anyone really do this? I hope not, but then they must be in business for a reason, or it was some gag, scary either way.

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