Spent a wonderful 30 minutes Tuesday speaking at the annual luncheon of the League of Women Voters of Citrus County.
I enjoy public speaking, especially when the topic is Citrus County politics. And on Tuesday, as is often the case, someone asked whether I’ll ever run for office.
My answer: No.
It’s not that I couldn’t handle the job. And I wouldn't wear sweatshirts.
But it’s just so dang hard to win a race. And so easy to lose.
Pat Deutschman, the former Citrus County School Board member, used to encourage me to write a book about Citrus County politics. I dabbled with the idea, came up with a cool title — “Trail Nuts” — and of course it went nowhere.
The truth is, I don’t know how someone wins an election other than the obvious (get more votes than the other candidates). But strategies for winning? They seem fairly routine:
— Get your name out.
— Knock on doors.
— Line up contributors.
— Attend meetings of the board you’re hoping to join.
— Learn the issues.
— Understand community needs and how to fill them.
— Effective advertising, mail pieces, social media, websites.
So, there’s the winning strategy. Yet, candidates have followed all that and still are left out in the cold after Election Day. I will dabble on this subject here and there about the ways candidates lose, but here are two to start:
— Arrogance will kill a candidate faster than anything, ESPECIALLY if it’s fake arrogance, meaning not earned.
That’s why we ask candidates about their background. Who are they and what have they done? Just because you’re a candidate doesn’t make you an expert, though many think that.
Arrogance is never good, but it comes off more as confidence when someone has something to back it up. That’s why voters should know not only a candidate’s opinion, but how he/she arrived at it and what experience shows she/he can come through.
(Worse than arrogant candidates? Arrogant campaign managers. Fortunately, I don’t know any.)
Arrogant candidates share two traits: Overconfidence and entitlement.
Overconfidence — man, I’ll never understand that. But I’ve seen it. One candidate lost in the primary to an inferior opponent while hoarding a significant sum of money in his campaign account for the general election which, of course, he never reached.
One night in the elections office I overheard two volunteers for a candidate discuss whether they could get their deposit back. The candidate, who lost and it wasn’t that close, had booked a victory cruise.
Entitled candidates run baffling campaigns and then blame something else for the loss. One year a losing candidate on election night went on and on and about how she’d been wronged.
I said, “Isn’t it possible voters just didn’t want to elect you?”
Her quick response: “No!”
Well, OK then.
— Lying is never a good thing but on the campaign trail, forget it. In this social media life, it’s deadly.
That should be obvious, right? I used to tell candidates that 50% of the county may love them, but half of the other half doesn’t, and half of that half is ratting them out to someone --- and that someone is telling me.
Here’s the thing about voters: If a candidate’s not being up front, they’re going to know. Voters tend to have a pretty decent BS meter.
By the way, “lying” means what you think it means. The tiniest fib or fuzzy statement from a candidate about him/herself — well, let’s just say voters don’t look kindly on it.
(So, candidates, just don’t do that, OK? No misleading, no hemming and hawing about, for example, YOUR RESIDENCY. There are people who SALIVATE at the thought of catching a county commission or school board candidate being less than up front about his/her home. We don’t need that kind of distraction.)
See the thread here? What kind of person would run for office and not be truthful with voters? Someone arrogant who hasn’t earned his/her stature in the community and instead must be boastful about things that never happened, forgetful about things that did, and clueless about how to move Citrus County along.
This is a big year, voters. Set your BS meter on high alert.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.