Earlier tonight I attended the Connecticut Attorney General debate at UCONN Law. Democrat George Jepsen debated Republican Martha Dean. The debate started off rather light but after the first question or two the contrast between them could not have been larger. George Jespen framed himself as a traditional democrat while Martha Dean embraced her position as the tea party candidate.
This was especially apparent when candidates were asked how they would respond to the state government attempting to slash the Attorney Generalâ€™s office budget by ten percent. Jepsen pointed out that the office manages to bring in revenue for the state and while he certainly would work to create efficiency he suggested that the government not be â€œpenny-wise and pound-foolish.â€ Dean said she would work to create efficiency and claimed that there is a lot of waste in the office that she could eliminate. She did not elaborate on the waste but referenced a state auditorâ€™s report. In her rebuttal she expressed concern that Jepsen saw the Attorney Generalâ€™s office as a source of revenue. She claimed that it â€œviolated the separation of powersâ€ for the Attorney Generalâ€™s office to be a revenue source and that only the legislature could do that.
When asked about the qualifications she would look for in employees Dean attacked young people. She recited the quote â€œif you are under 20 and not a liberal you have no heart, and if you are over 40 and not a conservative you have no brain.â€ She then proceeded to suggest that young people should work in the â€œreal worldâ€ for a few years before they should be allowed to serve in government. Jepsen was more realistic and raised the fact that due to the state budget crises it was unlikely he would be able to hire new attorneys soon, but did agree that fresh law school graduates should spend a few years in other jobs before moving to government.
Candidates spent a lot of time talking about Richard Blumenthal. Jepsen generally stuck by Blumenthal and Candidate Dean attempted to paint Jepsen as being too close to Blumenthal and also accused Jepsen of being political. Jepsen responded by pointing out that Dean herself was political and reiterating that he was proud of his service. Both candidates certainly raised political issues and Dean was not reluctant to admit she would consider putting out position papers on important issues like Blumenthal does.
The other theme in the debate was George Jepsen. Jepsen laid out his views, positions, and took only a few jabs at Dean. In contrast, Dean not only extolled her own virtues, but spent a lot of time attacking Jepsen. She attained the nearly magical feat of being in control and out of control at the same time by moving questions away from their issue and turning them into attacks. Jepsen was more reserved preferring to address the issues and only went off topic when Dean steered the debate in that direction.
This resulted in Dean giving the debate win to George Jepsen on a silver platter. Had Dean decided to keep focused on her own virtues I think she would have been able to win it. Instead she chose to keep the focus on Jepsen and as a result his thoughtful statements and lighthearted manner shined through.
Today Lowell Weicker wrote an op-ed for the Hartford Courant criticizing the state laws that prevent independent candidates from participating. State laws and paperwork requirements serve as an easy target for people saying that it is too difficult to run for office. However as someone who has worked on campaigns I can assure you that among all the barriers to running the paperwork is the least of it.<p>Running a campaign is not as much of an exercise in paperwork as it is an exercise in footwork. As a candidate if you want to be viable you need to get together a core group of supporters that will bring your message to their friends, family, and neighbors. These people need to not only be willing to vote for you, but also give you money, sign your petition, and make calls or knock doors. While there are votes to be rounded up by carpet bombing the electorate with television ads and mailers, these votes are not going to materialize unless you have a ground presence.</p><p>Democrats and Republicans have an easier time because the infrastructure and support for them is already in place. Town Committees meet on a monthly basis and the people in them are willing to do these things. The people on the town committees then serve as information providers for their friends and family in the community. They are the political junkies that their friends turn to in order to understand what is happening in these elections. In Connecticut if a candidate is running for an office in a major party they have probably stopped by your town committee meeting at least once and you’ve had the opportunity to meet the candidate and ask the candidate questions.</p><p>Independent candidates are stuck building this infrastructure from square one. They have much larger hurdles to clear culturally and logistically than those running with the entrenched parties. However if they are able to put in the hard work it is not impossible to clear these hurdles.</p>
I noticed today via a Capitol Watch Blog Post that Ken Krayeske has been nominated to run against my Congressman John Larson by the Green Party. The blog post depicts a candidate that is realistic about his chances (suggesting that while he might not win he hopes to raise the requisite $15,000 to participate in League of Women Voters Debates). Krayeske joins Tom Marsh, a candidate for Governor, and John Mertens, a candidate for senate, in a club of candidates that probably do not have a chance to win but will be on the ballot in November.<p>What role can these third party candidates play in these races? Krayeske seems to take a two pronged approach. First suggesting that he wants to build the Green Party. I think that this is a good approach to take because I do not believe people identify with parties as strongly as the people and the personalities behind the party. Without strong leaders and candidates running on the party line and bringing the party message to the people I do not believe a party can flourish. Secondly he looks to make pointed criticisms of the incumbent. Here he can bring to light issues people have but that have not yet been publicly voiced. Here we see that elections are good for holding the incumbent’s feet to the fire and making sure that citizens get the best representation possible.</p><p>Ultimately the thing that surprises me the most is that in spite of the general cynicism that most people seem to have towards politics and the current people in power, third parties have not taken off. Even the big “Tea Party” movement seems to associate itself with the Republican Party instead of forming its own entity. It makes me seriously question whether a third party might ever become viable on a statewide level.</p>
My freshman college roommate flew back east and invited me to go see The Daily Show with some other friends from WPI. We got in line around 2 p.m. for the 6 p.m. taping. This gave us plenty of time to catch-up and shoot the breeze. Meanwhile the crew was rather supportive and handed out water to make sure everyone was well hydrated and let us into the studio a bit early. The studio is rather small and almost resembles being inside a warehouse. It seems to fit around two hundred people and luckily if you are able to get a seat you have a great view.
Before the show began they sent out a warm-up comedian to get the energy flowing and explained to us how the taping works. They use a method called live-to-tape. This means that the show is recorded in (mostly) a single shot and the audience has microphones above them to record their laughter. The Daily Show does not use laugh tracks. They did do a second take on the portion of the show about Charlie Rangel which was then spliced back into the show during editing. After that Stewart answered questions from the audience before they began taping. Finally the experience ended with the recording of a monologue for the global edition of the show. Overall it was a fantastic experience and well worth the nothing that was paid for it.
A little late because I’ve had a rather busy couple of days. However I wanted to share some thoughts on the primary results. The media has been reporting on the low turnout levels and the Courant suggests that low turnout can be attributed to lack of avenues to participation. A reader suggests that negative campaigning and a lack of good candidates caused the low turnout. I do not believe that either of these are the cause. I think the voters are apathetic towards these primaries and that this is reflected in the turnout. For the past month voters have been inundated with direct mail, phone calls, television, and everything else. The election was not some kind of secret. <p>The lack of interest in the primaries makes me wonder whether the primaries themselves are worth the taxpayer money spent on them. I’m referring not to the CEP but to the administrative costs of actually putting together the elections. I do not make the suggestion lightly, but maybe these primary contests are not worth the effort. If not a convention maybe we could find some alternative method to choose our candidates. The important thing is to do it in a way that saves money, allows people who are not engaged all year to become engaged, and might also save everyone else the pain and drama of a drawn out contest.</p><p></p><p>This election also showed that money is not the entire election equation. Many cynics suggested that Dan Malloy and other candidates would not be able to compete with the millions of dollars that Ned Lamont or Tom Foley would spend on their races. However Malloy was outspent by a four to one ratio ($2.5 to $10 Million) and managed to win with a comfortable 16% margin. At the same time Mike Fedele only lost by three points against Tom Foley after being outspent by him. The record amount of money spent by the candidates did not create a record turnout and it did not manage to create the wins these candidates should have seen if money could buy the election. Instead other factors, many intangible such as the field operation, mood of the voters, and sweat equity played a big role in deciding the outcomes. Money does matter but it suffers from diminishing marginal returns and can only take you so far.</p><p>The big loser in this election was the Quinnipiac Poll. I don’t know what they were doing but I think something is wrong with their polling operation because they did not seem to do a great job of predicting some of the races.</p><p>People have also been making comments about the negative advertisements. I’m not entirely convinced that they were the impetus for the low turnout or for the surprising results in the Democratic and Republican primaries but they certainly were noticed.</p><p></p>