Apathy, Not Laws, Barrier to Independent Candidates

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>

Third Parties

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>

The Daily Show & New York City

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.

Primary Post-Mortem

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>

Pre-Primary Round-up

Since it's Sunday several news outlets have pre-primary commentary. CTNewsJunkie had two interesting pieces. The first one I wanted to bring attention to is the video:

Having worked on campaigns before I shouldn't be surprised by the number of people that rely on the political ads for information but I find it a bit disappointing. I think that this explains why money is a factor in these races because the candidates with more money are the ones that get to communicate with the voters. I would have thought more people would check out some of the emerging online news sources like CTNewsJunkie or CTMirror but the audience for these still seems a bit limited.

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