Monday, May 01, 2006

Partybuilding - The REAL Lesson of Ophelia Ford

What is it? Don't get caught using dead voters? Or how about "don't use dead voters"? That's warmer, but still not the biggest problem.

The problem that gave us an Ophelia Ford was in play long before anyone climbed out of the grave to cast a vote on her behalf on Election Day (I should pitch this as a screenplay for George Romero).

It happened during the primary season, when everyone and their mother filed a petition to run for John Ford's seat.

I was at an event one night, and out of twenty people, there were no less than four who had filed petitions in the room. Everyone was doing the "greet and grip", hoping to drum up a little early support among Democratic activists.

By Election day, there were nine candidates for the seat. NINE. Ophelia managed to win the primary with only 1300 votes, probably the most pathetic performance ever for an actual primary winner. Greens and Libertarians must be slapping themselves silly for not getting in that race.

Of the 108,000 registered voters in District 29, she got a whopping 1.2% of the vote to win the nomination.

Hardly a consensus nominee, huh? The district is probably 75% Democratic, and she only outpolled the Republican winner in the primary by 99 votes.

When you run a primary as ridiculously watered down as the District 29 primary, there's little chance of picking a candidate that people are actually excited about. I can name four candidates that i think had a realistic chance of winning--- Everyone else in the race was hoping that three or four of the others would cancel one another out.

There was nothing wrong with the 29 primary that coudn't have been fixed by half a dozen people putting their egos aside and getting the hell out of a race they stood no chance at winning.

If you cannot win as a consensus candidate, then what the hell are you doing in a race? Do you magically believe that everyone is going to drop what they're doing and follow you blindly simply because you have a (D) next to your name?

I'll let you in on a little secret that you won't get by watching the mainstream media's coverage of this fiasco--- Democrats didn't like Opehelia much better than they liked Roland. Hell, I moved into the district right after the primary, and I deliberately held off on reregistering to vote--- I didn't want to vote Republican, but I sure as hell wasn't sending Ophelia to the Senate.

I'm not alone. A couple of diehard Democrats I know grilled me after she won. "What the hell were you guys thinking?" I had to explain that it wasn't our call at all--- Ophelia filed the petition and the voters (All 1.2% of them) picked her.

I don't like having to explain why we're running the candidate that no one can mention by name without groaning. I don't think anyone else likes it any better than I did.

Her running was already hard enough--- Giving her the seat would have been like picking AJ to head up the Sopranos if Tony goes away. A little less ego, and someone else might have managed to consolidate 2-3% of the vote and give voters someone they can be proud of.

So please--- If you have so little support that your main strategy consists of getting whatever crumbs fall off the table of several stronger candidates, stay home. There are better ways to be involved than to be the perennial also-ran. Build some relationships, a coalition, and come back stronger next time.

Some politicians luck their way into a Second Act. Lose a couple of times, and you don't get a third.


PeskyFly said...

I've said it 1-bajillion times. The person who won that election was, "none of the above."

Freedonian said...

You are absolutely correct. When the primary winner is someone that 1.2% of the district actually voted for, there's no way to get people excited enough to vote in the general.

We just saw another sad turnout.