Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 at 8:03am

Campaign Mistakes 101 in Lake County

Posted by admin

As a post-mortem to Tuesday’s primary elections in Lake County, it is imperative to offer some free, unbiased advice to the next field of political candidates.

Over the last few months, our group has interviewed, talked with, watched, and received countless emails from many of the local political candidates.  Frankly, many of them were not prepared to run for office, and as the campaign heated up, their candidacies collapsed.

Right off the bat, we need to address the special interest money issue, which seems to be a boogey man that gets brought out every election cycle in Lake County.  This county is in the midst of a great economic recession, and the problem with money during this cycle is that no one has any.  The ability to raise money depends on the candidates themselves, not anyone pushing agendas.  If a candidate is smart, articulate, and has common sense solutions to problems, the money available will gravitate toward you.  Candidates who cry about other candidates getting “special interest” money are those who lack the skills to attract donors.

Unless you’re a candidate like Rick Scott, who has his own money, most candidates are dependent upon donations.  By virtue of campaign laws, no one person can donate more than $500 per cycle.  If you look at Leslie Campione’s list of donors (largest of all the candidates) you will see a boat load of people who gave significantly less than the maximum amount.

Did Campione raise more money than the others?  Sure, but it wasn’t because a vast, right wing conspiracy selected her.  Instead, when Campione spoke to the people, she inspired them enough to donate to her campaign.  Campione was also very organized and worked extremely hard during her campaign.

If you can’t raise money for your campaign it is because you don’t like doing it, you can’t get it, or all you get is excuses; there’s a good chance you won’t win.  People who give money to your campaign will vote, and it’s normally for you because they are now invested in you.

Below is a list of mistakes we saw many of the local candidates make during the last election cycle:

  • The candidate who represents him or herself has a fool for a campaign manager.  Effective candidates allow someone with skills to run their campaign.  Surround yourself with a truth squad, not cheerleaders.
  • Candidates should know the issues before they enter any race.  Many of the candidates running for County Commissioner or School Board Member were a fountain of misinformation and didn’t understand the way local government works.  The lack of knowledge was shameful.
  • Candidates must take a position on controversial issues.  It became comical, the groans and laughter at Linda Stewart’s flailing around when she was asked whether she supported Amendment #4. She had an opinion on every other issue, but when questioned on this issue she said she hadn’t made up her mind and that it was a personal decision.  Straddling the fence on issues will get you voted out of office.
  • An elected official should never target a group with political venom because a fired up group is a voting group.  Telling the construction industry, the third largest employer in Lake County, that you don’t want any residential housing growth is not too smart.
  • Two slogans didn’t win this election because after the third forum most voters branded this candidate as a one trick pony.  As a candidate, you want to be known for more than “Who is your buddy?” and “I’ve been a businessman for 33 years.” Most of the candidates who faltered had voters asking the old Wendy’s commercial question: “Where’s the beef?”
  • If you’re entering a race and you’re not serious about winning, or you’re in it to help another candidate by splitting the vote, then you will destroy your own political future.  A story about Democrat Egor Emery and David Yeager assisting Linda Stewart to get qualified is bad. You need to be in the race for the right reasons and prepared to win.  One of our members told us they have a picture of Yeager holding an Elaine Renick sign on Election Day actively campaigning for her.  We hope that’s not true.
  • If you get halfway through the process and your candidacy isn’t gaining traction, cut your losses.  It is best to withdraw from the race to preserve your dignity; but, most importantly, to preserve your time and money.  Go to people you know who will tell you the honest truth and ask them if they believe you can win.  Gut reactions in politics are usually wrong.
  • Keep the issues local and be careful about touting other politicians.  Conservative Republican talking points on immigration and Obama Care don’t resonate in local campaigns, and praising another politician will link you to their negatives.
  • Candidates need to make clear arguments which are based on common sense.  Mark Saunders repeatedly said Sean Parks was not a businessman because he did not own his business.  Okay, does that mean every CEO on Wall Street who works for stockholders is not a businessman?  That was a bad point that did not gain Saunders any voter.
  • Candidates should be professional and courteous at all times. There were three occasions in which candidates sent hateful letters to groups after they were not endorsed. Believe us, those letters were sent to all of the members of those groups. Group endorsements are great; but, if you don’t get an endorsement you should still be nice because there are people within that group that might still vote for you.
  • The endorsement of the Orbama Slantinel is not worth much in Lake County.  The editorial board of the local paper has gone so liberal that they don’t share the values of most citizens in Lake County.  This was proven with the endorsements of Linda Stewart and Elaine Renick.  In the future, conservative candidates who know they’ll have no chance of earning the paper’s endorsement may be better off skipping their interview.  The best way to minimize a paper’s influence is to ignore it.
  • Candidates must have the courage to engage political opponents on the issues.  Although candidates don’t want to be perceived as a bully or boorish, responding to your opponent on policy and character issues is fair.  If you’re unwilling to defend yourself and you don’t nail an opponent on his or her weakness, then he or she will be emboldened to hit you.  Politics is truly bare knuckles.
  • Finally, the world has changed thanks to the internet.  Before political newsletters like The Right Side of the Lake and our companion website www.lakecountygov.info, the electorate relied on local newspapers.  Today, most voters are astounded by how much is not reported by local papers, and the internet has become a greater source of political information.  There is a growing skepticism of all political leaders.  Candidates with a checkered past and a hidden agenda will be exposed, so it is far better to be up front from the beginning.

Citizens for Better Government, L.L.C. believes the marriage of the internet’s power of information and the Florida Sunshine Law has created one of the most issue oriented Lake County elections ever.  There was no doubt where people stood, and what was really behind agendas.  This is a good thing for the voters in Lake County.  Please feel free to comment on today’s newsletter at www.lakecountygov.info and sign up for The Right Side of the Lake is free.

5 Responses to “Campaign Mistakes 101 in Lake County”

  1. ask says:

    Wow – now that’s perspective! I think we often react in agreement or disagreement because of our emotions, but hearing another side, passionately presented, really makes us think!

  2. Very good article! What Mr. Smith might not know, or might know and not want to admit, is even though the Lake County endorsements are made by Sentinel Staffers from the Orlando office they are well fed all the information they need about who to endorse from their Lake county counterpart who lives in Howey-In-The-Hills! No not Lauren Ritchie she lives in Ellsworth Junction, Fl. I think this guy might be named Jerry something, anyway he’s the bigshot in the Tavares Lake Sentinel Office! All he has to do is communicate whom the Lake Controllers want them to endorse and bang! its a done deal! Except somehow this time it backfired on the suckers. Poor planning on their part! As too the education on their mistakes don’t worry about that! While everything in this article is correct, these liberal suckers don’t take notice of anything except their agenda! They will keep coming back time and time again, with the same ole controllable people until the time is right and the voters “dumb up again” and they slip throught the cracks right into office! The demise of local governement as well as state and national is not the result of a single faction, it is the results of various factions with different agends combining their efforts to acheive a common goal! Politics makes strange befellows! Just look at all the stigma that surrounds the three plus years of “service” received for value paid with Renick and Stewart! One of intelligence would believe their only goal was the total economic destruction of Lake County Florida and one might be right!

  3. ... says:

    IGNORANCE IS BLISS…apparently.

  4. Name says:

    This is a great column and deadly accurate. It truly lays out exactly how the conservative business community took Lake County back from the extreme left wing, environmental terrorists that have caused untold harm to the economic future of our area. I just wish that you had not taken the time to educate them on their mistakes. It will only make them more effective campaigners in the future. 🙂

  5. Your post today is right on! One clarification though, if I may. The people at the Lake Sentinel, including Ms. Ritchie, the editor, the reporters and all employees do not have anything to do with the endorsements. A group of people from Orlando do the interviews, draw their own conclusions and decide who to endorse or not to endorse. These are Orlando Sentinel staffers, who have very limited knowledge and interaction about and with the candidates. In my view, their lack of intimate knowledge about Lake County’s needs makes their endorsements irrelevant. Although, I often don’t agree with Ms. Ritchie, at least she is on the ground floor which would make her views more valid, albeit with all her biases. Either way however as a liberal newspaper (they endorsed Obama), it is a rare occasion when coservative Lake County voters are going to vote in the direction the Sentinel wishes.

Leave a Reply (No names necessary. If you put your name it will be published.)

© 2010 Right Side of the Lake: Lake County Florida's local government news source from Citizens for Better Government LLC.

The Right Side of the Lake