Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Boulder City Primary Election Predictions 2019

Several people have asked me if I was again going to make predictions this election, like I did last election. I have been somewhat reluctant, mostly because I have not been as involved this year. This is largely because I have decided to continue my schooling. But, as I walked into city hall to vote today (a mistake, since voting at BC city hall doesn't start until tomorrow) I decided I would go ahead and make my predictions public.

To start, I want to say that I am very impressed with who we have running this year. I don't know all the candidates but all those I know, care about the city and would all do a decent job. I think no matter the outcome, the city will be in good hands.

Second, I want to make clear that my predictions are not my votes. We are all biased by our views and I'm no different, but I try to make predictions on what I think will happen, not on what I want to happen.

Let's start with City Council. Let's review the rules of the game. In the primary, which is on April 2nd (early voting tomorrow at city hall). Each citizen gets two votes and if any candidate gets over 50% of the voters to put them as one of their choices, they get in and no general election is required for them. If no candidate gets over 50% than the top 4 candidates face off in the general election for the two available seats.

So, the eight candidates running are Peggy Leavitt, Rich Shuman, Tom Tyler, Trenton Motley, Brent Foutz, Judy Dechaine, Claudia Bridges and James Howard Adams.

Prediction #1- No candidate will get through in the primary. There are far too many people on the ballot, all of which have connections in the community and will pull a decent amount of votes so we will be onto the general.

Prediction #2-Sorry Trent and Brent, but you two will get the least amounts of votes. I do not wish to be negative about either of these candidates, but I have not seen one sign, mailer or Facebook post promoting them. In fact, I have hardly heard of them, and I don't think I am alone. People need to feel like their candidate has a chance and really wants this to put their vote for their name, and these two haven't convinced the public they are serious candidates.

Prediction #3- Peggy Leavitt and Rich Shuman will make it to the general election. Had I written this prediction a week ago, I might have not given Rich Shuman as much chance. He seemed MIA, as far as marketing his campaign, but he has showed up and will get past this first round. Incumbents by nature have some natural advantages, and disadvantages. But the advantages are sufficient to ensure that they will both be on the general election ballot. I will even go so far as to guess they will both be in the top 3, mostly because the anti-incumbent vote will be very split with the remaining candidates.

Prediction #4- Tom Tyler will not make it to the general election. I know Tom and he is a wonderful man, has good connections in town and through the Emergency Aid of Boulder City but he has not been as involved in city politics and doesn't have a natural base. This will prove too much for him to overcome.

Prediction #5- James Howard Adams will make it to the general election. James has been involved in BC politics for sometime. The endorsement of the Boulder City Community Alliance (BCCA) was big for him and he has proven worthy of the endorsement. He has really out performed expectations . I think he will be in the top three.

Prediction #6- This is where I would get in toss-up territory. I had a very difficult time guessing who I would list as the #4 slot in the general election, Judy Dechaine or Claudia Bridges. Claudia got the endorsement of the BCCA, which is big. But even those in their own ranks questioned if the process was above board. Last year, they had a candidates forum with all the candidates and after they had heard all their viewpoints voted as a group on who to endorse. This time, the BCCA founders met separately with people they wanted to run, had them present at a meeting and choose to endorse before candidate filling had even ended. This left for an awkward position for people like Judy. Judy is very connected and involved with BCCA and their causes, but the endorsement went to Claudia before she had even filed. But despite this, I think Judy has been a surprisingly good candidate, and pulled much of the BCCA base to her side. She has been more engaged than Claudia and I think she will get the #4 spot and Claudia will be in #5.

Now onto the Mayor. Back when I wrote for the paper I encouraged both Rod Woodbury and Warren Harhay to run (you can read the articles here. Woodbury Harhay.) I am very excited to see them both running. And I think all three candidates are good options, which has made this hard to predict.

But here I go.

Prediction #7- No one will get 50% of the vote and win in the primary. All three of these candidates are good viable candidates and they will split the vote enough that no one will get above 50%.

I will digress a little bit to tackle an incorrect idea that I have seen a lot of. I have seen those who are opposed to Mayor Woodbury disparage either Harhay or McManus for both running and splitting the anti-Woodbury vote. This is crazy, and shows some basic misunderstanding of how our primary/general election works. They can't split the vote because which-ever one gets more of the votes will go head to head with Woodbury. In fact, both of them running actually hurt the Mayor. If he had only one to run against in the primary, when voting is more limited, he would be more likely to take over 50% and not even need to run in the general. (I think of the two electorates, the general election and primary, the primary is more favorable to Woodbury).

Prediction #8- Mayor Woodbury will get the most votes in the primary.  Until recently I really felt the Mayor was in serious trouble (and he may still be in the general). But he has used his strengths, good connections, and a well financed campaign to his advantage. I think with others on the ballot splitting the anti-incumbent vote he will get the most votes.

Prediction #9- This one is hard for me to write, and while I have tried to be neutral as I write this, I hope I am wrong. But, Warren Harhay will not be going onto the general election. He is the moderate, middle of the road candidate, and the middle is a tough place to win primaries from. And while I applaud his self funded candidacy, it has hurt him. Signs and mailers are not everything, but they are something and that is how some people will be introduced to candidates. What is so funny about this is that I think Harhay could potentially win against either of the other two candidates in a head to head. Why? because most people who vote for Woodbury in the primary would rather have Harhay than McManus, and most people who vote for McManus would rather have Harhay than Woodbury. So, you could see a 35% for Woodbury, 35% for McManus, and 30% for Harhay. But head to head Harhay would potentially beat both 60/40. But those are the rules, and so that is how it goes. So in the end, I think it will be McManus and Woodbury in the general election.

As always, if you think I am crazy. Get out, vote and prove me wrong.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Campaign Principle #3- Running on a Budget

Campaign Principle #3- Run on a budget.

This may not be the most controversial principle but it is by far the least followed. Politics and fundraising has become as inseparable as college and student loans. Most feel you can't have one without the other. And while I am not opposed to all fundraising and campaign donations, the extent to which it is done is ridiculous.

In 2016 Hillary Clinton and her Super PAC raised over $1.2 billion dollars. And that is less than Barack Obama in 2012. Does anyone really think that if only she had a few more million dollars to throw out a few more adds in the swing states she would have pulled it off?

I wish I could recall the exact numbers but I recall that in 2012 with less than a week to go in the election, President Obama, and Mitt Romney both had some insane amount of money and I was getting calls and emails asking me to donate more every day. Both had so much money that they could flood almost every airway radio and TV, fill every mailbox, put a yard sign in every yard and still have enough to pay my salary for the rest of my life. (This may be an exaggeration but not by much.)

The problem is that one of the major ways we base how a candidate is doing is the "Money Race". How much do they have on hand? How much is in their "war chest"? Of course, their is legitimate reasons we do this. If someone is willing to put money into someone's campaign they are extremely likely to vote for them. Hence, why the "small dollar" donations are seen as an important metric. Yet, the majority of the money coming into campaigns is not "small dollar". This is true at all levels.

The fundraising flood that hits every major election cycle puts far more money into campaigns than is really needed for candidates to get their information out there. We encourage them to raise as much as possible and spend as much as possible. I see three significant issues with this:

1. We have them learn that the way to get things done is to spend, spend, spend and then we scratch our heads that they cannot find a way to put forth policies that maintain a reasonable budget.

2. Nobody is immune from influence. If someone pays us money we feel indebted to them, it's human nature. The more they give us the more indebted we feel. You can be the best person on earth but if someone pays you thousands of dollars to help get you elected, you are going to give them more heed when they come knocking on your door, than some else who did not.

3. Money spent on elections is money that could have been spent elsewhere. We all know there are many things that are needed in our community. Our schools are underfunded, with underpaid teachers, people throughout the world go hungry, and high school kids swim in pools that don't meet their needs. Shifting campaign funds to these issues would not solve them, but it would be a step in the right direction.

So what is to be done?

We could make laws trying to craft how much each person can contribute? (owe wait we did that). We could cap the total and dictate every aspect of fundraising?

That is not my vote. Rather I would love to see candidates run on a budget. And if I run for office that is exactly what I will do.  Pick a reasonable amount you feel it would cost to run. For example, if you are running for city council review what you feel it will costs you to to run an effective election, say, $10,000.  Then cap your fundraising at that. If I were to do it, I would say I would only take $20 donations from 500 people. After that, if you want to give more I would encourage they put the money to something more worthwhile than getting me elected. (That shouldn't be too hard to find.) If I were running this year for city council/mayor I would encourage any excess go to a fund to donate private donations to the pool, or other cause I feel is important.

This would do several things: show that I am able to plan and execute within a budget, and don't simply look to money to solve my woes. It would encourage small donations, because people would know how I plan to fund my election, and lastly it would ensure that I am not overly indebted to one person or organization. It's a very unique model, but I would love to see it catch on. If anyone tried it, they would go very far in winning my vote.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Campaign Principles #2

I have decided to draft the important principles I would follow if I were to ever run for office. If you have not read Principle #1 you can read it here. With no further ado:

Campaign Principle #2- Make sure I want and can do the job effectively, not just that I want the title, think I can win the election or am mad about one or two specific issues.

I will never forget several years ago, when I lived in Vegas, I had the opportunity to meet with someone who was planning to run for State Assembly. I asked them why they wanted to run for office. They rattled off how mad they were about a bunch of national issues and how poor our current president was doing. I asked them what they thought about several state issues and they had no idea. They wanted to get involved in "politics" but were going to do so by chasing a position they knew nothing about. The person was well connected in the community, well liked, and had many connections that would make fundraising simple. They asked me if I thought they could win. All I could think was, "that is the wrong question." I did think they could win, but I didn't think they should run.

I always worry about this with local political positions and I try to check myself whenever I have considered running. Most of the ones I've seen are not as bad as the example above, but some seem to think they would like the position, or they are hot under the collar about an issue or two, and so they throw their hat in the ring without really knowing what they are getting into. In city politics, there are those big issues that the citizens really care about. They get debated on Facebook and at the local cafe and you think to yourself. "If I was in there I would do so much better then these dingbats." And then there is the more mundane, day to day votes, committees, events, issues, and meetings that make up 95% of the job.

When the new feeling of being called councilman wears off, will I still have the commitment to really give it the time it deserves. And to do it right it takes much more than reading the packet and voting on the issues put before you. Good councilmen, councilwomen, and mayors will drive issues, and that takes research, meetings and a willingness to take risks.  That is why I look for someone and hope to be someone who has been involved prior to showing up to run. Have they been attending council meetings? Have they served on committees and given the time and commitment when there wasn't money and title involved?

Can they even answer what the role of the position is? I have spoken to many in our city who get very confused on the role that the Mayor and Council have vs. the City Manager, City Attorney and other city officials. It is hard to do a job well if you don't understand what the job is. (And as a complete side note that I will write about later, I think some of the biggest political issues and failures come from politicians doing others' jobs. Judges thinking they're in the legislative branch, legislatures thinking they should be executives, and executives trumping themselves up, thinking they should be all three.)

Also, what about my background helps me provide value in the position? A good council both challenges and provides a check on city officials. Without the right backgrounds City Council has difficulty effectively reviewing what staff gives them. It's hard to provide a good review and notice something is missed on an engineering report if you have no background in engineering. Just as an engineer will be hard pressed to provide a fair review of a legal issue. Good leaders can come from any profession, but this is part of the reason a diverse, critically thinking council is a benefit to the city.

So, in summary if I ever run for a position, I need to be able to clearly answer what the position is and does, what makes me uniquely qualified and able to provide value to the position, and can I honestly say that I can keep my commitment both in time and energy during the term of my position?

If I can't give clear, honest and affirmative answers to these questions, than I shouldn't run. I should get involved in other ways more suited to my time, abilities, and present experience and circumstances, like writing about campaign principles in hopes the right people will be inspired to run.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Campaign Principles #1

It is time of year again for people who want to run for City Council or Mayor in Boulder City to file. The filing dates are Jan. 22nd- Jan. 31st. It is no secret that I love Boulder City and City politics. As such, I do plan to run for City Council someday. Notice, I say someday, because today is definitely not that day. But I have wanted to write down my principles for campaigning for sometime and while politics is on my brain I will do so.

The reason is simple. I have been involved a little in a few people running for office and frankly I am not impressed. Not that they aren't great people who can do much for our community, but that I have seen them, get so caught up in the campaign that they do things that are not in their nature. I hope I would never do that and part of that is documenting my principles up front. Also, these are things that I look for in candidates. They are not deal breakers, but I take them into account in deciding who will get my support and vote.

Principle #1: Speak no evil of others running. My job is to tell you why I would be a good choice not why others would not be.

Imagine walking into an interview for a new position. The boss interviewing you says, "Why would you be a good fit for this job?"

You look her in the eye and say, "I saw Johnny just walk out, and I know you are interviewing him as well, so I thought you ought to know that Johnny is an idiot and would do a very lousy job."

"Thank you." She reply's, "but why would you make a good candidate?"

"Did I mention Johnny got fired from his last job because of drinking?"

"This is your interview, please tell me why you are the right person?"

"And by the way Johnny hates cats."

"Listen," She says in frustration, "I need to know why YOU would do good in this job?"

"Oh, all right...because, I'm not Johnny."

While this situation is utterly ridiculous. I have seen it played out in campaigns all across the county.  Politicians spend millions in telling you how lousy the other candidate/candidates are and essentially hope you will cast your ballot for them. Why? because at least they aren't the other guy. No wonder we so often feel forced to vote for the lesser of two evils. All we have heard about is the evil sides of both candidates.

I am a big believer in knowing what your job is and doing it. When you are running for office your campaign  is your interview. Your job is to answer peoples questions honestly and give them the information to vote for you or not.

In a regular job interview the person conducting the interview has several sources of information. The person answering the questions and of course the interviewer also has reference checks to verify information about the candidate. In politics, those reference checks do need to be done. These are done by media, endorsements, and talking to those who know the candidates best. Not by asking the other candidates.

I don't think we realize how deeply harmful the practice of mudslinging is to our politics and society. When 90% of what we hear about someone is negative, I don't care how good the person is, we will not trust them or want to work with or around them. Mudslinging downgrades the winners ability to govern once they are elected, no matter who wins. It erodes trust in our politicians and the process. It emboldens obstructionism. It encourages tribalism. And saddest of all, it works. That is why it is growing. That is why it is widely used in almost every campaign.

But work or not. It is wrong. It is harmful and at some point in the future if I run for office it is my commitment not to do it. In the meantime, I will look for candidates who avoid the temptation to fling mud across the bow. And encourage candidates to focus on the question, "Why are YOU the right person for the job?" And if their only answer is that they are not someone else, than I think we should pass.