One of the interesting factors in political consulting is that it is a continuous cycle. I have often had people ask me, “what do you do when there’s no election going on?” The simple fact of the matter is that there is ALWAYS an election going on.
Even when there is no imminent balloting on the horizon, preparations and plans for future elections cannot be started too early, in my opinion.
Actually, a candidate, his consultants and supporters can often be more effective in the “off-season” than during a clearly visible election cycle.
An example of that axiom can be illustrated by one of the best “trinket” handouts I ever discovered for candidates. Placing the local high school and/or college athletic schedules on magnetic cards is a powerful tool for any candidate.
Even in an election year, booster organizations will welcome a candidate to the sideline to hand out the schedules since most parents and grandparents want them. Fans stick the schedules on the side of refrigerators and other metal appliances to remind them of when Little Johnny or Little Susie will be playing.
Such schedules routinely include the date of the upcoming election. Thus, the entire Local High School schedule is printed and then it notes, “May 7 - vote for John Doe for Congress.” It’s a campaign piece that will be kept and serves as a constant reminder of the candidate who provided it.
Yet, I have found that the schedules are more effective in off-years, when the future candidate is not obviously campaigning for office. If the future candidate has a law office, insurance business or such, he or she can distribute the schedules in an off-year with great success.
This is not designed to circumvent campaign finance laws but, rather, subtly implies to fans that John or Jane Doe is a big supporter of their team even when he or she isn’t running for office. Then, when he or she hands out schedules during an election year, they do not think of it as simply an effort to win their votes.
Of course, candidates who have “pre-filed” for the next election can put their disclaimer on the cards in qn off-year but that simply is not as effective.
The great politician is the one who is a genuine “people person” and never stops “campaigning” 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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With some folks, like former Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr. and current United States Senator Joe Manchin, smiling, waving and being friendly just come naturally. Others have to work diligently to appear gregarious and a few just can’t quite master being outgoing.
During the presentation last week of the state’s teacher of the year award in the governor’s reception room, I noted that former State Senator Lloyd Jackson had, typically, made his way off into a corner where he chatted with one person. That is how Jackson always has behaved in public. Perhaps he is actually an introvert. He certainly is no back-slapper.
Jackson’s father and former state senate president, “Big Lloyd” Jackson, now deceased, was a back-slapping, talk-to-everyone in the room politician. Not so with the son, even when he was running for governor in 2004. Jackson was no match for everybody’s best buddy, Manchin.
Jackson, whose political career collapsed when he championed high school consolation in his native Lincoln County, is now a member of the state school board.
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Another Arch Moore truism always rings out when one considers West Virginia’s chief executives. Of one of his successors (some jest that those who have sat in Moore’s chair since he left state government are “imposters” rather than successors), Moore said, “he forgets he is governor all the time.”
Moore told me West Virginians expect their governors to act like governors all the time — not just during office hours or emergencies. “You can’t put on blue jeans and a flannel shirt and head to the nearest bar on Saturday night,” the governor said.
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I learned more about politics from Moore than any other human being. He is an absolute political genius and one of this state’s greatest assets.
It was Moore, the state’s best-known Republican in 50 years, who often looked at me and said, “Ron, you know what happens when we get all the Republicans together? We get beat, that’s what.”
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Names other than those listed here last week are being tossed about in legislative halls as possible candidates next year. One prominent name that I left out last week is Kanawha State Senator Erik Wells, who is giving serious consideration to a congressional run. Wells, a Democrat, might just be a bit too liberal for the district seat being vacated by Republican Shelley Moore Capito, who is running for the United States senate in 2014.
Still, Wells, husband of Secretary of State Nattalie Tennant, would be a formidable force in the field. His candidacy might persuade several other Democrats not to run.
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Last week, I mentioned the defeat of former house of delegates member Larry Barker when he sought re-election in Boone County last year.
The comments caused several readers to note that Barker apparently moved to South Carolina immediately after the election.
That caused some to speculate that Barker might not have stayed in the house, even if re-elected, since he has moved out of the district. I pointed out that residency never bothered former House Speaker Bob Kiss very much or ex-house member Lidella Hrutkay.
While both of those Democrats would likely dispute residency remarks, it was well known that both Kiss and Hrutkay lived in Charleston while representing faraway districts. The late Democrat Dale Martin, who represented a Putnam County district, was alleged to live in Charleston as well for a few years.
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There is speculation that another former legislator, Democrat Greg Butcher, has moved since the last election. Butcher left Logan County and moved to Alum Creek in Lincoln to run for magistrate. He lost that bid and, most say, has moved back to Logan eyeing another possible run for office from there.
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Finally (are those sighs of relief I hear?), redistricting the legislature sometimes spawns peculiar results.
The new plan that was implemented in balloting last year managed to give a small community like Alum Creek two representatives in the house of delegates. Democrat Jeff Eldridge lives on Coal River Road in Lincoln County’s Alum Creek and his fellow Democrat, Josh Stowers, lives on the same Alum Creek road.
For those unfamiliar with it, Alum Creek is basically a suburb of Charleston/South Charleston, located just off Corridor G (United States Route 119) about five miles from the Southridge shopping complex. It is unincorporated but has a population exceeding 1,300.
It is safe to say the interests of Coal River Road, Alum Creek, should be greatly protected when 1/50th of the house of delegates lives there.