Some of you may be aware that I'm running for office this November. It's a town office, known as RTM—which is short for Representative Town Meeting. Perhaps not surprisingly, I'm running as a Republican.
My town is governed by a Board of Selectmen, consisting of three members. Each Party runs two candidates, one for First Selectman, and one for Selectman. Of the four candidates in the race (or more if there were to be a third party run, which hasn't happened to my knowledge), whichever gets the highest vote total town-wide becomes First Selectman—roughly equivalent to mayor. The next two vote-getters win the remaining Selectmen positions.
Now, it would make sense if the candidate for First Selectman and his running mate won seats—and that's usually what happens—but it's theoretically possible that the winner's running mate could be so disliked that he comes in last and doesn't get a seat. The way it usually turns out is: say the Democrat wins—his running mate will most likely get the second most votes, and the Republican candidate for First Selectman will get the third. They will make up the board, and the Republican candidate for Selectman is left out in the cold. Two years ago we had an interesting variation, but I'll address that in a minute.
Fairfield (my town) used to be a Republican stronghold. Starting about ten years ago, we had catastrophic infighting within the Party, from which we've never really recovered. While registered Republicans still outnumber registered Dems, unaffiliates outnumber us all by more than 2-to-1 (if memory serves), and that block has been leaning Dem for a few years now. But the town as a whole remains very conservative (in the New England tradition—fiscally conservative, socially moderate-to-liberal), and, frankly, it's embarrassing that we can't win a majority on the RTM or in the Board of Selectmen.
But why haven't we won those?
Well, the previously-mentioned infighting is having lasting repercussions, for one thing. The Party (I'd say we, but this all occured before I was old enough to be involved) looked ridiculous in front of the town, and people were incredibly turned off. But more than that, we're just putting up lousy candidates.
Two years ago, we ran a woman named Penny Hug. Now, personally, I like Penny. As a candidate? She makes Harriet Miers look like the best choice in history.
You should have heard this woman speak in public. While intelligent, congenial, and interesting in a small group, put more than five people in front of her and she'd choke on every word as it came out, making certain to ramble and repeat herself enough to triple the length of a prepared speech. It was awful.
And she didn't want to do the legwork of campaigning. She didn't walk door-to-door enough; she didn't spend time at the town dump (always key for a town-wide race). Generally, she just seemed apathetic. To her credit, she was talked into it against her will in the first place—but she was the wrong person to talk into running.
Her running mate, on the other hand, is a great guy. Steve Elworthy. Remember that name if you're involved in Connecticut politics, as he'll likely move up to the state level at some point. He's charismatic, he lets you know that he cares about the issues, he'll walk until his legs fall off, and he spends every Saturday morning of campaign season at the dump. The antithesis of apathetic.
It's not surprising, then, that as the final returns came in on Election Night 2003, we found that Steve had received more votes than Penny. If you're not seeing why this is such a big deal, let me explain it another way.
In Fairfield, it's pretty much assumed that the Board of Selectmen will be made up of the victor, his/her running mate, and the losing First Selectman candidate. Currently, it's the victor, his running mate, and the losing First Selectman's candidate. This is how week the Party has become in this town.
And the Democratic First Selectman is an asshole. He's losing the town tons of money, school building projects are so far off schedule that they have to keep one of the middle schools half-closed probably into November despite a plan that called for construction to be done by the first day of school. In short, he needs to be replaced.
So, as I said, the Republicans put up Jack Stone to run against him this year. Jack Stone is currently a state Representative, and he's a nice enough guy—even looks presidential—but this campaign has been run into the ground from the beginning. Rather than bring in the current Party activists, he appealed to the old schoolers. These old schoolers basically backed out of the Party ten years ago when the whole fight I described earlier was going on. And they've been out of the Party since. Plus, he involved too many of them. So, not only are his campaign advisers out of touch with what a campaign in Fairfield takes, but it takes too many of them to approve any campaign action. They're convinced that they'll win, because the current guy is such a bum, but they aren't attacking the issues in a way that makes that possible.
The best part is, they're already patting themselves on the back—and I genuinely think they're going to lose.
Anyway, I'm writing all this because I got an email from the campaign yesterday. They launched their website yesterday. YESTERDAY. Election day is in 10 days, and they just launched a website. I just can't understand how they could ignore something that could potentially swing a lot of votes—basically anyone who Googles "Jack Stone" to find information about the campaign, because we really do have the issues on our side—for so long.
Best of all, the website is pretty damn bland, and on the front page he's got a welcome letter whose last paragraph makes me want to scream:
I'll always listen to your ideas. If you elect me First Selectman, I'll put my experience to work for you. Together, we'll make Fairfield a place we are all proud to call home.I mean come on. We'll make Fairfield a place we are all proud to call home? I don't know about you, Jack, but I'm already proud to call Fairfield home. I graduated from college and moved back—not back home, but into a place I'm renting—because I love Fairfield.
And I want a representative who loves Fairfield too—I don't want someone who thinks we need to make it loveable.
It's like John Kerry and and John Edwards saying they want to make America great again. America and Fairfield are great. And I don't think I can ever in good conscience vote for someone who thinks they have yet to return to greatness.
Jack Stone thinks he has this election sewn up, and he hasn't even won the votes in his own back yard yet. That's a problem. And it's one I'm not inclined to help him solve.