A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Ballot – Part I

David Rosman – Columbia, MO  

Candidate and issue campaigns can learn a lesson from business and good crisis management. As the candidate or issue executive director, if something goes right, give praise where praise is due. If something goes wrong, take total responsibility regardless of fault. Period.

Understand, it is easier to stay out of trouble than recover. However, if a problem occurs, here are a couple of “hints.”

Hint number one for budding candidate and issue campaign: Know the Rules. Failure to know is not a defense. Just ask former candidate for Boone County (MO) commission, Bondi Wood. She failed to file a mandatory financial report and was disqualified from the primary ballot.

Hint number two, take responsibility for any mistake regardless of fault. Not doing so will bite you in the ass every time. Though the official line from candidate Wood was that the Missouri Ethics Commission “told” her the filing was not needed, she did not step to the microphone and say, “I screwed up but I am not defeated. I am running as a write-in.”

Regardless of the “truth,” Wood’s future in politics is now questioned. She did not step up to the plate and take responsibility for the error. (I love sport metaphors.) In politics, as in business, this is a big mistake. It does not matter who is at fault, the top person who takes responsibility.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident and not limited to local and regional campaigns. Sometimes the rules are complicated, sometimes they are just “common sense.” However, they are usually available from a number of very good and reliable sources.

If you are not sure, look on line. Every state has its own method regulating elections and maintaining proper paper work. For my home state, it is the Missouri Ethics Commission. In Colorado, the responsibility falls to the Secretary of State. New York, it is the State Board of Elections. A simple Internet search is all it takes.

The second source of reliable information is your party’s state offices. Their job, in part, is to know the rules. For a local level in larger cities, the county party usually has someone who knows the current campaign laws or at least knows how to read them.

A third source is a former candidate or executive director of an issue campaign, regardless of whether they won or not. They have been through the ringer. They know what to look for and what dates are important.

So far, your campaign has spent nothing for good information, and that for most campaigns is a good thing.

The fourth and fifth may or may not cost you money. Smaller campaigns will rely on volunteer management. Larger campaigns rely on a small but trusted paid staff.

A good campaign manager who knows the rules will help keep a campaign out of the sights of the presiding government agency. This person will have an active calendar of all deadlines, all required papers and any other details that the state or feds will need from the campaign.

Fifth is a good attorney who has the rule at least within arm’s reach. As with a campaign manager, the attorney will advise you, and should remind you of deadlines approaching.

(I will talk more about campaign management in the next installment.)

Personally, I like Bondi Wood and liked what she was brining to the campaign. Wood may now be running as a write-in candidate in the primary election but, unfortunately, I cannot support this effort. By not taking responsibility for this error regardless of fault, she is reinforcing the image of the political professional – A not to be trusted, lower than a snake’s belly narcissist who is only thinking of themselves.

As my mother the political guru of the family would say, “Be a mensch. Take it on the chin, shake it off and get back into the ring.” How is that for a sports metaphor?

 Part Two – Who is in Charge?


About David Rosman

David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com, InkandVoice.com and NYJournalofBooks.com.
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