Category Archives: Campaign Tactics & Analysis

A “June Special Election” for San Francisco? What, Are You Kidding?

A lot of folks around town are talking about the city’s budget problems, and the prospects of a special election and whether it’d fly or not. While the City deals with its headaches, the MTA and MUNI are dealing with similar misery.
There’s a multitude of bad laws that deny people the right to determine what they want to do or not do locally (so much for local control of local government), but putting all that aside, I don’t see how anything put on the ballot for a “June Election” would succeed.
First, while the board voted to call out the situation as an “emergency” to get the ball rolling to have the actual election, there is nothing in writing, ready to go to the voters as of now. So that means we’ve got at least a few weeks, maybe a month before we’ll have some sort of tax thing, probably written in a hurry, that’ll be approved by the board and go through all the legal wrangling by early March.
Ok, now the fun begins. We have some sort of thing or things to “vote on” but guess what? No money raised, no campaign committee ready to go, nothing. And we’re in the beginning of March. That means that now, the group of Good People, trying to do whatever, have at best two and a half months to pass a major tax measure on the ballot, during terrible economic times, and when recent history has shown how hard it is to pass these things in the first place.
This is just asking for a fail. Let’s look at recent history:
-To get the SF General Hospital Bond passed (2008’s Measure A) took a tremendous amount of hard work by a committed team of experts, a lot of coalition building over a long period of time, and more, to win the supermajority needed to pass. And that was a huge bond for something most people like (i.e. most people are not likely to want to blow up the hospital).
-To get the MUNI Reform Measure passed (2007’s Measure A) took a significant amount of serious negotiations over many months before we finally got something worthy of the ballot. It eventually passed, but it had well-funded opposition and it took a hard working team to get it passed.
See where this is going? Without building up a solid coalition of support, and a campaign that can fight a tough fight with a solid organization, all this talk will just result in failure.
If you believe that some sort of new tax source is necessary to save the city, you might want to consider holding off a little bit and have a chance of winning, instead of the usual “put something on the ballot and hope it passes” strategy.

UPDATED: Case Study: One To One Campaign Marketing AKA Why I’m Supporting David Chiu

One of the most misunderstood parts of Campaign 2008, be it the Obama for President campaign, or a down ballot race, has been the power of social networking and one-to-one marketing in political decision making. Plenty of consultants and the like know buzzwords like “social networking,” “Facebook,” and so on, but many still don’t quite understand what we’re really talking about here.
While the Internet and Web 2.0 have brought about new, fast, easy ways for people to talk to each other, in the end it has been the power of friends and neighbors talking to people they know, who have emerged as the “king makers” in elections. This is nothing new – the only difference is that today, it’s much easier and quicker to get people to engage each other and do the kind of one-to-one marketing and grassroots organizing that was possible in the past – but with a significant time/money/staff cost.
A case study could be how I chose to support David Chiu for Supervisor in District 3. Now, normally I would either a) not care or b) not necessarily support someone that’s being pushed by the fatwa issuing Bay Guardian and Chris Daly.
But because I heard about David’s campaign from people I know and whose judgment I trust, such as my friend Stan (the quizmaster at the Blackthorn’s trivia Mondays), and my friend Anna at Metblogs (who lives in the district), their opinions mattered more to me in the end than what some ad said or what Chris Daly’s shifty junk mail says.
Now, think for a moment about this year’s campaign season, which has seen a blizzard of junk mail and TV ads from various groups all wanting to influence local elections. Few of them, however, regardless of political side, really mobilized a one-to-one communications plan, or did old-school organizing to beat back the “big money”.
Case in point: The Realtors! They have been noted for their flashy spending on tv ads and mail. Ironically, the biggest weapon they had in their arsenal went virtually unused – the many Realtors who have blogs, email lists of their customers and business contacts and so on. A campaign to organize these Realtors, and transform take someone people trust – their Realtor – and turn them into an evangelist for the issues and candidates the Realtors as a group care about, went largely unused.
Had they borrowed a page from the UFW/Old School Organizing handbook, and utilized Today’s Technology, they could have been the stealth army that would have taken everyone by surprise.
There’s been some interesting analyses of the Obama campaign and all note the importance of technology.
However, without millions of Americans getting involved, being organized, and talking to their friends about who they supported for President, all the gadgets in the world wouldn’t have made a difference.
Ironically in a digital era, it’s the kind of old-fashioned organizing at the grassroots level that will have the most impact now, and in the future.
Progressives in town seem to think a grassroots campaign has to be an underfunded mess of people running around in circles, gossiping and dropping dead-tree lit on people’s doorsteps. Others seem to think the only way to win is with big TV ads and lots of mail.
Neither side gets it – in an era of high tech, going back to what politics used to be – the door to door organizing and listening to voters (as well as talking with them) is what will win in the future. The only difference is now there are many new tools to make this easier and more efficient.
UPDATE: Today, the Chronicle had an interesting story about how blogging can help Realtors get more clients and develop a relationship with their customers.
Hmm. How about that!

The Only Post Mortem I’ll Do on the Leno/Nation/Migden Bitchfest…

Plenty of geniuses can do all the political post mortems on how Carole Migden and her Sacramento crew invented a new way to lose a sure-win re-elect. For me, I have but one question: will the people who stole my photos of frakking Flickr at least have the courage to reveal themselves, and buy me a case of Schlitz Beer for stealing my photos?
Come on. You stole an image from me, and didn’t have the courage to post an email address or any contact info on your website. The election is over, Leno won, now come clean. It’s good for your karma, and I’ll happily forgive as a good Christian, but I can’t do so unless you ‘fess up.

Bogus Turnout Means It Didn’t Take A Lot of Votes to Win…

While reading up on the results of last nights sort-of election here in the Bay Area, I wanted to see how things turned out in some San Mateo County races, and I was struck by two things:
1. San Mateo’s elections site is easily the best one out there. While all the other counties have some long boring URL, San Mateo’s URL is, and they even name brand their (excellent) results section as “RaceTracker.”
Beyond that, if you’ve ever had to deal with San Mateo County’s combined Assesor/Clerk/Record/Elections department, you know that this is easily one of the few citizen-friendly, efficient operations out there. Warren Slocum has long been recognized as a leader in applying innovation and technology to improve the elections process, and the function of the departments he controls, with amazing results.
While we in San Francisco continue to plod along with an Elections and Ethics system that’s half-assed, San Mateo has a model of honest, efficient government. In other words, how it’s supposed to work. Can we vote to get annexed by San Mateo County, or pay the brainiacs at the stem cell council to clone the awesome Warren Slocum? Pleeeease?
2. Anyone running in an open primary in most races really didn’t need a lot of votes out of the eligible voter ranks to win. Check out the results for the Assembly seat down south – the winner only needed 10,000 votes to win! So few people bothered to show up (as there was no presidential contest or statewide contest on the ballot) that really, only a handful of people voted at all, and the winner, who will now probably coast for three terms, got off pretty lucky.
It’s kind of funny to think for all the money the outside interests spent to support or oppose the candidates, the cost-per-vote must be huge. But those trees were gonna die anyway, so I guess they died for a good cause.

Email Spam From Campaigns In Full Force….

One of the new features of the voter registration form is the fact you can voluntarily enter in your email address, along with the other info, which means inevitably someone goes to City Hall, buys the voter data, and campaigns start sending email out willy nilly. My friend Anna, who’s a professional in the email marketing business, has an interesting analysis of the stuff she’s received.
I am getting relentlessly spammed by Cindy Sheehan’s “campaign,” which seems to place its faith in poorly written hysterical emails that make it hard for me to treat her campaign seriously. However, I got one today from the campaign for Judge Thomas Mellon that was actually pretty good. The message was short and to the point – more importantly however, it was from the trial judge in the landmark gay-marriage case, which is rather timely.
Mellon’s opponent is Supervisor Sandoval, who I wouldn’t trust to run a two-car parade, much less be a judge in a courtroom. Mellon’s campaign was smart, however, not to spam me with a negative messave, but instead with one that is timely from the judge in the gay marriage case.
Political campaigns need to resist the urge to blast out lots of crappy emails just because it’s easy or free. Spamming people is a sure-fire way to piss off voters, and mealy mouthed justifications about how the CAN SPAM act doesn’t apply to ’em just makes people even more pissed off.
Instead, it’s better to use online social networks, such as Facebook, to recruit supporters and communicate with them, and allow them to opt in to online communications. Everyone’s happy and no one gets spammed!

Tired Catch Phrase of the Day: “Agent of Change” vs. “Agent of C.H.A.N.G.E.”

Every political season we get a mix of the tried-and-true soundbits**, and we get a few new ones that the Smart People decide really “click” with the voters and use them, ad nauseam, on every single campaign from president to dog-catcher.
Today, I want to make a plea to politicians, politickers, and whatnots in the Big Media to please take a flamethrower to the dossiers and computers that suggested one use the term “agent of change” in any political related materials, now and forevermore.
It’s a meaningless phrase, tossed around even more so as the One Guy who talked about Change suddenly got popular, and then suddenly EVERYONE wanted to Talk About Change, and How They’re an Agent of it.
Folks, unless you are literally an Agent of C.H.A.N.G.E. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Aboveground Nuclear Germanic Enemas), CONTROL, SPECTRE, or some other spy-related organization with the cool logo and gun to prove it, please, find a new way to talk about your tireless work on the amendment to subsidize puppies and rainbows.
Think of the Children.
**Note: I meant to say “soundbits” not “soundbites,” so grammar/spelling posse, put away the rope and the branding iron. Please?

Sen. Obama Puts Clintonian/McCain-ian BS “On Notice!”

You have to admire how these guys can find away around the silly bullcrap that passes for “running for president” from the establishment types….how rad is this?
Of course, I’ve been no stranger to the On Notice Board on the More Popular Blog…And, just for laughs, here’s a video that seems to indicate that perhaps there’s a virus that infects the Clintons when it comes to straight talk. I keep forgetting that this kind of nonsense is somehow better than the liar we have in office NOW:

Call For Entries: Disinfo Rehab Mail Archive – June 2008 Primary Edition!

It’s that time of year again, when people decimate entire forests so that they may flood your mailbox with endless amounts of political mail. This June we’ve got all sorts of mayhem on the ballot, what with the Nation/Leno/Migden rage-a-thon in full swing, and an assortment of those ballot measures folks just love to put on the ballot, and assorted other electoral detritus and term-limited open primaries that makes San Francisco (and Bay Area) politics so much fun.
As always I don’t always get the latest and greatest political mail, or at the very least tend to only get certain pieces targeted to westside Democratic voters. So, if you get some particularly egregious piece of political mail, or if you wanna show off your mad mail skillz, or if you really would like to help me lead the charge in debunking politicos and their spin, feel free to send me either a) a pdf or JPEG of said mail or b) email me and let me know what you have and we’ll make arrangements to either have you mail it in or I’ll pick it up.
Most mainstream media outlets can debunk tv commercials rather easily, since they either end up on YouTube, the candidates’ websites, or can record them off of TV.
Mail, however, does not usually get noticed as easily, and passes “under the radar” and into the voters’ mailboxes. By publicizing what campaigns are doing, and discussing the tactics used to convince you, the voter, of what to do, we can all get a better understanding of what’s being said out there.
Check out our 2006 archive and our 2007 archive, and let the fun begin!
PS: For more information on how direct mail is created, check out this clip of my good friend (and super smart consultant) Jim Spencer, who appeared on the Daily Show a while back.
PS2: If you’re a support of Speaker Pelosi and like Our Fair City, I’ve been working on a new blog that’s in the embryonic stages in support of Our Speaker and City. I’m sick of people bashing our City like it’s some hippie dippie Disneyland, and bashing Nancy Pelosi. If you have suggestions or would like to help, please feel free to drop me a line.

Clinton Nostalgia, the 1993 DNC Annual Report And How Things Have (Sorta) Changed….

Hoarding gets such a bad rap these days. I mean, sure, if you hoard every edition of the newspaper for 50 years along with your 20 cats and assorted random bottlecaps, that could be cause for alarm (or at least a fire hazard). But in politics, saving all those assorted pieces of detritus seem like a pile of junk in the present, but become oddly helpful in recollecting days of old later on.
Today’s nostalgia trip is the “DNC Annual Report,” of which I’ve scanned in two pages. The first is the cover with President Bill and Vice President Al, and everyone was aglow over the fact that Old Man Bush had been sent packing, and new Members of Congress, like Sens. Boxer & Feinstein and many more, were now in office. “Change” it seems, was in the air. National Health Care was on the way, thanks to Co-President Hillary, and Democrats, it seemed would be in the drivers seat for some time.
Well we all know how that worked out. 1994 anyone? Speaker Newt? Majority Leader Dole. Senator Santorum?!?
But today I would like to focus on one piece of the “DNC Annual Report” – the section that talks about the DNC “grassroots campaign” to support the “Health Care Plan” for Presidents Clinton and Clinton. If you don’t remember any of this, don’t worry – that’s because in the pre-Internet, pre-blog, political world, efforts like this cost a fortune and didn’t really do so great, no matter how hard people tried.
When the cost of disseminating information and organizing people nationally is high and is led from the “top” down, the chances of igniting a movement to change something as big as the health care system is really difficult. Entrenched interests fought back with those f*cking “Harry and Louise” ads, and well, the rest is history (often revised, Soviet-style on the campaign trail, it seems).
Today, however, there are many ways for people to talk amongst themselves, and link up with like-minded folks around the country (and world), rather easily. Movements can take a life of their own, and evolve (as MoveOn did from the late 90s) and today, we have the prospect of a presidential candidate who is able to be competitive with a well-financed, Washington insider because he can activate over a million active donors (most of whom are giving in small amounts.)
It’s interesting to see how much has changed in technology, communications, and organizing in the last 15 years. It’s also interesting to see how little has changed in the mentality of the well-paid pundit and consulting class in Washington DC who seem to know how to make lots of money, but not how to get anything done. They do know, however, how to complain and whine about “blogs and the internet” and urge a nostalgia for something that never really existed. Funny, that.

For All Those Who Still Have Some Need for Clintonian Nostalgia…Bill for Prez 1991!

I was going through some old files this evening and found one of my many stashes of direct mail I’ve kept over the years for various reasons. Somehow, in all the moving and whatnot over the years, this piece, from the first Clinton campaign in 1991-1992 got misfiled in a batch of 2003 SF Mayoral mail (!) which I was looking up because…well, you know.
Anyway, click on the images for a larger version of the covers and the inside spread. You can tell this is probably one of the first brochures the campaign made, most likely in 1991 when Clinton’s campaign began, but before James Carville and Paul Begala joined the campaign (in 1991 they were busy winning an impossible bid for US Senate for Harris Wofford).
Design notes, and a clip from “Mad Men” after the jump! Read on!

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