It’s been a busy month as the Alameda County GOP Chairman. March was spent finalizing the candidate filing activities for the primary election ballot in June, attending a Campaign School on one weekend, and a weekend-long Republican retreat at Pebble Beach with the Lincoln Club of Northern California, where we met Condoleeza Rice, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and two freshmen Congressmen – Michael Grimm of New York, and Shawn Duffy of Wisconsin.
At campaign school, which was non-stop for a full day, various campaign professionals shared their knowledge on topics regarding media relations, campaign planning, research and voter targeting, FUNDRAISING (in capital letters) and the Fair Political Practices Commission reporting requirements, social media, Registrar of Voters forms and deadlines, ground game planning and the Get Out The Vote (GOTV) plan and last but not least, Relationship Building. The attendees were new candidates for races on a local or state level from around the Bay Area, and a few people like myself.
There are a number of reasons why it is difficult for a non-incumbent candidate to run for office and it comes down to $$$ money. I believe this is why we are getting candidates that are either bankrolled by the unions or are self-financing and wealthy.
It starts with the Registrar of Voters where a candidate can either collect hundreds of petition signatures – depending on formulas developed from the number of voters in the specific district - or pay a filing fee that can be $1,700 (+/-).
Then there is the sample ballot that each voter receives, where a candidate may state their credentials and why they are running in their ballot statements. The ballot statement costs a candidate approximately $5,500 in the first county, and if the district overlaps another county, an additional $2,500 for the second county. This is due to the Registrars’ printing costs for ballots printed in four languages.
Next a candidate needs to create an image and message and put it out on a website, on Facebook, on a brochure or other collateral materials. It will cost a candidate an additional $15,000 to launch a campaign simply to get through the primary. Candidates are counseled that they will spend up to 80% of their time raising money. Couple that with donors who want to put their money on a "winner" and will wait until after the primary to see who is left standing.
Or, donors who are savvy enough to look at vote counts in the district. If a district does not have at least a 37% voter registration in a political party affiliation, then the professionals don’t see a good chance of winning in that race. It’s simply a numbers game and frankly, the citizens don’t get a balanced opportunity to choose between candidates with different visions of how we want to be represented.
We see this all the time in Oakland, where one party dominates and potentially good candidates from other political parties simply don’t get in the race. It impacts voter turnout when we don’t have competitive races and drives voter apathy. “What difference does it make if I vote?” they think, "nothing ever changes."