Wednesday, February 04, 2009

So.... Jack Burkman announces a run at the city council...

Interesting. Kinda.

The question for me is this, and it's a question I couldn't answer by looking at Burkman's web site:

Are you for this massive and idiotic bridge replacement and loot rail? (Early betting? Yes... just too frightened to admit it.)

Which leads to the natural follow-up:

Are you just another Pollard clone? (Again, the early betting is yes.)

Burkman's last try for elective office didn't work out all that well.

A quick analysis of that effort:


Burkman-Campbell Analysis

Position 1 of the 17th legislative District has been named as a top-tier race by Democrats based on their perception of vulnerability.

In Republican hands since Commissioner Marc Boldt’s upset victory over then Democrat Majority Leader and 5 term incumbent, Kim Peery in 1994, Democrats made repeated serious efforts to take the seat back, running an insurance agent, a union vice president, and a marine biologist against Boldt, never understanding that a democrat inculcated and running as if they were in the 49th District could not win anywhere but the 49th District. Burkman was no exception, garnering support from ultra-fringe organizations such as Progressive Majority and Washington Conservation Voters.

The short story of this situation is that Paul Waadevig, (failed candidate for Cowlitz County Republican Chair, who then got upset and threw a tantrum, switching to the Democrats; who then falsely carpetbagged a candidacy in the 17th District Senate Race against Benton, (Waadevig never moved out of the 19th District) who mangled him with 57% or so.) announced for the Jim Dunn seat. After the announcement, Frank Chopp came down and did a dog and pony show, allegedly interviewing “seven” possible candidates for the right to run against Dunn.

Earlier this year, Burkman won the backing of the state Democratic Party, and $10,000 was funneled into his campaign by House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle. Burkman eventually raised nearly $95,000 and ran a high-profile campaign, devoting part of every day to canvassing the fast-growing 17th District..“ Source- The Columbian, 19 Sept.

It’s fairly clear that local multi-millionaire and democrat campaign philanthropist David Nierenberg, who has provided several thousand dollars in direct and indirect contributions to the democrats in a variety of campaigns and to the House democrat caucus, was behind all this.

I base this on Nierenberg’s vitriolic response to the defeat of his “project,” as stated below (and no, I didn’t write it.):

Dazed and Confused - Democracy for Vancouver - -
Posted By not thinking at all On 23rd September 2006 @ 10:56 In Democrats, Local elections,

Elections No Comments
The Columbian chimes in with a [1] doozy of an opinion piece penned by local [2] Boy on the Bus, Gregg Herrington:
Dazed Clark County Democrats are trying to figure out what it was voters in the 17th Legislative District were thinking, or if they were thinking at all, in Tuesday’s primary.

53% of the Clark County Democrats are elated. Democracy prevailed!

Once they finish slogging through that bog, they and future candidates in both parties have a bigger issue on the table: Does Pat Campbell’s winning campaign, run with low effort on a next-to-nothing budget, suggest a shift in how future campaigns will be run?

One can only hope there is a shift. Campaigns need to be about much more than money and platitudes.

Democrats are not only dazed, they’re also despondent, because they’re convinced the real winner in that contested Democratic primary was neither Campbell nor Jack Burkman, but Republican incumbent Jim Dunn, the portly, low-energy-campaigner with the good-old-Louisiana-boy persona who will face Campbell in the November election.
Who are these Democrats that Herrington talked to? Again, the majority of Democrats are elated. Why not talk to the multitudes of Democrats that are excited to have Pat Campbell take down Dunn? Fighting Democrats don’t throw in the towel.

Finally, here’s the money quote requiring special attention:
“I have not seen such a mass suicide since Jim Jones fed his flock poison Kool-Aid in Guyana,” said David Nierenberg, an east county political activist, philanthropist and booster of schools and other civic causes. He said Democrats in the 17th, which is between I-205 and Camas, “tossed out a terrific candidate and a probable winner for the certainty of a loss in November.”
Well, since over half of the Democratic electorate has just been called mindless cult members, let’s get in to the mud shall we, Mr. Nierenberg?

It was you who decided that Jack Burkman would be the unofficial Democratic Party nominee prior to the primary, and you wrote the big checks to back up that decision and make others bend to your will. The HDCC, to which you’ve contributed $50,000 since 2002, had to play ball. The HDCC was warned that imposing a candidate on to the local grassroots would have serious ramifications, of which they decided to ignore.

So now that the voters have spoken in the primary, you now contend that the race is over, that the weakest Republican incumbent in all of Southwest Washington is not beatable. Mr. Nierenberg, this is the same attitude that Joe Lieberman has displayed in his senate candidacy in Connecticut. Real Democrats support their nominees, they don’t go making whiny statements to the media when their candidate loses, and they volunteer their time and money, no matter who the nominee is.

It is your check book, and you can decide to sit on your hands this race, which is your right, but don’t expect Fighting Democrats to automatically jump when you demand something.

Pat Campbell’s victory is a testament that money is not everything when it comes to electoral politics. Money is an important ingredient in the political loaf of bread; but flour without yeast just makes pancakes. You can either work in partnership with local activists, who would sincerely appreciate your input, or continue, along your current path of frustration.

Nierenberg is not known for being particularly bombastic, and I am reasonably sure he would withdraw the comment he made if he could. That this otherwise intelligent and educated man allowed his anger and confusion to boil up to the surface in a way that has damaged his image among area democrats (who probably no longer fear him after this debacle) shows how deeply frustrated this local democrat fundraising icon (He dropped $35,000 into the Stuart race in one way or another.) appears to be.

The irony in all of this (and there IS an irony) is that none of this was necessary.

Had Burkman just come in like any other candidate and fought it out with Waadevig without interference from Chopp or big money, I have little doubt that he would have flattened Waadevig (who is an empty suit that, no matter how much he wanted to win in the 17th, since he ‘s never lived in that district.) to become the democrat nominee without interference from Campbell, and with a unified party infrastructure behind him.

In determining what happened, I think it best to start with what DIDN’T happen.

In today’s (25 Sept) article in the Columbian Campbell is quoted as claiming that his website was the deciding factor.

I don’t believe that for a minute.

In his interview, the article said, “Campbell spent $68.17 and didn't ring a single doorbell, choosing instead to campaign on his Web site and through free media coverage.”

There are at least two reasons why this doesn’t work. First of all, I’ve been to the website, but I’m one of the very few.

I can flatly state that the web site played exactly zero role in this outcome.

First, I had to look up the name of the website. In fact, I’m having a hell of a time finding it now. I put in “Pat Campbell democrat website” and it wasn’t in the first 4 pages. Instead of something simple, it was a very forgettable name:

Looking at the website, it violates almost every rule of campaign websites (But then, Campbell violated almost every rule of campaigns in this primary… and he won.) It looks like it was slammed together by a 7th grader with the assignment due tomorrow.

But that’s only a secondary issue. The question is how did anyone really know the website existed? How many people would go through the effort needed to track the name down (I, ultimately, had to go to the democrats website… aka, another idiotic choice for the Clark County d’s website name).

Because Campbell wasn’t out there… and did no signs or ads with his website address on them… very few could possibly know the site existed.

As a result, while it isn’t impossible to track the address down, it is difficult… much more difficult then it needs to be…. Resulting in a much-reduced likelihood of major web site traffic… especially to the point where the result would be just under 5000 votes in a contested primary.

And, even if you can actually navigate to Pat’s positions, they’re filled with the typical platitudes, lies and half-truths so common for left-of-center websites. Then, of course, there’s a picture of a woman just pulling in some endangered species out of what appears to be the Columbia… just what you need for the environmental vote.

So… was it Republican crossover?

An intriguing thought… let’s look at the numbers.

The combined vote for the Position One race was just over 9400 votes.

The vote for Position Two in the 17th District was 9674.

Republicans crossing over to vote for Campbell would not then turn around and vote for Wallace… yet Wallace had more votes then Burkman and Campbell combined.

If there was a substantial crossover, that should have be reflected in a correspondingly lower number for Wallace, not a number even larger.

That is not to say that there was zero crossover. But the numbers suggest that the crossover was extremely limited and, ultimately, had no impact on the final outcome.

So, what did happen?

I believe it to the Rage/Resentment Factor.

At the end of the day, the very public and ugly way this deal went down was the cause of the Burkman debacle.

People resent being dictated to, particularly in public. Chopp, as they say, ain’t from here. He’s an ultra-leftist from Seattle, representing the district that’s home of the Lenin memorial statue... much, much too far to the left for the 17th. Because Nierenberg made the decision that Waadevig couldn't beat Dunn, he exercised his Boss Hogg-like leverage and ordered Chopp to get somebody else… a somebody else that he, Nierenberg, just happened to have in mind.

It is quite-simply astounding that the “Powers-that-be”™ decided to pound this square peg into a round hole, so badly mishandling such an easily done chore. I repeat: had they simply let Burkman come in against Waadevig or anyone else, he would have run them over like a tank to face Dunn.

And, as is all to frequent in this business, the pounding of the square peg into the round hole results in both a damaged peg… and a destroyed hole.

In this case, Nierenberg was swinging the hammer; Burkman was the peg, and the 17th District, the hole.

Without even realizing it, they doomed Burkman because they lacked any concept of subtlety.
The people of the 17th generally and the democrats particularly did a slow simmer after the coup over this issue. That resentment turned up to boil when the insult was reinforced by the stupid handling of the Campbell candidacy… and the Columbian’s asinine efforts to hammer Campbell with a bogus endorsement of Burkman only served to activate those carrying the rage from the handling of this matter to begin with.

We need to remember that the Clark County Dem Chair and treasurer both resigned in protest over this… and they took many of the party stalwarts with them. For the democrat voters of the 17th, payback was at the ballot box, and they delivered in spades.

The question is, how or will this impact the race with Dunn?

With what amounts to two “anti-campaigns” going on at the same time (Campbell so far has stuck to his guns over the idea that he won’t take “special interest money” (He has reported no income as of this writing but I have a source that indicates that HDCC will do independent expenditures on his behalf.) and in the best of years, Dunn’s campaign desire/abilities/capabilities have never been inspiring.)

I believe that the democrat anger-factor has been spent… the message from the democrat voters to the state and local leadership sent… thought perhaps not received, given the unrelenting arrogance of those in such strong political control of this state.

So, now we have two candidates, one pledging to, in effect, avoid campaigning and the other with a rather proven record of failing to achieve a meaningful campaign. Taking it a step farther, Burkman ran a campaign that followed all of the traditional steps expected of a campaign… a campaign that I believe would have been successful if the powers that be had just stayed out of it.

I have never looked at two campaigns for the same position where both candidates were an X factor; where none of the conventional measures of a successful campaign seem to apply.

The questions that will determine this outcome are these:

What does Campbell offer?

How closely does he reflect the majority views of the district?

What can he do to increase his name-familiarity to match or exceed that of a 3 out of 4 term incumbent?

What WILL he do?

Will the HDCC do what it seems HROC plans to do for Dunn… in effect, campaign “around” him?

From the democrat point of view, there is NO chance they’ll lose the House this election. My analysis shows a 2 to 3 seat pickup, in fact. Do they need to expend time, effort and energy on a race that puts a completely new meaning to the axiom “Never mud wrestle with a pig?”

Chopp wound up looking like an idiot on this thing. Does he want Campbell around to remind him of his stupidity, and to remind others within the democrat caucus of this sorry episode?

On the other hand, Richard DeBolt was confronted with those same questions as a result of his idiocy when, early in 2004, he very publicly directed Rep. Jim Buck to visibly rebuke Jim Dunn, directing him to tell the Columbian that HROC would not support a Dunn candidacy, an observation dutifully reported by our newspaper. Of course, the assignment of Jon Russell to Harris proved to be disastrous for that campaign, and even though Dunn typically, ran a nothing campaign, he “Campbelled” Harris … all of which resulted in the same situation we have now, a Dunn-Campbell race where Dunn won by 5000 votes, a crushing defeat for Campbell, particularly given the non-campaign Dunn ran.

What’s changed?

Very little… except for a slightly larger (3000+ voters) increasingly affluent, and therefore, theoretically more Republican, electorate. (Affluence is assumed by virtue of the higher real estate prices that new arrivals had to pay for their homes.) The economy of the district remains strong, another huge plus for an incumbent.

Absent a major, and I mean MAJOR effort by independent expenditure on the democrat’s part (Major as defined by something in excess of $100,000) I cannot see where the outcome this November will be any different then it was last election.

Given Burkman’s poll the week before the primary date (49, 38 undecided and 13 Campbell) one might ask what good would a poll do in this situation. The response is that Burkman’s poll was at least partially accurate (Burkman received just over 47.5% of the voter, a rather remarkable 1.5% variance) and he failed to appreciate the fact that even with all of his money, support and cash expenditure, he was under the magic 50% level, a huge oversight on the part of Burkman and his backers. ANYTHING can happen when a candidate alleged to lead a race is under 50%. And this race proves it.

As a result, pending yet another major Dunn faux paux, even the Columbian’s endorsement of Campbell will have no real effect on the outcome… and I have to rate this race as strong lean Republican.

No comments: