Ground game key in election wins
I ran, I didn’t win election, but it was a full experience.
I want to thank the good folks in Chemainus, Crofton and residents around Quamichan Lake for setting up well-organized all-candidates meetings, and that final one that was thrown together at the last minutes that I couldn’t attend because of a stomach ailment.
The voters have spoken, and they have elected a mayor and council…but, did they really?
Somewhat less then 35 per cent of registered voters took time to vote, which fits with historic local government election turnout across the province.
So, it’s more accurate to say that some voters have spoken, and we have the government they wanted.
Is it voter apathy? Maybe apathy isn’t the right word, maybe the vast majority of potential voters just don’t care.
As one of 14 candidates seeking one of the six seats on council the prospects for getting word out on who I am and what I would stand for were limited.
The all-candidates meetings generally allocated each of us council candidates three minutes to speak, which isn’t a lot of time. We were then literally or figuratively shuffled off stage and the focus turned to a debate between the three mayor candidates. Fair enough, because who would have wanted to endure five or 10 minutes from each of the 14 council candidates? Incidentally, while turnout to all-candidate meetings numbered 200 or more, these meetings turned out to be travelling road shows with at least half of the audience attending all three.
The new election finance rules placed real limits on campaign spending, which also limited our ability to put ourselves before voters. Virtually all council candidates spent their campaign budgets on a variety of message pathways, including signs, pamphlets mailed to voters and newspaper advertising.
Based on what I could see about what each of the candidates spent on I could not detect any correlation between their messaging and the number of votes each ultimately received.
None of the candidates delivered any knock-it-out-of-the-ballpark speeches at the all-candidates meetings. No candidate spent money to achieve a dominant newspaper advertising presence. Most candidates eventually achieved similar levels of election signs.
There were only two incumbents, who almost always have an election advantage.
So, why were the six winners bunched together as top voter getters and the rest kind of just dribbled away with less and less votes?
As a seasoned and experienced politico, I can only guess there was a hidden factor and that is strength and organization on the ground that identified their vote and got it out to the polls.
I think there was what I would call an organic vote and a forced vote. The two incumbents likely gained a good chunk of their vote based on their incumbency — that could be organic. Then there was Tek Manhas, who I shared a lot of campaigning time with, who truly gained an organic vote based on his knowing most people in town and having an excellent reputation. Then there was the other three, two of whom were complete unknowns, who very likely received forced vote from organized teams skilled at making sure that voters went to the polls.
The big take-away for me is that if you want to achieve election results you need organization on the ground. The non-slate slate who got in were pretty open about who was on the list for support and who wasn’t. Next time I’m involved I’m going to make a much earlier start to make sure there is a more even playing field.