Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Suldog For State Rep - The Finale

Interestingly, I'm finding that this series of pieces has had the same effect upon my readership as my actual campaign had on the voters - driving them away in droves. According to the service which keeps track of these things, the number of folks visiting this page has dropped about 10% with each installment. So much for politics. Tomorrow I'll resume my usual idiocy - as opposed to this idiocy.

To those of you who have stuck around for the whole story, my sincere thanks. If you're just getting here and don't know what the heck I'm jabbering about, here's where it begins and you can probably find your own way to the rest. And, to those of you who are just plain bored to tears by this huge part of my life? You're probably not even reading this, so why am I talking to you?

We come now to the final week or so of the campaign. We've done pretty much all we could to get folks to notice me, at least within our budgetary limitations. We had one more large expenditure, after which I made one more buy with the leftover campaign money.

The last big thing we did was to print up postcards, for a mailing to selected households within the district. One is reproduced directly above. We sent these to every household containing a voter not registered as a Democrat. We couldn't afford a mailing to every voter, so this seemed to be the biggest bang we could get for our buck. Our hope was to at least let everyone without any possible ties to Finneran know that there was someone they might like to vote for on the ballot.

Timing was important, of course. Send these postcards out too early and they would be forgotten by many people when election day actually rolled around. So, we put them into the mail, by my hand-delivering them all to the local post office, the Wednesday prior to the Tuesday election date. We figured one day (Thursday) for sorting; one day (Friday) for processing; and then three days for deliveries (Saturday, Monday, Tuesday). In any case, we assumed that giving the USPS a six-day lead would be sufficient to assure that they arrived prior to the election.

Of course, we assumed wrong. Well, at least partly, anyway. Some postcards arrived when they should have, but I received reports (via phone calls from people who said they would have voted for me, but...) of delivery as late as Saturday following the election. If one had a suspicious sort of mind, one might think that someone in the post office had purposely held them aside until they would be useless.

No, it couldn't have been that.

Then again, maybe it could have. Remember yesterday when I told you that I'd explain my lack of regard for The Dorchester Reporter? Well, you might recall that I purchased advertising in both The Reporter and The Dorchester Argus-Citizen. I had been interviewed by a couple of papers; had done talk radio; had littered the district with flyers; had advertisements on the local trolleys; had gone door-to-door speaking with large numbers of residents; had done stand-outs at busy intersections; had been mentioned in The Phoenix by political reporter Jon Keller; had spoken at numerous functions; and all of the other things that a candidate busts his ass doing during the run of a campaign. Well, I go to the newsstand to buy copies of the local papers. These are the issues just prior to the election, when they run the listings of candidates. I took the papers home and read them. Here is what The Reporter ran, regarding the race for 13th Suffolk:

Nice, huh? You bust your butt for seven months trying to get someone to notice you and you find out that your local newspaper is so fucking prejudiced for the incumbent that they don't even mention you as a candidate, even after taking your money for advertising. Utterly amazing. I mean, hey, if they didn't like me and wanted to say I was a worthless son of a bitch who shouldn't be voted for as dogcatcher, that's their prerogative, what with freedom of the press and all. But, to outright lie to the voters, by telling them that Finneran was unopposed?

To say that I was steamed would be a mighty understatement. It was Sunday morning. I marched out of my house and walked on down to Richmond Street, where I knew the publisher/editor resided. I knocked on his door. He answered in his bathrobe.


"Hi. My name is Jim Sullivan."


"I'm running for state representative against Tommy Finneran, but either you or your political reporter seems not to have noticed. You published a voter's guide telling people that Finneran is running unopposed."

"You're ruining my breakfast. Good-bye."

And he slammed the door in my face, while I stood outside telling him exactly what he could do with his eggs and sausage. Unfortunately, nobody trusts politicians - least of all publishers - so all advertising is paid for in advance. Otherwise, I would have ruined his breakfast the next day, too, by stopping payment on the check.

Not to be outdone, The Boston Globe published The League of Women Voters Guide, which is supposedly a non-partisan publication to inform the voters of their choices. Guess what? Finneran had no opposition there, too. So, the next time you hear something about how The League of Women Voters is non-partisan, don't buy it. They are bi-partisan, but not non-partisan. They published Democrats and Republicans, but no Libertarians, no Independents, nobody not affiliated with the major two. It wasn't just me they screwed.

My campaign chief, Lee Nason (in conjunction with Carlotta Hayes, of the New Alliance Party's Jill Klowden for State Senate campaign) wrote a scathing 5-page letter to both the Globe and the League, demanding a republication of the guide. Of course, we knew the chances of this happening were pretty much non-existent, but we had to try and head off a similar instance the next election cycle. In addition, Lee knew that their charter did call for NON-partisan activity, so there were real legal issues involved concerning their tax-exempt status. A correction ran in the Globe, listing the 28 candidates they had left out of the guide, but it was far less effective a bit than being included within the guide would have been.

Just amazing. All anybody had to do was get a list of candidates from the Secretary of State. I was there. The other candidate, Benzevich, was there. Only total ignorance or complete and utter disregard for fairness could account for the omissions. And these folks weren't dumb.

My God. You have no idea how much this still eats at me, even more than 15 years later. The unfairness of it is just sickening. I can't even imagine myself doing something similar, no matter how much I might have disagreed with a particular candidate. Tampering with the process, by denying the voters pertinent information, is completely beyond anything I'd even consider.


I mentioned an expenditure made with the leftover monies. Well, I realized, with just a couple of days remaining, that we had somewhere around $100, not earmarked for anything, remaining in the treasury. Remaining monies, from campaigns in Massachusetts, could only be carried over to future campaigns. I knew this was probably it for me, so I had to find something useful to do with this cash.

It could have been spent on beer, wine and munchies for my workers, but with our relatively small budget I wasn't comfortable doing that. I figured that the folks who contributed money to my campaign didn't expect it to be eaten. I had personally footed the bill for most of our other dinner meetings during the campaign. They trusted me to use their money in some effort to spread the word, either about me or about the party in general. So, I contracted with WBZ radio to air a one-minute ad on the David Brudnoy show.

I wrote the ad up and went into a studio I had access to and recorded it. I then delivered the tape to WBZ's studios. All well and good, except...

My treasurer, Walter Ziobro, made me aware of the fact that campaign law forbade mentioning other candidates for office, from your party, within an ad for your own campaign. Since WBZ was a 50,000 watt clear channel AM station, Brudnoy's show traveled to some 36 states and Canada on a clear night. I had ended my ad by pitching the other three Libertarian candidates for state rep in Massachusetts, as well as Marrou for President nationally. I figured, why not? There were only so many people listening who would be able to vote for me, but there might be many thousands who could vote for Marrou and the others.

Luckily, this ad drew as much attention as the rest of my campaign, which is to say little. We never received a warning or fine or anything else that would have cost us.


Election day rolled around and I was up bright and early. MY WIFE and I arrived at the polls way before they opened. I wanted us to be first and second into the booths, so that I could honestly say that, at one point in the race, I had the lead. Finneran (and Benzevich) lived in the same ward as me, so I had reason to believe that I probably wouldn't even carry my home polling place, so I wanted the small satisfaction of knowing I did, indeed, lead for at least one brief moment.

I went into the booth. After the hideousness with the newspapers, where they omitted my name as a candidate, I had some irrational thoughts that perhaps the ballot might not actually have me listed. However, there was my name, plain as day, and the tag "Libertarian" right next to it. I got a small rush up my spine as I pulled the lever. It was a thrill that almost made everything worthwhile, in and of itself. It remains one of the proudest moments of my life.

After voting, I set myself up outside to shake hands and ask for votes. It was a rainy, cold, dismal day. MY WIFE stood with me for some time, God bless her, and when I traveled around to other polling places during the day (to visit my poll workers and let them know how much I appreciated their help) she remained at our home polling station, holding a sign and getting chilled to the bone.

My big selling point to voters, aside from whatever political differences there were between Finneran and myself, was that I was the only actual candidate standing there ready to shake their hands and answer their questions. This could be taken one of two ways: either I was a sincerely gung-ho stand-up guy, or else I was the only candidate who didn't know enough to come in out of the rain.

So, it was a hectic day of traveling around the wards and precincts, shaking babies and kissing hands, otherwise uneventful until the evening. Around 6 o'clock, I was standing outside at the polls, talking to MY WIFE, when Tommy Finneran showed up to vote. We shook hands while a photo was taken by somebody, and he thanked me for running a clean race, which I had. I thanked him for the kindness some of his poll workers had shown earlier in the day to MY WIFE. He had sent around a car with some hot foods (soup, chowder, sandwiches) for his people, and they had very nicely invited MY WIFE to partake of this much-needed bounty. I received a couple of similar stories, from other workers, later in the evening. There are some nice things that happen during a campaign, and often some surprisingly nice people involved, no matter where you might disagree on the issues.

After Finneran left, we went home and waited for some of the other folks to come by with the vote totals they were able to gather. Until I actually heard some numbers, there was always the remote possibility that I could have won, so I was a bit nervous. I knew the reality of the situation, of course, but I had paid a lot of sweat equity for a bit of dreaming, so I indulged myself.

When the returns started coming in, it was obvious that there weren't going to be any stunning upsets in Dorchester that night. Things were pretty steady across the board. I pulled around 10% in most precincts, Benzevich grabbed around 4%, and the remainder went to Tommy Finneran. I was heartened to find that I had received somewhere in the neighborhood of 17% at my home polling place (which, as I mentioned before, was the home station for both Finneran and Benzevich, as well) so I guess I had some pull among my actual neighbors.

There was a funny moment at one of the polling places. My cousin Joe held a sign for me there and he hung around to get the tally. After announcing the presidential totals and others, they announced the state rep race.

"Sullivan - 563, Finneran - 72, Benzevich - 36."

Joe said there was then a general uproar, with many people saying "That can't be right!" and "Count 'em again!". The guy doing the announcing of the votes had, of course, reversed the totals for Finneran and myself. Makes you wonder how often that might happen in a closer race where it wouldn't be so easily detected and corrected.

The final tally showed about 11%, total, for Jim Sullivan. I finished second in a three-way race, which was something I could have small bragging rights about among Libertarians, so long as we didn't delve too deeply into the numbers. Going in we had assumed about 10% as a base to build upon, but we also hadn't counted on a third candidate being in the race, so it was an OK result.

A whole bunch of people worked really hard for me, and there were the folks who contributed money to my campaign, of course, and I wish I could have given them a better total for all of their hard work and money spent. I think I gave it my best shot, but if I knew then what I know now, it would have been better. We learn many lessons in life when it's too late to use that knowledge, unfortunately. In a situation like this, where I wasn't going to run again, the lessons I learned were pretty much useless for the future. Too bad about that.

One more story will end this.

I did the work of driving around to some of the more distant polling places from my house, in order to pick up a couple of folks who had stood outside in the rain for me all day. I figured it was the least I could do. I wasn't going to send someone else who had already given me their entire day.

I was on my way to pick up one fellow, at a school in North Dorchester, and I was driving up a side street where the school was located. I entered an intersection about three blocks from the school and WHAM!

A car, coming from my right, slammed into the rear passenger side of my car, spinning me totally around, so that I ended up facing in the direction I had been coming, on the other side of the intersection. I quickly checked to see if I was hurt. Nothing more than shock. I got out of the car and went to see if the other driver was OK.

He was unhurt, also, though he was very dismayed. It was his parent's car, and he said he thought there was a stop sign on my street, and that was why he was going at such a high rate of speed, thinking that he had the right of way. There was no stop sign, of course, and I had entered the intersection first, and he was way over the speed limit, so it was definitely his fault. In any case, he was just sad, not angry, and I was just shocked, so we didn't come to blows or anything. We exchanged papers. I barely stopped myself from asking him if he might have voted for me earlier. I then continued on up the street to the school, but by the time I got there, there was nobody around, so I headed back home.

My old shitbox of a car still ran, I was unhurt, and I figured to collect a couple of bucks from the kid's (or, rather, his parent's) insurance, so it actually turned out to be a profitable day, after all was said and done. It was a fitting metaphor for the campaign, which was something of a wreck in and of itself, but probably turned out to have been profitable in the long run for future candidates from the party.

Here are the actual numbers:

Finneran (D) - 7,086
Sullivan (L) - 871
Benzevich (U) - 310

When you consider that the protest vote - that is, the people who would have voted against Finneran even if Hitler was the opponent - was probably split evenly between Benzevich and myself, our campaigning had reached an additional 500+ folks who felt that voting for a Libertarian wasn't all that horrible a thing to do. Not too bad.

Thanks again for reading. I probably don't have to tell you, if you slogged through this whole series, but it ain't easy running for office, especially if you don't have the resources of a major party. The next time you're tempted to dismiss some minor candidate as just a nutjob, cut him or her a little slack. They're really trying their best to do something that not many folks have the guts to even attempt. Even if you totally disagree with them, give them credit for courage.

See you tomorrow.


Uncle Jim said...

Well, that was entertaining, but I am a family member. The agony of defeat is not bad the evening of the vote, but the following day when you have to take the signs down and you don't want anyone to see you. :)

JRH said...

Does sound like a lot of work. But I'm sure it's energy well-spent.

Why do you always mention your wife in caps?

Suldog said...

Just literary fun. Some guys say "My better half", or give their wives cute names, such as "Her Lovely Self" or "She who must be obeyed" or whatever. I just capitalize it. Nothing more mysterious than that, I'm afraid.

Lisa said...

I love these. You should write exactly what you want to write on your blog -- the hell with traffic.

I pointed people to this post over at h2otown.info.

Suldog said...

Thank you very much, Lisa.