In 2008 I proudly displayed an Obama poster on my front door. My neighbor, with whom I had a nodding relationship, gave a big “thumbs up.” We began to chat about politics as we sorted our mail at the mailbox, traveled up and down on the elevator and met at the compactor room – those couple of minute conversations we have with neighbors in the urban environment.
The other day as we were riding down in the elevator, I asked,
“Who are you supporting for mayor?”
He mused for a while, “I guess Bloomberg, I know he screwed up the schools but overall he’s done a good job.”
I was surprised, “He’s not running,” I replied, “He’s term limited.”
“He can get around that, wasn’t he supposed to be term limited last time?”
“Yes, not this time.”
“I guess I have to pay attention to the pack – let’s see – the redhead, the one who just got married, Quinn, let me think, an Asian guy, a tall guy, a black guy and Weiner, the guy with the appropriate name.”
“Who you voting for?”
“I have no idea – it’s a long time till November, I’ll have to start paying more attention.”
“The primary is September 10th – are you a registered Democrat?”
“Good question, I don’t know – are their big differences between them – marriage equality, stop and frisk …?”
“Nope, nuances, not big differences.”
2,000 UFT members will have attended meetings and listened to the five announced candidates, the overwhelming number of potential voters barely know the names of the candidates. In my district, counting citywide and local candidates, there will be a dozen candidates vying for the Democratic slot on the ballot. The last week in August and the first ten days in September my mailbox will be filled with election lit – why should I vote for one candidate or why some other candidate is the sporn of the devil.
On September 10th about 700,000 voters will select the Democratic candidate for the November 5th election – unless a candidate does not reach the 40% cut off – if no candidate has 40% of the vote for a citywide office a runoff will be held on September 24th.
In 2001 785,000 votes were cast in a four-way Democratic primary and 1.5 million in the November general election.
In 2009 330,000 votes were cast in a 2-way Democratic primary and one million in the November election.
One of the primary rules of campaigning is: identify your voters and get them to the polls.
1. Fund raising: In New York City a campaign finance law sharply restricts and levels the playing field, all the current
Democratic candidates have committed to participate in the campaign finance program. You can track every contribution by candidate and by contributor on the website (http://www.nyccfb.info/).
2. Identifying potential voters: Prime NY, run by Jerry Skurnick, sells data disaggregated any way you choose. Read an excellent, brief explanation of how to breakdown key data here (http://gograssroots.org/files/analyzevoters.pdf). Who are “your voters?” Asian voters are likely to vote for John Liu – how many Asian voters are registered Democrats and how many are likely to vote? For Bill Thompson – Afro-Americans are a large potential block of voters. Thompson’s “stump speech” to Afro-American audiences references his grandparents as immigrants from the Caribbean and his 88 year-old father who still goes to work every day.
You may identify potential voters – how do you motivate them to go to the polls?
3. Endorsements. Some organizations can potentially “deliver” their members on Election Day. Unions, churches, environmental organizations, LBGT organizations, have loyal memberships who may abide by an endorsement, especially unions. Newspaper endorsements, NY Times, the Post, the Daily News and the foreign language press can influence voters, at the local level endorsement by civic or block associations, by a neighbor, the more local the better.
4. Communications. Getting out the message is a challenge … free “publicity” through press releases, appearances at events, Christine Quinn in her role as leader of the City Council has the opportunity to garner headlines, speaking at Columbia and disclosing her battles with alcoholism and bulimia, releasing her autobiography. Bill de Blasio attacking high stakes testing, as well as attacking Christine Quinn, John Liu, in his role as Comptroller issuing a range of reports, obliquely attacking the Mayor.
As the election nears the candidates will take to the airways – TV commercials, mailers, robo calls, flyers and social media.
5. Street Operations. You’ve identified your voters, you’ve made the phone calls, you’ve attended scores of community meetings, sent out letters and flyers as election day nears – and in the final week you put hundreds and hundreds of supporters on the streets – standing on street corners handing out campaign buttons or palm cards, ringing door bells, urging friends and neighbors and strangers to show up at the polls, and that last push – those “triple” prime voters – making sure they get to the polls.
Teachers are passionate in their dislike of the current mayor and their desire to elect the “anti-Bloomberg.” a mayor who respects teachers and will select a chancellor who will return sanity to the school system. Every municipal union is without a contract: which candidate will be most likely to negotiate a satisfactory contract?
Most New Yorkers are not passionate, the election hasn’t resonated – like my neighbor the election is far away, a candidate choice has not coalesced – the candidates are still “the redhead, the Asian guy, the tall guy and the black guy”
At the Brooklyn UFT candidate forum Borough Rep Howie Schoor asked each candidate what was their path to victory, they all answered: the UFT endorsement.
They’re probably right.
Read NY Times editorial (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/opinion/education-and-new-york-citys-mayoral-race.html?hpw)