Tag Archive: campaigns

Mar 21 2013

The Role of ‘Faith’ in Citywide Campaigns

Religion-and-PoliticsWill God’s endorsement help or hurt?

New Yorkers have a highly selective pallet for citywide candidates espousing “faith” in politics, sometimes it’s a positive and other times it’s the equivalent of developing political leprosy.

While the race for Mayor heats up, the contrasts between each candidate becomes clearer. Often times the starkest differences come to light in campaign rhetoric – when opponents vet one another, whether in debate or in the press. Republicans do it, Democrats do it, but how will professing faith affect their chances at election? The answer depends on whom you ask.

According to one Democratic source, when a candidate uses faith as a talking point in citywide elections for Mayor, Comptroller, or Public Advocate it’s the equivalent of developing political leprosy. The theory holds that professing faith in God or religion will turn voters away especially in Manhattan. Such candidates can write off any chance of winning over secularist Manhattan Democrats because they link faith to being anti-women. Yes, anti-women. It’s not exactly an intellectual leap, but rather an intellectual chasm that can polarize a candidate. So the lesson is clear (at least according to this source) candidates beware: faith is linked to being pro-life, and thus anti-women.

But not everyone agrees. “I don’t think it’s anything wrong with that; it’s the person’s beliefs” said Glenn Nocera, a former Senate candidate and President of the Brooklyn Young Republican club.

“Look, 90% of people believe in God, so when you have a person coming from that perspective I don’t think a lot of people would feel that’s just a bad thing, some people feel there’s a place for that,” said Nocera, adding, “A lot of people still believe that whatever faith they come from, they still feel it’s a big part of their lives and I don’t think it detracts too many people.”

However, the issue is not so cut and dry according to Eric Mingott, a Queens-based Republican and former Assembly candidate. He believes having faith is one component, but professing faith and belief of God on the campaign trail is a separate issue with it’s own ramifications. “I believe having faith is a positive thing. It shows character and judgment abilities,” he said. “[But] I believe using religion as a propaganda is a cynical act, having faith in god is a personal and private relationship.”

Espousing faith is a double-edged sword for citywide political candidates. Mingott draws a contrast between having faith and using religion as part of political rhetoric. “I just don’t think a persons campaign should be based on God. It should be based on the desires of the community and humanity.”

But in a social media driven world that demands to know every detail both personal and private of political candidates, it would prove to be quite difficult to ignore the issue outright. After all, who would elect a “faithless” candidate?

“The religious and political winds are changing,” wrote E.J Dionne in Souled Out:
 Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right.

“Tens of millions of religious Americans are reclaiming faith from those who would abuse it for narrow, partisan, and ideological purposes. And more and more secular Americans are discovering common ground with believers on the great issues of social justice, peace, and the environment.”

But selecting candidates based on their religious preferences is wrought with peril. In a perfect world, voters would evaluate candidates based on their policies, their character, their values, not on how they choose to worship. According to David Saperstein and Oliver Thomas in 5 Rules For Faith In Politics in 2012, candidates for public office should avoid divisive religious rhetoric to make them more inclusive.No candidates — or their supporters — should suggest that they deserve votes (or that their opponents do not) because of their religious beliefs or practices.”

Meanwhile some candidates have the advantage of using faith and religion as a podium for expanding their electoral clout, just ask Reverend Rice — a mega church minister who uses the pulpit to influence his congregation going so far as to make political endorsements from the altar. And the same goes for Reverend Floyd Flake, a south Queens pastor that endorsed Melinda Katz over Councilman Leroy Comrie for Borough President, in between his sermon.

How many times have we seen members of the clergy standing side-by-side with candidates or lingering around a political event? Chances are you have and from numerous denominations — it’s a common practice especially among conservative leaning Democrats and Republicans. Does their presence suggest God endorsed that candidate? Probably not, but appearances and lip service seem to go along way with voters.

You might ask, what about the oft-quoted separation of church and state? Well, it doesn’t always apply on the campaign trail. Questions of morality may have their moments in politics, but they will not overshadow politics despite this trend: evangelism tends not only to bring a congregation (of voters) closer to God, but closer to political candidates, and those espousing their faith on the campaign trail could be said to have the moral compass to guide their decision-making lacking in “faithless candidates.”

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2013/03/the-role-of-faith-in-nyc-campaigns/

Dec 14 2012

Banking With Quontic Will Help Your Campaign

Vice President Michael Serao of Quontic Bank specializes in political candidates banking needs.

Many candidates have always asked my advice on where to do their campaign banking and my answer has always been Quontic Bank.

Navigating the quagmire of campaign finance regulations is not an easy task, and some will say it’s near impossible. Without the right expertise the fine print is often overlooked, which could lead to costly fines and penalties – even disqualification from matching funds. What can a campaign do? Corporate banks are notorious for being impersonal and are not equipped to handle the special needs of political banking in New York City. Could you imagine a representative from Citigroup or J.P Morgan taking calls at midnight? Or showing up to your fundraiser to ensure compliance with federal, city, and state law? What if there’s an emergency, do you have your corporate banker’s cell phone number? With the hectic pace of politics, corporate culture can be too impersonal, often impractical to reach campaign goals and more often than not becomes an unwelcome distraction rather an asset. Quontic Bank has taken a unique approach to fill this need with one-on-one personalized banking especially suited for the needs of political candidates and organizations.

When candidates bank with Quontic, they will have confidence that their specialized and attentive staff is extremely well versed in NYC campaign finance, which sets them apart from competitors. Their staff will work directly with your treasurer and will even come to your fundraiser to ensure compliance with your contributions. But Quontic is not just for veteran politicians (whom often retain them after victory) first time candidates and organizations have also come to appreciate the personal interaction, real service, and a masterful knowledge of the field that Quontic staff like Vice-President Michael Serao brings to each one of his clients. It’s the type of advantage you need to win. Civic and advocacy groups like 501 c(3)’s and 501c(4)’s will also benefit from banking with Quontic. Perhaps you are in charge of a prestigious non-profit group, a political action committee, or just a startup organization. Maybe it’s time to entrust your banking needs to someone with experience in this field. So, when you’re gearing up for the big one in 2013 and you want a fighting chance; don’t let banking become a roadblock for your campaign. Call Quontic today. With two convenient locations in Astoria and Great Neck plus surcharge free ATM’s, insiders agree, Quontic is the clear choice for banking in politics.

 

Contact: Michael Serao, regional manager / vice president.

31-05 Broadway Astoria, NY 11106

Main: 718-215-4000

Direct: 718-215-4002

Fax: 718-215-4050

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/12/candidates-should-bank-with-quontic/

Apr 16 2012

Meet the Influence

The Influence is an insightful blog with highly illuminating commentary. The author, Billy Ferarro is sharp as a tack with a crackerjack wit that reflects in his articles.

Based in Long Island, The Influence is like the cousin of Queens-Politics with a focus on political and social issues trending across the country.

The article, 12 Things You Need To Know Before Running For Office speaks with authority and a healthy dose of sarcasm. Below you will find a brilliant and canny guide to running a real campaign.

It is a must read for all politicos out there.

 

[From The Influence] Over the last eight years, I’ve worked for close to a hundred public figures in various roles. These range from volunteering and intern gigs, to being a legislative analyst in the state capital, to a campaign manager, fundraiser, “operative”, and social media consultant. From Republicans, to Democrats, to a slew of third party candidates, I’ve been around the best of the best, the very worst, and the ones who are so bad that I questioned the meaning of life, repeatedly, while downing shots of Wild Turkey…repeatedly.

This one goes out to the Hydes, not the Jekylls – every bad candidate I ever worked for, or ran into at an event, whose ideas were so bad that I was left mute, jaw clenched, eyes wide and stupefied by unfiltered stupid. Sounds harsh, right? Well I’m about to re-emphasize all the wonderful fundamentals about running for public office that you glossed over while daydreaming about your debate talking points, victory speech, future staff appointments, and 10-point plan to fix the economy. You need to understand right here and now, that solving the world’s problems is THE EASY PART. Winning elected office? That’s where it gets tricky.

So here are 12 THINGS YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED TO KNOW BEFORE RUNNING FOR OFFICE:

1. Run For The Right Reasons

Tell me you want to make a difference in the community. Tell me it’s your dream. Tell me you want money, power, and women. Those are powerful motivations that can carry you through this. But PLEASE don’t tell me you’re running because you hate the other guy.

There are more productive ways to settle the score with your neighbor or arch-enemy. These include: using your connections on the zoning board to fuck with his property, stealing his newspaper, spreading rumors, and/or challenging him to a duel. But don’t waste everybody else’s time on a vendetta. And don’t start grinding the axe because of some attacks or allegations made during the campaign. You lost the luxury to take politics personally when you announced your candidacy – be a man (or a woman) and DEAL WITH IT. Michael Corleone didn’t take personal offense when they shot his father, and he went on to a very successful career. Learn from him!

2. People Need To Know You

“You know, people really like me and love what I have to say.” This is what a candidate for local office once told me. The reality is, the only people who liked him were the ones he saw in the mirror when he imagined his stump speech. Know this: running for office isn’t political fantasy camp. If you’re interested in holding elected office and aren’t a multi-millionaire (and even if you are), start by joining a civic association, getting involved and running for school board, volunteering/donating to local non-profits, or attending public hearings. People mocked President Obama for being a community organizer, but that’s probably what got him elected to the Illinois State Senate. Clearly it launched him into bigger things.

Participation in the community is how people get to know and like you. Organizing is how you gain their trust. Say you oppose the building of a development on a parcel of historic land. Go to the public hearings, talk to like-minded people, meet and organize a petition drive, write letters to the editor, and create an e-mail list. When that seat you’re eyeing comes up for election, people will see your name and say, “Oh yeah! That’s the person who helped defeat that shitty development plan!” You can’t buy that kind of credibility.

3. You Need To Have a Fundraising Plan

If any of these points are “least optional”, it’s this one by far. It goes without saying, you can’t run a campaign without money. So how do you develop a fundraising plan? You need monthly goals, reliable venues, and most importantly, a list of people you know. It sounds so basic, but it’s the one thing untrained candidates always miss. Instead, they go around to staff and volunteers saying, “If anybody can bring in money, they get a cut!” On multiple occasions, people who hired me and a partner to fundraise for them asked us, “So who do you guys know?” Let’s get something straight: it’s not about who your fundraiser knows, it’s about who YOU know. You’re the one running for office! A good fundraiser can show you how to take your contacts, and create a fundraising web out of them.

You may even think you don’t know anybody, but that’s not true. Write down the names of friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances. List them in categories from richest to poorest. Start at the top, and ask the most well-connected of your contacts who their richest friends are. For your first fundraiser, make it a small, intimate event where you can build confidence among your strongest contacts. Get them excited and energized to help you, whether it’s event-planning, volunteering, or fundraising. Most people can get 50-100 to attend a wedding, and all those people have friends that would probably come with them if invited, and those people have friends, and so on. That’s how you need to approach fundraising.

Don’t mistake a fundraiser for a bundler. A bundler is a rich, enthusiastic supporter who can put on events for you and has a cadre of rich buddies who love a good cause. Having good bundlers is a luxury; developing a coherent fundraising plan is not.

4. Start Early

We live in a perpetual campaign cycle, so the earlier you can start, the better. You know the election is in November – I would suggest having your first fundraiser by the end of the previous year. Don’t roll out of bed three moths before the election and expect to win. Tony Montana might sum it up something like, “First you get the money, then you get the people, then you do your petitions, then you run your ads, then you slime your opponent, then you get out the vote, and THEN you get the power!”

5. You Need 10 Super-Volunteers

Well, 10 is a nice number. I guess it could be 9, or 8, but shoot for 10. If you don’t know 10 people who like you enough to walk districts with you regularly, you have no business being on the ballot. I’m not talking about the people who find you via newspaper ads, television, or the internet. Those will come later. But you need to start off with a group of enthusiastic people who will be with you until the very end. They are probably family or good friends, and maybe one or two are rabid supporters who heard about or met you. Lean on them to help with events and get you through the petition drive. The organization will build over time, and more will come aboard. But again, this all goes back to the previous three steps. If you’re broke, started late, and nobody knows you, the campaign is all in your head.

6. Platforms Are a Three-Course Meal, Not a Smorgasbord

If you took a person from the community, explained to them that if elected you will “lower taxes, balance the budget, get more state funding for schools, get labor concessions on union contracts, protect land from overdevelopment, put more cops on the street, penalize companies that pollute, institute a recycling program, push for the decriminalization of marijuana, cut down on medicaid fraud, and promote green energy”, then said, “Now quick, tell me what I’m going to do if elected!”…how much do you think they’ll remember?

Probably next to nothing. The whole point of developing a platform is so that people remember it when they go to vote. Don’t overload them with your 25-point plan to save the universe. Hell, don’t overload yourself. Having a bold vision is great, put keep it to a few main points that are easy to remember. Think of it like a meal, or a dinner plate. You have your steak (big, bold proposal!), your baked potato (slightly less bold, but very much needed proposal), and your sweet corn (very cool, exciting idea). Overload the plate and by the time they’re halfway finished, the rest looks disgusting. If people want more info, they can go to your website. Of course you need a vision for the thousand-and-one problems affecting the community, but people will ask you about that in good time.

Your main platform is the two, three, or four talking points you drill into people’s heads over, and over, and over again until it becomes synonymous with your name. Facing a tough question you can’t answer? Bring it back to the platform. You can’t be all things to all people, so develop a brief, consistent platform based on your larger vision for the community.

7. You Have To Walk (Seriously)

Stop sitting around the campaign office acting like a big shot. Get off your fat, lazy ass, and go meet some people. YOU, candidate, person asking for votes – jump in a car with a team of walkers, and bang out an election district by dawn. If the election is in 150 days, and there are 50 election districts (EDs) in the wider legislative district you’re running in, and you walk one ED per day (or 7 per week), you will have walked the entire district three whole times before the vote. And guess what? It didn’t cost you a dime. No amount of mailers, phone calls, or commercials, all of which together cost thousands of dollars, are as valuable as the free time you spend meeting people. Sounds simple in theory, but it takes an incredible amount of willpower to keep that up over an entire campaign cycle.

I’ve worked for candidates who started their day early, made phone calls to ask for money, attended a public event, shook hands at a bus stop or supermarket, did a phone interview or wrote something for the local paper, and finished out the day by walking one or two election districts, stopping at around 7 or 8 o’clock. Any hours not spent meeting people or asking for money were dedicated to event planning. They met virtually everyone in the district many times over, and held a fundraiser 1-2 times per month. None of this cost them anything but time, and even a shitty fundraiser should break even. Needless to say, they were always competitive on election day if they didn’t outright win. If you already hold office, pray to Zeus you never run into a challenger like this, because they will force it to the final drive and MAKE YOU beat them.

Lazy, out of shape, weak-willed candidates do not survive the cycle. By October they already look beaten and worn (and they didn’t even do anything!). I volunteered for one guy who did nothing but sit in his office cracking jokes. He had a 3 to 1 money advantage over his opponent, actually held this seat once before, and said he was too old to walk districts, and that everybody knew him already. He went on to lose in embarrassing fashion to a woman who ran like her life depended on it.

Don’t send other people out to walk for you if the district is small enough that one person can cover it over the course of the election. People don’t want to talk to volunteers, or have garbage hung on their door knob with your big dumb face on it. They want to meet YOU. Walk, meet people, and when they’re not home, personally sign the garbage you leave on their door. They’ll remember it! If you’re too old to walk, then you’re too old to run.

8. Be a Gentleman (or a Woman)

You would be amazed at how many candidates have a problem with hygiene. Comb your hair, smell nice, and for fuck’s sake, try to get through a meal without spilling it on yourself. What are you, five years old? People don’t vote for nutjobs with maple syrup all over their shirt. In fact, if you’re my candidate, I don’t want you eating at events at all. I’m serious – don’t even sit down. If it’s a suit and tie affair with a buffet, stay away from the food, have a drink in hand (pretend to sip it for all I care), and work the entire room.

Pancake breakfast? Same deal. Grab a coffee, lightly sip it, have ONE PANCAKE just to show them you’re human, and that shit better be cut up nicely with nothing on it that drips. Walk around, sit with people, and shake everyone’s hand before you leave.

Don’t find yourself in a corner, stuffing your face, locked in deep conversation with the only person crazier than you. Congratulations, you and your soulmate solved the universe in three hours. If only there were 875 hours in a day, you’d have time to bond with everybody like that. Too bad there’s 24 and you just wasted an entire event on one person. “I’m shy; not really a people person.” That sucks – NEVER RUN FOR OFFICE.

9. Don’t Bitch About The Media – Use Them

Most of the town reads a local newspaper. It helps to be cordial with the people who write it! This seems to be a problem for Republicans, who get their rocks off dismissing all the local news as “liberal rags” that are out to get them. Even if that is the case, be cordial anyway, and always be highly accessible. It’s hard to slime a candidate who is friendly and likable, and all it takes is one bad experience with your opponent for them to decide, “You know what? Fuck that guy, I’m endorsing the campaign who treats me well.”

Beyond this, you should be submitting columns to them, having your most fervent supporters write letters to be published, and getting volunteers to share your campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and message boards. Conspiracy theories about the media never won anybody votes. Sometimes, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

10. For Third Party Candidates: Have a Goal Other Than Winning

This is a hard sell, but third party candidates have to realize what they’re up against. First off, the previous 9 points? That goes double for the third parties. You need to work twice as hard, twice as much as the other two, because there is no larger organization to piggy-back off of. The chances of you winning on a third party line are so low, so absolutely remote, that you would be doing a serious disservice to yourself and your supporters by not having a plan B.

I am a big supporter of third parties gaining traction, but they need to be smart. Getting one of the major parties to co-opt your platform (i.e. realize it’s working and steal it) is a good thing. That means in spite of losing, your issue won the day. But the only way that’s going to happen is if you can grab a decent portion of the vote.

Maybe your campaign operation scares enough people that they offer you a position that would allow you to impact the district in other ways, or provides a greater voice to your loyal following. Or maybe you’re just after whatever percentage of the vote that will gain your party “major party” status. There are plenty of reasons to stay in the race beyond winning, but you’ll still need to work hard enough to get something like 10, 15, or 20 percent of the vote.

11. If You’re Going To Primary a Party Favorite, You Must Divide & Conquer The Committee

Here’s the thing about primaries: regular people don’t vote in them. It’s all legislative staffers, organization hacks, and the friends and family of those people. If you’re going to shove a rocket up the party chairman’s ass, make sure you a) have a real list of the committee members and b) have a shot at dividing them. People need to be really upset with the “endorsed candidate” for them to consider an alternative. They have to believe their jobs or future with the party won’t be jeopardized by supporting you.

Remember that the party chairman typically HATES democracy. Despises it, in fact. Their attitude is basically, “Shut up and support who I give you, dummy”. If it was up to them, society would be governed by an Aristotelian cadre of hand-picked loyalists. Essentially, this is the party process. When the committee is unanimously behind a candidate, chances are a primary is futile.

12. Keep Your ‘Crazy’ To Yourself

This is for the third partiers more than anyone else, but it applies across the board. Do not talk about conspiracy theories in public, do not tell people you watch Ancient Aliens on the History Channel, do not talk about fluoride in the water, and do not waste people’s time with revisionist history about “who really killed JFK” and other wacky nonsense concerning what you think you know about what goes on behind the scenes. Hell, you might even be RIGHT about one of your theories. But there is no point in polarizing people over something that never needed to be brought up. Stick to the issues they care about.

Also, give your staff a break and don’t repeatedly bother them with paranoid bullcrap like “They’re tapping my phone!” and “My opponent put a tail on me!” This is not a Tom Clancy novel, it’s real life, and you need to stop treating your campaign like the ultimate adventure. Don’t be wacky-fun guy with the catch-phrase and the odd getup either. Nobody needs that in their life.

On the contrary, don’t overcompensate so much that you’re showing up on people’s doorsteps wearing a suit and tie like a proselytizer from the freaking Church of Latter Day Saints. Take it from me: people won’t answer the door if they think you’re trying to convert them.

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/04/meet-the-influence/


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