Daniel J. Smiechowski: How an Underfunded Candidate can Worm onto the San Diego City Council

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Money is not always the milk of politics, and perception is not always reality. Have you ever wondered where all those contributions go in City Council elections? There is only so much campaigning one can do in these relatively small districts, and both the primary and general elections are not held citywide. So why is it implied that without gobs of do-re-me, one is perceived as a lower-tier candidate?

Along with being worthy and qualified, there needs to be a celestial alignment in favor of the poor man’s candidate.  This alignment is rare but achievable. For example: Being a resident of the district for nearly fifty years, serving on several community organizations, working as an organizer and activist and walking everywhere while cultivating friendships is a big plus. Writing prolifically for local media will also further the cause.

What is more noble than a man with few resources winning over a well-healed opponent? I believe the voters recognize this quality in candidates but unfortunately it is the media that pigeonhole an underfunded candidate as incapable of victory. So the perception becomes a reality and here comes the slippery slope. A few years ago, a candidate in my district was given over one hundred thousand dollars by a developer. Was this tidy sum dispensed over the contenders seven handicap as a golfer?  Obviously not — the prostitution of political candidates. Why does someone need a hundred thousand dollars in the first place, especially in a small geographical district where eye contact is worth more than a greenback? Where on Earth did all of that money go in the first place? If a candidate needs so much in order to get elected to our San Diego City Council, the voters ought to ask how they will manage our public tax dollars. Any person running for public office who squeezes blood out of a turnip on the stump will most likely be a good steward of our public coffers.

Think of all the waste in local political campaigns. Who needs to rent out space in a retail center in order to run for office?  Who needs to pay fancy campaign managers and consultants exorbitant amounts of money?  There are countless folks who would gladly volunteer in the name of a worthy candidate. The cost of mailing an eight-by-eleven glossy flyer to most district voters is probably around forty thousand dollars. Outside of this expense, I find it unreasonable to spend any more funds. Just walk, walk some more and keep walking. When the stars are aligned you will win, but never give up.