Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Impressions of the 46 Ward Race Just call me Rich Little. Impressionist.
Note: Even though this post says April 6th I didn't actually post it until April 13th. I started working on it on the 6th. I wanted to give the election some distance before publishing it.
Well the results are in and James Cappleman is the newly elected aldercritter of the 46th Ward.
1100 votes and 11 percentage points for the Victory.
Now I'm about to enter the realm of the critic. What's a critic? Well the concept of the word critic reminds me of an old aphorism. Those that do, do. Those that can't do, teach. Those that can't do or teach, manage. Now those who can't do anything.....well they criticize.
I am the critic.
Now where did the Phelan campaign go wrong? Oh my, in so many ways.
How could the Phelan campaign have won? No matter what, they were unlikely to win. However, at the end of this post I will delve into a possible strategy that MIGHT have resulted in victory for Campaign Phelan.
In the February 22nd election both Cappleman and Phelan virtually tied at 20 percent of the vote apiece. The more interesting thing is that in the absentee and provisional ballots that were counted after election day, Cappleman had about 22 percent to Phelan's 13 percent.
What does that tell us boys and girls? That Cappleman's people were much more motivated to get out there and vote. Phelan did as well as she did partially because of a good ballot name and second ballot position in a field of 11 candidates.
She also outspent Cappleman in the weeks leading up to the February 22nd festivities.
Ballot name and position were less important in a field of two.
Now let's examine where the Phelan campaign went wrong. This could take awhile. Grab a drink and come back.
Ok, you're back.
1. Phelan acted as the ward coordinator for Terry O'Brien's ill fated County Board President run. It's difficult to claim the title of "independent" when you support that master hack. That little excursion into politics cost her any reasonable chance of support from most local liberal groups.
2. During the run up to February 22nd her campaign annoyed virtually all of her opponents with silliness and just plain rudeness. The whole "Yellow Dog Democrat" schtick her campaign sidekick Dave Clarkin had going on Uptown Update was stupid. The challenging voters on election day thing pissed people off and cost her votes on April 5th. Since some of the challenged were inevitably gay it led to suggestions she was running a homophobic campaign. I don't believe she was, but the challenges opened her up to that line of attack. Notice how 6 of the 9 remaining candidates endorsed Cappleman, one other clearly preferred Cappleman, and of the remaining two only Marc "Couraj" Kaplan endorsed her. Telling ain't it? Campaign Phelan seemed to think it was the "you will be assimilated" Borg of Star Trek fame.
3. The huge amount of outside the ward money she was bringing in hurt her campaign. We're talking probably over $200,000 from outside the ward. I'll have to wait for the final numbers to come out, but the amount and percentage of her money from ward residents was relatively small. This coupled with her short tenure in the ward and her being a renter led to charges of carpetbaggery.
4. She meets with Ed Burke to discuss "constituent services" and later gets an "unsolicited" $1500 donation from him. Dumb. She should have called in an exorcist and burned the check. That move probably cost her a few hundred votes.
5. The quality of the robo calls from the FOP. It gave her a machine stench. Then, robocalls from mama Phelan saying Molly was raised to believe in the "Golden Rule". Calls from mom? It made her seem immature and too young for office. Silliness.
6. The whole glasses on the head, changing hairstyles, and coach bag thing she had going on seemed a bit strained. Then after being criticized for it she suddenly starts showing up for meetings in condo buildings dressed in jeans. It made her seem inauthentic.
7. The anger and sense of entitlement that were evident in the Sun Times endorsement session posted online. The eye rolling didn't help there. Also nobody and I mean nobody gives a rat's ass that her dad was a prosecutor and her mom was a social worker. People care what you've done. It made her seem unprepared, immature and arrogant. More sorority girl than urban warrior.
8. The help from machine organizations and wards from the west made her seem, how do I say "machined". I mean some of her lawn signs were used O'Donnell signs from the 47th Ward that had Phelan posters stapled over them. I mean I admire the reycling, but..........sheeeeeeeeeet.
9. When a camera caught one of her outside the ward campaign workers "apparently" trying to get in the door of a building festooned in Cappleman signs her campaign took days to respond as they tried to milk the story for publicity. It looked bad. It likely turns out the worker was putting out a smelly ass cigar on the building. Just the image of an outside the ward worker smoking a cigar cost her votes. "Dese and dose. Dis and dat. "Grach". By the way "grach" is garage in Chicagoese.
10. Signs signs everywhere a sign. Is there really a good reason to put campaign signs on dumpsters? On bus stops? Postal boxes? That silliness cost votes and effort.
11. The negative flyers were WAY over the top. The photo of the woman and child looking like Dustbowl Oklahoma in 1933 was vile. The former Catholic monk and social worker wants to close down all shelters? Please. Then saying his backers were big time Republicans when many big time local Dem pols supported him. Amateurish.
12. The "endorsement" of JPUSA. That likely cost nearly as many or more votes that it garnered Campaign Phelan. The professional way to handle that would have been to secretly garner their support and keep it quiet. Unfortunately, Jon "Jon the Baptist" Trott can't keep his mouth shut. JPUSA is disliked by a strong portion of the ward because of how they maintain their properties and run their shelter. Plus their ties to Shiller didn't help.
13. Just a general stench of entitlement about the campaign and a lack of discipline. Disciplined campaigns win elections. Campaign Phelan was constantly jumping around and changing their message. To one group it's I want to work for more affordable housing. To another group it's we have enough affordable housing.
There was also a general feeling of phoniness around the campaign. That happens when campaigns are run by push polls and not ideas. The whole shock and sense of entitlement Phelan displayed when questioned about her donors was enlightening. Didn't Campaign Phelan expect that? To paraphrase a response "My Cousin Cornelius Von Phelan from New England gave me money". Ok, what about the other hundred plus donations.
14. Now this is the shit topping on the whole amateurish Campaign Phelan cupcake. The Marc Kaplan endorsement. Not only does he endorse Phelan, but in the closing days of the campaign he actively works for her victory. Now I don't know how many votes Kaplan brought to the campaign, but his letter stating that "she will work with us to develop a plan for increasing affordable housing in the 46th ward" probably cost her a similar amount of votes.
It certainly reinforced the image that the warrior of Fix Wilson Yard was willing to do or say anything to get elected.
15. The lack of humor of Campaign Phelan's online supporters. Try to be creative and make a funny once in awhile. Cappleman had me and Phelan has "Jason/Grandpappy/Captain Picard/Whatever new name he takes tomorrow. This also applied in the non online world. I had the impression Campaign Phelan was miserable and not having much fun. Campaign Cappleman seemed tired, but somewhat enjoying the experience. I guess it's easier to have fun when you know you're winning.
Essentially Campaign Phelan ran a SW or NW side machine style campaign in a lakefront ward. It was destined to fail. Take a look around at the electoral carnage in various wards throughout the city. This was not the time for a candidate to have any perceived machine ties. This was an election where "independence" was the winning theme. Can you say "parking meters"? I knew you could.
Now let's look at the mistakes of the James for Change Campaign.
I can possibly think of three.
1. The relatively small donation from the owner of the Wilson Men's Hotel. Two hundred whole Yankee dollars. Now Jay Bomberg had also given donations to Shiller, Mary Ann Smith, and Nowatny over the years, but Team Phelan tried to portray the Capplemaniac as a friend to slumlords because of that one small donation. If I had been running the campaign, and thankfully for the ward I wasn't, the check would have been sent back with a nice note of thanks and explanation.
2. Now this is subjective, but when Cappleman went negative in the last week of the campaign after Phelan's silly "No Shelters" mailers, he should have more directly tied her to Ed Burke. I would have plastered the ward with mailers of Burke's smiling visage and reminded voters of his notorious past and present. Call it "When Slick Eddy Met Molly". Cappleman did do an excellent job of mentioning Phelan's working directly against Toni Preckwinkle and his mailers suggesting that he would work with Preckwinkle and Emmanuel for reform were minor works of near political genius.
Cappleman's campaign seemed to be disciplined and professional. Phelan's campaign was ill disciplined and seemingly concerned more about winning over minor issues than winning the race. "It was a cigar, it was a cigar.......ya bastards!"
3. Now again this is a subjective criticism, but at the Shiller/Tunney moderated debate I felt both candidates and Cappleman in particular should have hit back at Shiller. Take her on and get her sputtering with anger. Criticize the use of TIF money, menu money and her lack of attention to crime and the Wilson EL stop. Instead both candidates played "pander bear" to Shiller's organ grinder. Now since Cappleman clearly knew he was ahead he made the safe move by doing that. Perhaps even the smart move. I just think hitting back would have been a more effective tactic. There was no way Shiller or the voters she had influence over were likely to vote for Cappleman. Might as well hit back, show your independence and fire up your base. This is a criticism that I may very well be wrong about, but like Patton I believe in audacity, audacity and audacity. General Patton got that line from Frederick the Great and who am I? Pirate the Great? Nah.
There is another thing that Cappleman MAY have screwed up on. Not denouncing that damned IrishPirate. Commenter "Jasper" at the Capitol Fax Blog doesn't seem to like me.
- Jasper - Wednesday, Apr 6, 11 @ 5:03 pm:
Interesting that “Irish Pirate” would complain about things negative.
Somebody by that same name made a series of obnoxious posts on websites, concerning that race. Not funny. Not entertaining. A very poor reflection on Capplenman and the fact that he never denounced people like IP says a lot about the tactics that he prefers. He’s definitely willing to get in the mud and mix it up. Hopefully that will work for the ward.
Jasper who claims not to live in our 46th Ward has a strong interest and familiarity with the race and seems fascinated with all things related to Alderman Fioretti and Alderman Reilly. He loathes Fioretti and seems to really like Reilly.
He may have been annoyed when I OBNOXIOUSLY posted this on UU last month:
Just because some balding, pudgy, pasty, wannabee Irish political boss named Downtown Brendan Reilly is trying to buy an election, doesn't mean we have to roll over and play dead for him.
Reilly thinks he's starring in his own movie. What he doesn't realize is that it's a made for TV movie and that it's not going to be made into a series.
He thinks he's Tom Hanks in "Saving Candidate Phelan."
Actually he's more like Charlie Sheen in "2 and 1/2 Candidates". Lotsa money and wind, but nothing substantial.
Perhaps I was a teeny bit over the top.
Now the paragraphs you've all been waiting for? Right? Cue silence?
How MIGHT Phelan have won?
1. She should have run against Shiller, TIFS, the machine, Daley, parking meters and business as usual. She should have stayed the hell away from Terry O'Brien, Ed Burke and any "professional" campaign handlers. She should have limited her campaign donations to $100,000 and run a grassroots campaign.
2. No sucking up to Marc Kaplan or JPUSA. No pandering to Shiller. Flat out saying that she would work to clean up the existing low income housing and allow no more low income housing to be built. Say that crime, economic development and public corruption are her big issues. Make no mention of her parent's occupations and portray herself as "Molly Phelan Warrior Princess." Have some fun. Print out posters showing her cutting the head off the "TIF Dragon" or public corruption.
3. Avoid attacking Cappleman. In fact call him James, treat him decently and just argue that Molly has the energy and vitality to slay the special interests. In fact her best bet would have been to almost pretend Cappleman wasn't running. Run against "da machine".
Essentially run a similar type of campaign that Pawal ran in the neighboring 47th Ward. Run against the machine as a warrior for the common good. The battler of Wilson Yard moves on to bigger things!
If she had run that type of campaign would she have won? Probably not. Campaign Phelan had virtually no chance against a well disciplined Cappleman campaign in a negative race. If that energy and negativity had been directed against Shiller, da machine, etc then Campaign Phelan might have made it a close race or even won.
Anyway the election is over so let's all try to get along for the good of the ward and da city!
Finally, to the disappointed Phelan supporters I say "All we are saying is give James a chance." Cue John Lennon's ghost.
Cappleman ain't perfect, but he does seem more than a bit better than most aldercritters. If he fails to work hard and well we can support someone against him in 2015. Perhaps JP Paulus will move back into the ward to save us.