Sunday, January 26, 2014

Running for office is nuts

A couple of weeks ago, our local Congressman, who had been in office since 1974, unexpectedly announced his retirement. Everyone, for a brief moment, considered running for his seat. This included my other half.

For two days, we thought hard and did our research. We spoke to an expert on campaigns, an expert on fundraising, and an election law attorney. The cons heavily outweighed the pros. The sheer cost of running a campaign was breathtaking, and prohibitive. Not only do we have to kick in a significant chunk of our own life savings, but we have to spend practically every waking moment calling and wooing potential donors.* This, of course, could be circumvented under our currently atrocious campaign finance laws if we were independently wealthy (which means unlimited donations to ourselves) or if we had a sugar daddy/momma to start and fund a SuperPAC (so long as the PAC didn't communicate with the campaign).

*All of that fundraising would get us a fourth place finish, maybe. But hey, we'll have earned the name recognition needed for the next time around, when we get to run against the incumbent!

California's unique election rules make it even more expensive to run. Here, during the primary election, the top two vote getters, even if they are both from the same party, get to run against each other in the general election. In our district, which is 2-to-1 in favor of Democrats, the primary race will probably consist of a bunch of Democrats and a few token Republicans. Each candidate during the primary is not only running a campaign to appeal to Democrats. S/he will have to spend three times more, in order to appeal to Republicans and independents.

Given that the potential candidates are all professional and decent, the campaign will be civil. But what if we win? The national opposition will paint the winner as a tax-and-spend liberal, and worse. If you have ever read comments on Yahoo News, you know how nasty people can be. Are all the insults and vitriol worth it?

Finally, there is the disruption to one's career and life that a campaign causes. It's simply not worth it, at least at this point of our lives.

I was reminded of all this last night when I watched Mitt. The documentary follows Romney, behind the scenes, from 2007 to 2012. He and his family are nice, intelligent, normal, and successful. The stress and heartache of the 2008 and 2012 campaigns on them all were just overwhelming.


Lukáš Novotný said...

Really interesting article. In Europe, there is of course same problem with money for campaing and so on. Nevertheless, we got many small political parties (Greens, Pirates, Christians ...) which operates with a very little amounts of money and they get elected anyway.
BTW: I recomend you awesome series House of Cards, in case if you haven't seen it already.

Maxichamp said...

@Lukas: I have heard good things about House of Cards. I will check it out!

midelectric said...

On the other hand, it could be a great adventure. In wide open races like these it seems that having some name recognition up front is a great asset.

You do have to be a bit nuts but if you have a vision for governance and a passion for service where else would you be able to apply it?