The anatomy of a political campaign
My initial reaction to the news that there would be a special election this Spring to fill the State Senate seat in the 37th District was “Who cares?” This attitude ended abruptly when I got to work on this year’s income taxes and began to wonder what the state does for me.
The Democratic candidate for this office was a woman named Pam Iovino. I was familiar with her because a group of my neighbors who are dedicated Democrats had supported her a year ago in an earlier campaign.
Her Republican opponent was an equally familiar person, Mr. D. Raja, an Indian immigrant who has built a successful information technology firm while dabbling in local politics. My neighbors were equally dedicated to their opposition to his candidacy.
Consequently I decided to pay attention to the campaign and to document each event that occurred during it, as well as my current preference for either of the candidates. It was an interesting project, one that highlighted my personal biases regarding contemporary politics.
On March 4 I received a visit from one of my neighbors, encouraging me to support Ms. Iovino. He is a gentleman I greatly respect, despite the fact he and I differ greatly on several major issues.
Three days later my mail included a negative ad attacking Mr. Raja, accusing him of business practices that were completely irrelevant to this campaign. This annoyed me greatly; I am strongly opposed to negative campaigning. I would receive four more such ads in the days to come.
In total I received nine mailings from the Democrats, two from the Republicans. The telephone solicitation was equally one-sided. It appears that the Democrats nationally were significantly more interested in this local election than the Republicans and that locally there was a massive volunteer effort for Ms. Iovino and none whatsoever for her opponent.
The evening before the election I received a phone call from a volunteer in Texas begging me to vote for Ms. Iovino. I had a long discussion with her, trying to understand why she thought her opinion regarding a local election about which she knew absolutely nothing should matter to me.
By the time the election actually occurred I was still undecided upon which candidate I would support. I decided to pose a handful of litmus test questions to volunteers at the polling place and make my decision based on their answers. The questions included infrastructure funding; the proposed Marcellus shale severance tax; and state funding of local municipal projects, a subject that currently has me upset.
Unfortunately, when I arrived at the polling place, there were no volunteers there from either party. This is unusual; typically one must run a gauntlet of volunteers each pleading “Vote for my candidate.” Consequently I was forced to rely on a flip of a coin to make my decision.
So, why did Ms. Iovino win this election? I attribute her success to the enthusiasm of her volunteer supporters, an enthusiasm stemming partly from her gender and partly from the general dissatisfaction many people have with the current resident of the White House. I detected no enthusiasm whatsoever for her opponent; it appears the Republican Party has gone into hibernation in this area.