Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Happnened in the 66th?

Torrance School Board Member Al Muratsuchi took a majority of the vote in every South Bay City North of PCH. The South Bay has often been known as a socially moderate, fiscally conservative community, so why would the 53% of voters support a Democrat who gave a supermajority to Sacramento to pass any tax, raise any fee, further any burden on the state of California?

Some will charge that Huey was too extreme for the South Bay. The Daily Breeze repeated this sentiment in their editorial, perhaps fearing to favor a losing candidate. The same calculation would explain why the Daily Breeze editorial board stood behind every Democratic state and federal candidate, but then chose to endorse Mitt Romney for President. To save face and staunch their diminishing share in political opinion, they stood by a candidate with losing views and values, and now voters in the South Bay 66th will lose more money to a state apparatus riven with dysfunction and spend-thrift ways.

Muratsuchi was and is and so far seems to remain to the Left for the South Bay. Now he has left for Sacramento, and who knows what is in store for this district or the state for the next two years.

Criag Huey staged a Friday meeting (11/ 16) to review what went wrong, went went right, and what was simply unexpected in this race. The public sector unions and the special interests, along with Muratsuchi's own campaign, dumped $3-4 million dollars into this Assembly seat. With $6 billion dumped on the nationwide campaign, with $7 million coming out of Bill Bloomfield's bank account, the notion that money will buy a campaign has lost all seriousness.

Not money, but ideas matter and sell the point. Not advertisements, but outreach makes all the difference. Craig Huey was more than a credible candidate. He had the incredible integrity to tailor his message to reach out to concerns of many voters in the South Bay. His message did not reach enough people, nor was his campaign strategy prepared for the Obama-juggernaut to bring out the vote for the incumbent President against a lukewarm Republican challenger. Despite former House Speaker Tip O-Neill's assertion that all politics is local, the nation race had a devastating impact on the 66th Assembly race.

For all the mailing and persuading that Huey published and released, all too much of it was garnered toward the older, more propertied set of voters. Protecting Prop 13 is an admirable platform, but I heard very little about what the Republican candidate or the statewide party were offering to do in order to help struggling high school and college-age students, many of whom were convinced that without Prop 30, without more revenue, their education would be more impoverished than ever.I also received very little which touched on the concerns of Hispanic voters -- immigration, the DREAM Act -- or other issues which would invite more inquiry from African-American voters: school vouchers.

The biggest bombshell that I learned about in the meeting, and I applaud Huey's willingness to review his failures as well as his successes, is that their strategy underestimated the turnout in Gardena, West Carson, and Harbor City. According to previous election results, the turnout in the Eastern sections of the South Bay has been minimal at best. This year, those expectations received the thorough thrashing which they deserved. Consultants in Sacramento or elsewhere are losing touch with the voting trends of our times. Internet, mass media, and intensive word-of-mouth information has all but decimated the previous projections.

It is not wise to write off entire constituencies just because in past cycles, there was a low turnout. An election campaign cannot rest on the empty assumption that certain demographics will not vote. I spoke with two women leaving the Huey office. Both of them shared that they were Democrats, and both agreed with me that a strategy which assumes little participation in one section of a district was not wise.

The larger national trends created greater problems for the Huey campaign. No matter how much party leaders and voters will insist otherwise, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was just too weak a candidate. A record 24 million evangelical voters did not vote in 2012. The white vote was significantly lower this time than in 2008. The GOP turnout out was low, low, low; and the top party brass, which has made winning elections more important than promoting a winning vision to the voting public, trumped their own chances.

President Obama was a lackluster choice for Democrats, but Romney without a record to run on, had an inconsistent platform, with promises that distanced him from swing voters and moderates. The depressed reaction to his nomination, culminating with an octogenarian actor stealing his thunder at the convention, marginalized Romney as a real standard bearer. I am not surprised that a larger number of Republicans did not vote, turned off by Obama but not turned on by Romney.

Still, more outreach to minorities, respect for every voter as a potential supporter, these factors must grab the attention of future candidates. A stronger base of operations for Republicans will also engage voters who do not know or who do not currently care about what is happening to their state. The 2010 Republican candidate for the 36th Congressional District, Mattie Fein,  apparently did very little to support Craig Huey's run for Congress, and there was still less for the Huey team to work with for the 66th Assembly District run. This lack of support is unacceptable. No matter how much we differ or disagree with certain candidates, we need to support are man or woman as much as we can.

Voters in Gardena, West Carson, and Harbor City are people, too! It is appalling to me that the outreach was not there. The party leaders in the South Bay need to set up an office in the area, perhaps along Western Ave. The Republican Party needs to reach out to Michelle Rhee's "Students First" Organization, as well. This district still has a fiscally conservative heart beat. It's time for the Republicans to start playing the right music to get everyone into the groove.

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