Hal Heiner, former candidate for Louisville mayor, announced on You Tube that he's running for governor.
Kentucky politics is a contact sport. It is part football, part basketball, part checkers, part chess, and part Kentucky Run for the Roses. The drama of running for Kentucky Governor is steeped in the tradition of bare knuckled, knock ‘em down local politics.
Political legends from the 20th Century best exemplify this concept. Names like Wendell Ford, Julian Carroll, and Wallace Wilkerson all brought to the playing field a certain close-in fighting skill and an ability to make the people believe in a vision for the future.
These political fighters played rough. They fought to win. They offered themselves up as heroes in hard economical times for the working class. When they announced for governor, it was a very big deal. They opened in statewide one to two day plane or bus tours. They hit all media markets with full front page coverage.
The impact of these first few hours of their campaigns was that everyone in Kentucky knew their name, knew their vision for the future, and knew their feelings for their region of the state.
So far in the pre dawn days of the 2015 race, there are two announced candidates for governor. Jack Conway, the Democrat and Hal Heiner, the Republican. Both announced their candidacy in a modern soft, You Tube manner. Both had limited media exposure and both came across as boring.
If these two are early examples of running for governor in 2015, then the process will become a political train wreck of lost visions, lost opportunities and dashed hopes.
They set the stage for the 10 ways to lose the governor’s race. See below.
1. Soft Kick off of campaign. Use video to make your major coming out statement to run for governor. No regional or local mass gatherings to take the campaign to the people. Image is of elite people who do not have time to mingle with the little people, called voters.
2. Weak Image of Issues and Needs. Same old words come across as campaign themes. Use Boring sound bites. No promise of passion to solve the major problems or fight for the least of our society. Project the image of little understanding of where Kentucky is in the 21st Century.
3. Go All Mass Media. Bypass all print, daily and weekly news outlets. Use only social media and video for primary media platform. This will minimize actual physical contact with massed hordes of voters. This approach will almost for certain lose the race for you!
4. Failure to Establish Deep Network of County Support. No strategy for building an army of local supporters in every county in the state. Without local “boots on the ground” only medium left is a massive “throw money at the TV screen” strategy. Wrong on so many levels of thinking.
5. Failure to be Bold. Weak ideas equal weak image. Strong statements and ideas, delivered with deep passion usually translate into voter victory.
6. Wait too Long to Start. The political landscape is always in turmoil. There never is a good time to launch a statewide campaign. The trick is to know when to “bend the arch of history toward your campaign.” In other words, when is the best time to strike? It is never too early to start. We live in a very complex media age. The more time spent in contacting people, establishing strong local support bases, raising money and controlling the news cycles all require vast amounts of planning and time.
7. Failure to Build Right Staff. Issue research, voter registration, opposition candidate research, media campaign, advance field work on tours and rallies all require a certain amount of professionalism. Volunteers are good, but most are without the higher skills needed to mount statewide strategic actions or thinking. The core professional staff or those you trust the most that will be with you 24 hours a day must have some degree of statewide politics and how to fight a hand to hand political war.
If this part of the campaign is compromised or left for others to fill for you, then you have lost the war before you even start.
8. Finding Mr./Ms. Right Running Mate. Your running mate must be perfect. They must be from the right area of the state. They must have some experience with large political events. They must be able to inspire without over powering the primary candidate. And, most important they must have a deep passion for running.
9. Regionalism can Kill You. Kentucky has seven unique regions. They are (1) Central, (2) North (3) East, (4) Northeast (5) South (6) Western and (7) Louisville. A run for governor must touch each and everyone to be successful. Anything less is a formula for defeat. The trick is knowing how to reach out to each region on a winning platform.
10. Failure to Engage the People. No victory can be had if you, as a candidate, fail to have the passion or the vision to excite the voters. In this voting cycle of 2014 and 2015, people want a hero. They want someone to fight for them. Fail to understand and act on this point means certain defeat on the night of the election.