[Note: The observations, impressions and interpretations found here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Jeff Johnson, who's campaign this series is about. This series is about the marketing behind Jeff's campaign. This is part three in a series. Parts one and two can be found here (part one) and here (part two).]
After we quickly busted out my neighbor Jeff’s voter pamphlet statement for his 2011 Lake Forest Park Council run, we then had time to really consider how we were going to approach the message of his campaign.
I think Jeff and I agreed that the situation was pretty clear: Our City Council had proved they, like many city governments across the country, were not up to the task of making the difficult decisions needed to balance their budgets. In leiu of tough decisions, they decided it better to raise everyone’s property taxes 38% (Prop. 1) and 78% of the City rejected it.
Now three of the incumbents who conceived of and supported Prop. 1, along with a City budget committee member who also supported it, were running and they needed to be defeated because they didn’t represent the views of LFP residents. This seemed like the foundation for our main differentiator, and we were ready to go with it. But then we second guessed ourselves.
Another key dynamic to the race was an organization called LFP Gov Watch. When Prop. 1 appeared on the August 2010 primary ballot, a group of citizens made up largely of past Council members and budget committee members, banded together to create the “No on Prop. 1″ campaign that ultimately led to the 78% to 22% defeat of Prop. 1.
Recognizing their ability to inform the citizens and shine a light on the actions of City Hall, they morphed into a new group called LFP Gov Watch. Early on, the invited all of the candidates for Mayor and Council to interview for their endorsement. None of the incumbents interviewed – which I think was a mistake (although I digress) – but Jeff did and later received their endorsement.
In a subsequent informal and unplanned conversation with one of their members, we were discussing the strategy of running against the incumbents, and therefore the Council itself, and he thought it was a bad idea.
He was concerned how bad-mouthing or even mentioning the current Council would play in LFP and thought we shouldn’t come any closer to mentioning them then implying that there’s a problem.
I disagreed strongly. I thought (and still do) that if you don’t point out the problem, then you can’t articulate what it is you’re trying to solve. Either Jeff had suddenly decided to enter politics for the first time because he thought there was a problem with the Council and he was going to solve it or the Council was so great that he wanted to join it.
If not either one of those things, then he didn’t have a compelling reason to be running.
I tried hard to make the case to the Gov Watch leader, and especially to Jeff, that we had to strongly articulate the problem if we were going to make our case for Jeff being the solution. We had to risk the ire of the entrenched incumbents and their sycophants if we were going to win over the majority of LFP residents.
After much discussion, Jeff and I deferred to the institutional knowledge and experience of that Gov Watch member and tempered our message. It wouldn’t last long…
-My name is Jon Friesch, and I’m still writing about this thing.