Sunday, April 26, 2015

Well hello again

Brian here, and back from my Rabett blogging hiatus while campaigning for re-election to the Water District, with an outcome that came in about 1% less well than I would've wanted. When the elected position ended I took some time off to gallivant in Indonesia. Below the jump, for those that may be interested, I'll post a few thoughts on the election (I'll save Indonesia for another post) and then I plan to return to regular blogging in the days and weeks ahead.

Click the headline for the full post.....

I had thought to do a full brain dump on the Water District election, but that seems a little too much and a little stale at this point. We got 49.22% of the vote and were outspent 20 to 1. That's the campaign in a sentence. What may be of some interest is what I could've done differently and whether I should've done those things differently.

One possibility is to have lifted my self-imposed maximum contribution limits. I had people who were willing to give more than $500 - maybe it would've been enough to get out another mailing and get the extra votes we needed. I think I was right to set a limit but I should've given myself some wriggle room, as long as my opponent refused to do it and was taking a $10,000 contribution instead. That would be my advice to a similar reform candidate - make an offer but don't lock yourself in when your opponent refuses to deal.

I also could have appealed more to Republicans and conservatives - the election outcome seemed to show me winning the liberal areas, so I could have reached out to them. I wouldn't have to change anything I promised, just point to my record on cost-savings. Still there's an opportunity costs appealing to one group in that it gives you less time to work for support from others. I think the opportunity cost would've been worth it though.

Relatedly, big farming interests weren't that happy with me - I said their water subsidies should be slightly less generous than they are currently unless they protected their land from development either temporarily or permanently. This in turn led to a prominent local Republican supporting my opponent. I don't regret this, but I also had some ideas that could support local agriculture which I never developed, and that part I do regret - the ideas might have blunted potential opposition.

I also should've worked harder at getting early endorsements. As I said to my opponent directly, his money and misinformation played a big role in getting endorsements, but so did his persistence (and paying people to help run his campaign). I actually had some personal hesitation launching into the pre-campaign, feeling like it wasn't very democratic to try to lock down endorsements and prevent a campaign from happening. That's a mistake - the pre-campaign is part of the campaign. 

More controversially, I discovered through public records that my opponent used three times as much water as the average California household, a level that a Southern California media report labelled as being a "water hog" when reporting on overusing water officials in that area. Some people thought I should stay away from this as a personal negative attack, but I think it's a fair critique as to whether he can credibly call on people to conserve. Other than pass on the information to some journalists, I didn't do much with this. In retrospect, I should have hit on this issue, hard.

Finally, he had a questionable past involvement with owning the website and with some related activities. This previous sentence is the only time I've initiated a mention of the issue in a public forum like this blog, although I did respond to people when asked about it. I think it showed questionable judgment on his part, but I don't regret staying away from the issue. Others did bring it up, and I'm okay with that as well.

So there you have it. What lesson to learn from losing a close election isn't exactly clear. Getting 49.22% isn't bad, and we got a lot done in the four preceding years, I think. My opponent has also backed off of the implications of some of the more wrongheaded statements he made during the campaign. 

We made significant advances mitigating climate change impacts and adapting to climate change for the water agency serving Silicon Valley and 5% of California's population. I can live with that, pretty happily.