Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The gauntlet

My former Congressman, Lee Terry (NE-2), has a challenger by the name of Pete Festersen.  A name I am likely to mispronounce and mistype each time that I am going to say it or type it.

I have seen three separate campaigns fail in their quest to beat Lee Terry in an election.

In an attempt to be both descriptive and prescriptive, I will highlight how the campaign for Festersen is likely to run and how I would run the campaign if I was in charge.  It will likely serve as a reminder why nobody is ringing my phone to run their campaign.

Note: This piece is running before what Festersen has announced how he feels/thinks about the Affordable Care Act.

Note#2: This piece is also running before the official deal between the Senate and the House has been put to the House floor for a vote.  Or before any type of legislation that resembles a clean C.R. reaches the House floor.

How the campaign will likely run

  • They will focus on the government shutdown; even though, Lee Terry's campaign will focus on the fact that he introduced legislation that would keep the National Highway Traffic Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (the Office of Compliance and Field Operations), and service academies open.  It is likely that Terry will either vote for a clean CR or for the Senate's compromised plan.
  • They will focus on Festersen's measures on the budget, including his budget battles with embattled former mayor Jim Suttle, showing that he is bipartisan and knows how to come to a compromise on something as important as the budget.
  • They will also focus on his refusal to pass the restaurant tax, which was unpopular.  They will also focus on his refusal to increase property taxes.
  • They will focus on his business acumen.
  • They will try hard to get a prominent Republican in Omaha, Nebraska to endorse him.  If they succeed, it will be Mike Johannes, Dave Heineman, Jean Stothert, or Pete Ricketts.  While prominent Democratic figures, including Mike Fahey, Jim Esch, John Ewing, Ben Nelson, and others, will likely endorse him, they will not be announced as prominently.
  • As part of his campaign, Festersen will announce some type of plans to cut Congressional salaries.  I assume it will be similar to the plan Tom White announced when he ran in 2010.
  • When he discusses Obamacare, he will say that it is not perfect and no healthcare reform is perfect.  He will highlight the positive results of Obamacare, such as, no discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, removal of lifetime caps on health insurance, the millions of people who have been able to get health insurance, etc.  He will likely say that while it is not perfect, he will focus on reforming the law to truly make it affordable for most, if not all.  But he is likely not going to say much on Obamacare.
  • An area where he can criticize the law will be the repeal of the medical excise tax.  This part of the law has been criticized by many on both sides of the aisle.
  • If Heineman endorses him, he will not criticize the Governor's decision not to expand Medicare.
  • He will show he's tough on crime by showing his stance on "truth in sentencing" policies.
  • Supported legislation seizing illegal guns from the Omaha streets, which is something he'll bring up
  • To fire up the Democratic base, he might highlight his vote ending the discrimination of employees who are GLBT and contrast it with Lee Terry's non-sponsorship of the Employee Non-discrimination Act
  • Will largely focus on the fact that he is a fiscal conservative who believes in certain socially "liberal" policies
  • You'll probably get tired of this quote by the end of the campaign: "we should strive to be an inclusive community and we should be opposed to discrimination of any kind."
  • Will link Lee Terry to the suicide caucus of the Republican party
  • Spending time, money, and effort to get independents and moderate Republicans to switch parties and vote for Festersen.
  • Will likely say that the estate tax should be repealed
  • Basically, it will be the same or similar campaign that has been run against Lee Terry since, at least, 2008.
How I'd run the campaign
  • Highlight the Lee Terry quote when he decided not to turn down his paycheck.  Specifically, I would focus on his quote that it was a political ploy by people.  Additionally, I would also focus attention on how quickly after the quote went viral that he changed his opinion on taking or stopping the paycheck.
  • Pull the quote from that time, specifically the political ploy part, and show video footage of Lee Terry pledging to be term limited.
  • Because of Lee Terry's statements there will be more than the usual amount of outside money coming into the campaign.  I would try and make Terry agree to a pledge not allowing any outside money to the campaign.
  • I would highlight the facts that I've shared on Saturdays and will continue to share every Saturday until Election Day.
  • Focus on Festersen's vote to approve the gay discrimination ordinance;contrast it with Lee Terry's refusal to co-sponsor the Employee Non-discrimination Act.
  • Announce support of the Keystone XL Pipeline, provided it is moved from the sandhills and Ogalla aquifer, that the oil transported through the pipeline is sold domestically, that construction of the pipeline should be primarily focused on "buy American" programs, focus on protecting the pipeline or ensuring that the pipeline will not erode, and talk about the lack of environmental impact that the pipeline will cause if constructed properly, due to the tar sands being used, regardless, of construction of the pipeline.
  • Criticize Heineman's disapproval of the expansion of Medicare. But highlight other areas where we agree with Heineman, if it's financial decisions, or what have you.
  • Receive some type of approval from Jean Stothert.  Ideally, we're looking for something of the following nature: While I disagree with some of his other political views, he was an ally in opposing the raising of the property tax or restaurant tax.
  • Distance Festersen from failed Democratic candidates in Nebraska, such as Ben Nelson
  • Highlight that Terry does not have the political pull that he claims to have, as evidenced by the fact that he has only had one bill become law
  • Come out in favor of same-sex marriage.
  • Focus on the fact that he does support providing health insurance coverage for all or most.  Say that while the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, the goal should be reforming the law instead of repealing it.  Highlight the number of Nebraskans and specifically those in the 2nd district of Nebraska who do not have health insurance.  I would even bring up the fact that Lee Terry voted against providing health insurance for 9/11 victims and first responders.
  • Highlight the business acumen
  • Showcase your ability to work bipartisanly and even state that now, more than ever, we need bipartisanship in Congress.
  • Spend more time in the more Democratic parts of the district by encouraging "Get out the vote" efforts in places that trend Democratic.  
  • Festersen will likely receive a lot of converts from the more moderate Republicans or Independents because Terry is not that popular but we would need to spend time, money, effort encouraging those people to vote, too.  Die-hards usually vote in the non-Presidential elections.  It is important to get the people who don't usually vote, to vote in these elections. Spending time, energy, and effort in these areas are crucial.
  • Come out in favor of commonsense gun reform.  This includes background checks at gun shows, guns bought online, and fully funding the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.  
  • I have not run the demographics in the 2nd Congressional District but it might make sense to back some type of immigration reform.  
  • Highlight needless or wasteful government spending that you would cut, such as funding for NASCAR sponsorships by the Department of Defense
  • Highlight that the reason you are interested in government is civic duty and making the country better.  Do not make it about a job.  If you do not believe that Congress is a civic duty, you should not be involved in running for Congress.
  • Appear with Lee Terry on election day encouraging people to vote
  • Announce immediately that you will introduce a bill that will cut Congressional pay and freeze Congressional pay.
I have specific policies that if I was running a campaign that I would encourage my candidate to come out in favor of or against on the campaign trail.  But that would be an interesting start. I don't know if it would be enough to fire up the Democratic base in the 2nd Congressional district to vote.  But I do know that I've seen the campaigns that are run by other Democratic challengers to Lee Terry that have failed and I'm tired of it.

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