Over on Crosscut, Ted Van Dyk expresses his disappointment with Joe Mallahan’s campaign:
At local level, I am concerned that Joe Mallahan, though having a financial advantage (his own wallet) over other mayoral challengers to Nickels in next month’s primary, has not waged the well-managed campaign I would have expected. Voters clearly want a positive change from Nickels, and Drago is Nickels in drag. Mallahan, however, has not stepped smartly into the breech and established himself in voters’ minds as the hard nosed, businesslike, managerial type — with actual knowledge of economics and budgets — badly needed after eight careless tax-and-spend years of city governance. I have been surprised by Mallahan’s seeming lack of knowledge of city issues that have been on the front burner for several years. With his funding advantages, I had anticipated that by now he would be running in the front of the Nickels-challenging pack. He has a month left to get there.
Considering Van Dyk’s impressive political resume (did you know he worked in the Johnson administration?) I’m not sure why he’s so surprised at Mallahan’s relatively lackluster performance thus far, for self-financed candidates often run disappointingly mediocre campaigns. No doubt having a pile of money to spend on yourself can be liberating, especially from the daily chore of “call time,” but as tedious, time consuming and unpalatable as some candidates find it, fundraising also presents a crucial opportunity to listen to voters, hone one’s message, and develop crucial campaigning skills. Indeed, some of the best politicians I know tell me that they actually enjoy fundraising.
Running for office isn’t easy, nor should it be, for as imperfect a metric as it is, the strength, efficiency and passion of one’s campaign is often a predictor of future performance in office. There are many ways in which we weed out weaker candidates, and one of these is through their ability to raise money. Thus by skipping over this crucial step and jumping to the head of the line, Mallahan has missed out on all the political training and preparation that would have come with it.
On the flip side, had Mallahan not kicked off his campaign by sinking $200,000 of his own cash into it, it’s unlikely his candidacy would have been taken as seriously, and thus his subsequent fundraising efforts would have been all the more difficult. But why Van Dyk would conflate a fat wallet and a successful business career into an automatic expectation of a “well-managed campaign” is beyond me.
Money is damn important in politics. But how you get it can be pretty significant as well.