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A good friend of ours returned from college and after a few years of observing the state of town government in the town we all grew up in decided that the time had come to bring some new life into Town Hall.
John Klimm had always been a hard working, smart guy. His parents were both Town employees, and he strongly believed in the ability of efficient, competent government to make a positive difference.
A the time our fast growing home town was governed by a trio of Selectmen who would have to be called 'well meaning'. The rate of growth and size of our new Town, however, dictated a move beyond 'well meaning' to competent and professional.
John approached us to ask what we thought about certain issues, and a general discussion ensued that led to our first stint as a "media director" of a political campaign.
John has assembled a small group of people he had met through work on various Town committees to form the 'behind the scenes' group that would raise money, work with their contacts and friends and have and 'advise and consent' power over the campaign. Working with this group we mapped out an aggressive campaign, and John did his part. He worked hard, knocking on doors, networking with local power brokers, finding those people who could raise the money we needed., etc. The 'Committee' did their jobs too.
Our general strategy was to portray our opponent, an entrenched, long time selectperson, as incompetent to deal with the rapid changes in our Town and, though not totally corrupt, at least leaning in that direction. John would be presented as competent, professional and honest.
Our opponent dismissed John as 'young and inexperienced', and indicated that she would not be taking his candidacy seriously. She was very familiar with John, as he had been instrumental in a petition drive to have her removed from office in the past few years.
Our campaign featured many media events and press releases. After announcing that he was running for office, we went to Washington, DC as our first media event, sending photos and press releases of our visit to our local newspapers.
There were also many 'seat of the pants' aspects of our campaign. We heard that there was going to be a marching band competition at the local high school, and that there would be a parade at the end of the contest.
We noticed there was virtually no publicity for the parade, so we quickly placed ads in the local papers for our 'Easter Bandwagon', where the candidate appeared with the Easter Bunny on a tour of the seven villages in our Town, climaxing with a giant Easter Parade.
We had a simple plan for commandeering the parade. Our volunteers would simply walk in front with our campaign signs and a sign announcing 'our' parade, and after the dozen or so marching bands and the police cars that traditionally end our parades, the candidate in a big convertible, arm and arm with the Easter Bunny.
Voila!! A giant Klimm Easter Parade. The only problem came when our campaign chairman (who knew nothing of our plan to convert an existing parade to our parade) and members of the 'Committee' called in a panic, worried that there were going to be two parades. When they heard our intentions, they angrily demanded that we cancel our event. The parade went on.
As the election neared, we began a heavy schedule of newspaper and radio ads. Two weeks before the election we ran a hard hitting, full page ad in the local weeklies, called 'Shopping for Selectman'. The ad talked about the 'fat' in the Selectman's office, and asked "As you're buying your balogna, knowing it consists of fillers and junk, think about the incumbents six year record in office ... ".
Needless to say, the ad was very controversial, but effective.
During the last two weeks of the campaign we ran a series of small ads in the weeklies, purchasing enough space to get one of our small pieces on just about every page of the paper. The ads were simple, stressing honesty, integrity and competence. The ads didn't mention our opponent, but by implication suggested she had none of these qualities.
We made a strong effort in the last week of the campaign, showing up in multiple locations around Town with small groups of supporters holding campaign signs, lots of print and radio ads and a flurry of press releases. At the end of Election Day John had won handily, the beginning of a career in elective office that lasted over a decade.
Unfortunately, the 'Committee', the group of advisors and power brokers who provided behind the scenes advice and support to the campaign, set about trying to create a political machine. Their efforts set the stage for many interesting confrontations over the coming years.
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