Reflections on a Political Loss

It has taken me a while for me to write anything at all, but on the afternoon of April 10th I wrote this to a few colleagues who had been supporting Rick Guzman’s run for Aurora mayor:

“By now you know that Rick Guzman lost his race for Aurora mayor by a narrow, narrow margin. We were away this weekend visiting family when we got a text Friday saying that he, not wanting to appear obstructionist or to stand in the way of the transition, was going to concede. The numbers are not all in yet (!), but it appears he lost by about 170 votes on the high end, and as few as 101 votes on the low. He wanted to get within 76 votes before going through the expensive and uncertain process of a recount, but figures he will fall about 25 votes shy of that.

NegatvCampgns“Of course we are devastated. This is an age where actual accomplishments don’t often mean much—he has had far more than his opponent—and where fake news holds terrible sway. We were the victim of such news when a super pac in Evergreen Park just made up a story, totally lies, and released it on a fake news website. My wife is friends with a member of a prominent Aurora political family and watched as this story was circulated by them on social media the weekend before the election. We had also heard others repeat this fabrication for about a week.

“In an election this close many of us who volunteered can’t help but have thoughts like, if I had only Contributed 100 more dollars, or Made 100 more calls, or Knocked on 100 more doors, maybe that would have made the difference. The only one who I hope does not harbor such thoughts is Rick himself, who sacrificed many times more than anyone else. It’s possible he knocked on more doors himself than all of the rest of us combined.

“I will write more fully on the loss in the near future and post it to my website after we’ve had time to digest it all and to try to recover. For now we’re just discouraged—at least I am, who has never been much a fan of politics in the first place.

“During the campaign people often said to me, You must be very proud. I always took this as a strange statement because I was already as proud of Rick as I could be and winning or losing wasn’t going to have much of an impact on that one way or the other. His accomplishments were already impressive, but my pride has always emanated from something greater: my knowledge of how very deep his desire was to be a good man and to make a difference. I told him this soon after election night, and he replied, ‘Thanks, Dad. I am who I am because of you.’ May we all be as lucky to get those kinds of replies from our children. At Bryan’s memorial service, where so many spoke, especially all his brothers, Hal Wilde came up afterwards, tears in his eyes, and said to me, ‘I hope you know you’re the luckiest man in the room.’ I speak of my own feelings at this moment—knowing that Rick’s and the family’s feelings are more important now—only to say I am constantly aware of my immense luck in having the family I do. Maybe in a while, the story will turn from deep disappointment in the loss and in politics in general to more of a story where a political unknown, dead last in the beginning and given no chance at all, ran a race against three political veterans with decades of name recognition behind them, plus five write-in candidates, to come this close to winning. I hope so. Thanks for your interest and support.”

It’s hard to sort out the many regrets you have at times like these, but in my note I pointed to two, big political ones: the negativity and the fake news.  And I was sorry that our own campaign felt it also had to mention negative things.  As someone said to me, “But what we mentioned was ALL true!”  I suppose.  But I met several supporters of Rick’s opponent, Richard Irvin, whose resolve to vote for their man was stiffened by that negativity.  The links below will take you to a Tribune article by Steve Lord on both campaigns’ negative turns, as well as a long note from Rick himself commenting on it.  Of course, the negativity of this campaign pales when put in the context of the history of negative campaigns in American politics.  Why do we put up with it?  That’s a subject for a later post.  My aversion to it marks me, I suppose, as politically naive, but still….

 Read Steve Lord’s news story, which begins: “The mayoral race in Aurora that has been lauded for its positivity took a negative turn this week.”

 Read Rick Guzman’s comment on the last days of the campaign.  His comments seem supported by what Lord reports in his story above.

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Beware the “Push Poll”

The November 2016 elections didn’t exactly build our confidence in polling and pollsters, and most vowed a period of “soul searching” after a series of fairly spectacular inaccuracies.  So we’re already wary of polls.  Hopefully the soul searching will yield something, but there’s a kind of poll that we should be suspicious of forever: the so-called push poll, a staple of dirty political trickery.

PoynterRick Guzman—in his run for mayor of Aurora, IL—has been a victim of push polls both in the primary and, now, general election.  It goes like this, a fake pollster calls up and asks questions intended to plant serious questions in the voter’s mind.  “What would you think of Rick Guzman if you heard he had mismanaged a non-profit?”  In this world of fake news, this counts 100% as a fake question, and it gets away with slander without technically being slander.  The questions didn’t say that Guzman mismanaged a non-profit, but asks only what the voter would think of him IF he mismanaged a non-profit.  That giant IF, however, often slides by the listener, especially because they think this might be a real poll.

There’s a similar question going around now asking what a voter would think of Guzman IF they found out he had paid taxes late.

No such lateness.  And about the non-profit mismanagement?  The reality is the just opposite.  In 2016, after a year-long research and vetting process, Guzman’s non-profit, Emmanuel House, was named one of the “Top 100 Most Innovative” social change organizations in the world.

Vicki Krueger, writing for the well-respected Poynter Institute, says this about push polls:

“It happens  every election cycle. You’ll get a call that sounds like a political poll but is really a campaign tactic. Some calls are ‘push polls,’ political telemarketing that attempts to create negative views of candidates or issues. Others are legitimate message-testing surveys, used by campaigns to see which types of messages will be most successful.

“Here’s how you can tell the difference.

Push polls
*  Often ask only one or very few questions, all about a single candidate or a single issue.
*  Usually ask questions that are strongly negative (or sometimes uniformly positive) describing the candidate or the issue.
*  May not name the organization conducting the calls, or sometimes use a phony name.
*  Do not ask for demographic information.
*  Can give evasive answers when you ask for information about the survey.
*  Usually call very large numbers of people, sometimes many thousands.
*  Do not use a random sample.
*  Rarely, if ever, report results.

Message testing
*  Usually based on a random sample of voters.
*  The number of calls is within the range of legitimate surveys, typically between 400 and 1,500 interviews.
*  Usually contains more than a few questions, including demographic data.
*  Will often share results on request.”

So be alert to negativity and evasiveness.  Ask the questions the Push Poll criteria above imply.  What organization is calling?  Where can I see the results?  Get technical, even: What’s your sample size, and is it randomized?—which could scare off even the most committed fake pollster, though most are hired guns and not committed at all.

The Poynter Institute, established in 1975, has this tagline: “A Global Leader in Journalism. Strengthening Democracy.”  As much as Poynter really has done for journalism and democracy, all us ordinary citizens must finally be the ones who, on behalf of democracy, step up and reject tactics that spread insinuations and falsehoods.  These ultimately weaken the fabric of civil, respectful discourse.  Guzman for Aurora is proud it’s never stooped to such tactics.

 Go to the Lead Post for the Guzman for Aurora campaign on this site.

 Go to the Guzman for Aurora website.

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Durbin, Foster, Labor and Daily Herald Endorse Rick Guzman

Guzman for Aurora has announced that Dick Durbin, senior Senator from Illinois, and Bill Foster, Congressman of the 11th District, which includes Aurora, have endorsed Rick Guzman for Aurora mayor.  In addition, Labor has also thrown its support behind Guzman’s candidacy, as has the Daily Herald, Illinois’ third largest newspaper. The full text of the Herald‘s endorsement follows below.

DurbinFoster

The Daily Herald had previously endorsed Guzman in the primary, and now the newspaper’s Editorial Board has said this in its endorsement of Guzman to be the next mayor of Aurora:

“After a February primary in which they winnowed four ballot candidates along with five declared write-ins down to two general election candidates, Aurora voters now must decide between longtime Alderman-at-Large Richard Irvin and City Hall staffer Richard ‘Rick’ Guzman for mayor.

DailyHerald-Logo1“It’s a compelling choice, as both bring experience and a passion for the city and the job. Irvin, 46, has served on the City Council for 10 years and is making his third attempt for mayor. Guzman, 39, has worked for the last five years in the mayor’s office as assistant chief of staff. He is making his first attempt at political office.

“Irvin, an attorney, uses a slogan, C + E = P, to explain his vision and what he will focus on: reducing crime, improving education and economic development, all leading to prosperity. It’s a good sound bite for the hard-charging alderman.

guzman-for-aurora“But we are more impressed with Guzman’s thoughtful approach to the job. Rather than claiming he has all the answers, Guzman recognizes that the job of mayor is to build coalitions as he works to improve the city. He has made that the central theme of his campaign.

“While Irvin says he’s the one who understands best how to deal with crime in the city, Guzman, meanwhile, won the endorsement of two former city police chiefs. Guzman also has been on the front lines in bringing development to town in his role in the mayor’s office.

“Irvin says he would develop an economic development plan for each ward in the city and expects each alderman to fulfill those plans. Guzman, meanwhile, wants to focus on commercial corridors, regardless of ward, as a more strategic way of bringing in more economic development.

“While it’s clear both candidates are committed public servants, we like Guzman’s approach to governing best and endorse him as the next mayor of Aurora.”

 Go to the Lead Post for articles about Rick Guzman’s campaign on this site, and to the Guzman for Aurora website.

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