With all the hoopla this week about campaign ethics, we thought it’d be an interesting feature to talk to an actual candidate about the mechanics of running a congressional campaign. We wanted to interview an experienced, savvy politician about running for office in the 21st century. Unfortunately, the only person who would talk to us was this guy:
Meet Mike Monroe. He ran as a Republican for DC’s Congressional delegate’s seat in 2004, against Eleanor Holmes Norton. He got 9 percent of the vote. Now, older and possibly wiser, he’s running again, as a Republican candidate for Maryland’s General Assembly in District 16 (Bethesda). He was good enough to answer some questions about campaigning, campaigners, and Macaca. Interview after the jump.
Wonkette: So you didn’t do very well in your last campaign. What drew you back into the game?
Michael Monroe: I’m running because anywhere gaps exist in society, where the playing fields aren’t level, it takes someone to stand up and be heard for justice for the legislatively oppressed (in this case the Republicans!). All people should be represented fairly ahead of any partisan interests. Voters can elect three out of six for the position I am running for, so they can vote for their democrats and still vote for me. And I had some t-shirts left over.
W: Why don’t you take me through a typical day campaigning for you? When do you begin, when do you end, where do you go, what are some typical challenges you face?
MM: Yesterday was a good example. 9am- Drove to Rockville to Montgomery Access TV for a taping offered to all candidates of four minutes of air time. Recorded my bit and returned back to Bethesda. Coordinated a fundraiser for early September and arranged for invitations with my wife. Made several phone calls to other candidates and officials then prepped materials for the Montgomery County Agricultural fair in Gaithersburg. Checked emails and left for the fair around 5. Spent three hours in the Montgomery County Republican tent campaigning with some of my volunteers and other candidates and passing out campaign literature. Other candidates there included the Republican Congressional Candidate in District 4, Michael Starkman, and one of the Republican Congressional Candidates from District 8, Jeff Stein. Other officials were in the tent from various campaigns. Returned home by 9pm, ate dinner with my wife, and played two games of chess with her. Made a list for the next day.
W: Wow, beats sitting on your ass all day typing inane blog posts. Now, you’ve been into politics for a while. Who did you learn campaigning from, and where?
MM: I took a seminar earlier this summer with Campaigns and Elections Magazine on the Art of Politics which featured leaders from both parties, media strategists, consultants, and candidates from all over the world. I heard from Joe Trippi, former Dean Manager, and from Michael DuHaime, RNC Political Director. I’ve attended a number of workshops and programs as well, but my campaigning is more or less self-taught. I’ve never thought of it as campaigning until someone else defined it as that. It’s just a matter of speaking directly to people about issues that matter and the most important part of all campaigning is listening to the concerns of the voters. Our system is supposed to be governing by the consent of the governed, and that doesn’t always seem to be the case, but that is my goal as a public servant.
W: Who are some of the best campaigners you’ve ever seen?
MM: Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg and Bloomberg’s Democratic opponents, Fernando Ferrer and Mark Green, for Mayor of New York in 2001 were some of the best campaigners I’ve ever seen. I moved to New York to work for CBS in late August 2001 and was a witness to the horrors of election day September 11th. The days leading up to 9/11 were filled with politicians all over Manhattan passing out flyers and water bottles with their pictures on it, approaching everyone on the street to shake their hand. Out of the dust and chaos of 9/11, I saw Rudy Giuliani and Bernard Kerik emerge as true leaders with Michael Bloomberg at their side, figures that gave everyone a sense of assurance that everything would be okay despite all of the confusion. I still have campaign material from that election that I was given on the street of Bloomberg, and I vividly remember walking to the metro to go to work on September 12th and seeing the election signs still on the streetposts and papers scattered throughout the streets, with virtually no traffic.
W: Yeah, but all those guys were pretty well known already. As a relatively unknown candidate, how do you go about increasing name recognition? What sort of campaigning tactics have you found to bethe most effective? Any creative campaign tricks you’re going to try?
MM: I can’t tell you (wait until the first week of October)
W: So what’s going on in the first week of October? A parade? Two parades? Some inane blog posts?
MM: Can’t tell you–guess you’ll have to check back then.
W: Mysterious. Well, what do you find to be the hardest and easiest parts of campaigning?
MM: The hardest thing is getting extremists on either side to listen to the message without hearing a party label. The easiest thing is talking to younger voters who are open to people and ideas rather than stuck in their ways. They could care less what party you are if you have good ideas and speak to them. Ideally, all politics would beabout good ideas and speaking directly to people, not parties. I do like reaching ot to people and encourage them to get engaged in the political process by either registering to vote, voting, helping campaigns, or even running for an office. I don’t enjoy closed minded people who refuse to listen.
W: How do you reach people who are closed-minded about people and ideas? Can you?
MM: Well, in Montgomery County, people seem to be willing to debate issues and have open-minds. They appreciate the dialogue of differences with the understanding that there may be non-partisan solutions. Nationally, the key to uniting people of both parties is through reason and sensibility along with tolerance.
W: Tolerance. Yeah. So would you ever call anyone “macaca”?
MM: If someone is named Macaca, I’d address him by his name, but it’s not an everyday word in my vocabulary and before the Allen-Webb incident I had never heard the word.
W: What’s your feeling about opposition researchers in campaigning, i.e. the Webb campaign sending videographers to tape The Man Who Won’t Be President?
MM: I think opposition research can be useful but also abusive if used unethically. The DSCC abused it in the Maryland Senate campaign by illegally obtaining Michael Steele’s credit records. In the Allen-Webb ordeal, I don’t think videotaping a campaign speech is a bad thing no matter which side does it. If you watch C-SPAN, you can see politicians saying things that you never see on the news because C-SPAN is unedited. I’m sure there were other people in the audience filming the Allen speech as well. In this day and age, with blogs and camera phones, you’re always on. You have to be.