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Publication Date: Friday, August 09, 2002

Campaigning 101 Campaigning 101 (August 09, 2002)

Democrats target young recruits

By Samay Gheewala

As they work to groom a new generation of local politicians, Peninsula Democrats say they are optimistic about their political prospects in the near future.

At a July 25 Peninsula Young Democrats meeting at the Mountain View Community Center, a "Campaigning 101" session featured prominent local Democrats outlining the basics of running a campaign.

Many in the audience were political novices, there to learn the nitty-gritty details of local campaigns.

Among the featured speakers were Mike Marshall, campaign manager for State Schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin, and the No on Proposition 22 campaigns, former Redwood City Mayor Ira Ruskin, San Jose City Council member-elect Judy Chirco and Chris Kelly, the former Clinton '92 campaign staff member who narrowly lost a bid for Palo Alto City Council in 2001.

Most of the attendees had been involved with -- or were considering -- political campaigns, and paid close attention to all of the pointers offered, especially the oft-repeated advice that it doesn't matter if you lose the first time. A good number of people with only a general interest in the ins and outs of local politics were also in attendance.

Going over his 6 elements of a successful campaign, Ruskin stressed the importance of making sure that either the candidate or someone who was very reliable was in control of every important facet, and stressed, above all, getting out and meeting voters.

Chris Kelly -- Ruskin's probable opponent in the Democratic primary for the 21st Assembly seat in 2004 -- also spoke about the need to be certain about both the one's reasons for running and one's budget and campaign organization.

When discussing the intricacies of contested primary races, without directly referring to their possible confrontation, both Kelly and Ruskin emphasized the need not to undercut an opponent with dirty tactics, which serve only to reduce both candidates' chances of winning the general election. "You have to run an election you're proud of," said Kelly.

Emy Thurber, a longtime party volunteer, went over the structure of the California Democratic Party and how political novices can get involved within the party as a prelude to running for office.

Presenting her experience as that of an "amateur candidate," Chirco went over the utility of advisers and supporters, but cautioned potential campaigners not to rely too much on those supporters. "You really have to be personally responsible," said.

Marshall has worked on much larger scale elections than the other candidates, such as his state-wide campaign for Eastin and fighting the anti-gay Proposition 22. But hr told the audience he considered people in local politics to be "doing God's work -- and I'm hardly religious" He reiterated earlier speakers' themes, emphasizing that the same qualities are important in both small- and large- scale elections.

Given Democrats' recent dominance of Peninsula politics, many potential candidates felt that their major challenge would be in the primary, instead of in the general election. "Once moderate Republicans disappeared in favor of extremists, Democrats have really filled the void," said Thurber..

Young Democrat James Cahan said he came away from the event with learning that "politics is a mystery, and this seminar let people know how noble it can be."


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