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Sunday, November 11, 2007

No Holds Barred: An honest look at the West Hartford GOP, and their failure to win Municipal elections

Finally, as promised, I’ve completed part one of what will most likely be a series on the West Hartford Municipal elections and the West Hartford Republican Party – from the view of unconnected and uncompromised Republican (this means I don’t owe anyone political favors) so I can pretty much tell it like it is without fear of losing my place in the popularity poll, or worrying about money flow and favors.

So, if you are a Republican who believes that Ronald Reagan’s eleventh commandment is meant to serve as cover from airing internal party criticism, then you’ve probably come to the wrong place. Truth be told, there are more Benedict Arnolds in our midst than saints, that’s for certain. And since yours truly has taken a few personal hits during this election and after, I guess it’s more than fair to fire back. Phasers locked and ready!

And why, oh why you may ask? Let me get into this a little bit. First, West Hartford Republicans don’t know the first thing about activism. Activism is the single most important ingredient to shaping public opinion. When public opinion is on your side, you can pass meaningful and productive legislation (or small town ordinances), improve development conditions, and win elections. There is no machine here in West Hartford that works day in and day out to get out the word on the street. Instead, you have well-to- do, stuffy, sweater wearing types that wouldn’t dare lift a finger or get their hands dirty unless it mean signing a check (and you don’t even get much of that).

Where are the young Republicans? Where are the press releases from the party chairman on this or that issue? Where are surveys, fliers, websites, polls, rallies, special meetings, letters to the editors, signs, newsletters, email blasts, regular district meetings, coordinators sessions – quite frankly – where is ANYTHING?

The answer is - it's no where.

The Democrats on any given day can make a few phone calls and get ten or fifteen people out in front of Blue Back Square holding signs; we would be lucky to get one or two. We have no base on operations from which to conduct public influence. And what’s worse is that we have no one willing to even put it together. What a shame. With dozens of people waiting in the wings to be coordinated, the West Hartford GOP disenfranchises them with the usual “sure, give me your number, we’ll call you.” And they never do. This has also been my experience. I personally heard the same rhetoric from Herb Shepherdson several years ago, and Kevin Connors this year.

Back to the election…

It’s pretty clear to even the casual observer that the West Hartford Republican Party had no winning strategy from the start. From A to Z (and mirroring the above) there was no organization, no planning, and there was a total lack of coordination. Campaigns are run on issues and platforms. And these past two years, the Democratic Party gave Republicans the golden calf on a silver plate, and party leaders dropped the ball. Five months ago, the West Hartford Taxpayers Association orchestrated a referendum that sent the Democratic Party reeling back on their heels. This was the ultimate spring-board for success, and yet you barely heard a word about taxes in this campaign from GOP hopefuls. Or if you did, there was no outrage, no sense of urgency whatsoever.

But let’s be honest, the first mistake was poor candidate selection. If campaigns are won and lost on issues, surely you would hope that you would select candidates capable of understanding and articulating their positions and the positions of the party platform in public. Since the public is easy to forgive and forget, challengers have the job of convincing the public to change course; they have to establish a sense of outrage about the current state of things. With few exceptions, this slate of candidates acted as if they were incumbents, sitting with a 3-1 majority. The candidates for the most part were nice people – folks you’d absolutely want living next door to you – but perhaps not those who’d you’d select to deliver concerns at a podium.

In my conversations with the Chairman of the West Hartford Republican Party, he angrily reminded me that there were not dozens of people knocking down his door to run. And I’m sure that smart people look at the demographic ratios, and the odds and statistics of past races and figure that it’s a long road (to Tipperary) and victory will cost personal sacrifice beyond the norm.

The problem here is that the GOP should have been recruiting “A player” candidates all year long. Courting, planning, grooming, coaching and positioning credible individuals with person success records and real passion to run for office. But instead they did nothing. And the Party Chairman and his friends did nothing visible to make this happen. Recruitment is part of the game. You can’t tell me that even with 20,000 registered Republicans that they couldn’t find more a few interested people, a veteran and a few upstart kids with young children (and I’ll get to that part later). In short, they sat on their arses and talked to a few wheelers and dealers that wanted representation on the Council on behalf of their firms.

The second mistake was lack of organized activism at the grass roots level (which I touch on above). If you look at the successful outcome organized by the West Hartford Taxpayers Association and you compare their efforts in contrast to that of the West Hartford Republicans, you can see an incredible difference - not just in outcome by at all levels of public debate. WHTA was everywhere, in the newspaper, writing letters, making phone calls, using the media, and shaping the debate. In this election, you saw very little of that.

I can tell you that in the weeks preceding the election, I received nearly a half dozen mailings from Democratic candidates and at least six phone calls from Democrats urging me to vote for them. Whether or not they were paid or volunteer is not the issue, it’s that they had an effective campaign strategy with resources to help make it effective.

Do you realize that my household did not receive ONE phone call urging me to vote Republican? NOT ONE. Talk about a failure of organization, that’s about as basic as it gets.

It’s true that some people like Tim Brennan are rumored to have spend $25,000 (we won’t know until it’s filed), but based on what I saw from Republicans, he probably could have spent one tenth of this amount and still beat out the GOP by a significant margin.

Why?

The answer is lack of a coherent message on the Republican side. Even though I was following and listening clearly to everything written and said, I never could quite interpret what the Adler-Davidoff-Martin-Clark-Seder team stood for – alone or together the conversations were mixed. My own opinions, thoughts and words filled the void; I found myself making a better case for their election, when from them, all you heard was silence. Case in point, over the last few days, I spoke with at least seven Republicans who told me that they didn’t vote – at all. When I asked why, they all said the same thing (plus or minus a few points against one or two candidates) which was that they didn’t see a difference between Republicans and Democrats this time around. Moreover, they found the Republicans who did run – uninspiring and inarticulate on the issues that mattered to them most.

In my discussions with GOP leaders, I found that even today they still don’t seem to understand what went wrong. I was told that they couldn’t come out kicking and screaming because the residents would not elect zealots to the Council. My response to this warped thinking is “rubbish”. If you cannot even motivate your own base to vote for you, then how can you expect independents and “majority seekers” to side with you during an election? Humble and quiet is a ridiculous strategy.

Now, I came down pretty hard on Kelly Clark in my open letter to her but clearly it was warranted. I will also go on record to state that the feedback on Kelly by several members of her own team (whether they like it or not – I mean several) is that she wasn’t cut out to run. Many of them were outraged with her performance in the debates, and she was deemed “timid” by candidates that went door to door with her (when she did go door to door).

Now the chairman and others made the excuse that she had two children at home, which sort of begs the question – then why did she run? Council meetings, strategy sessions and so forth take up a lot of time. If you don’t have the time to commit to a position where you are at the beckon call of the demanding schedule of serving in this capacity, then what business to you have in this race?

Kelly came in fourth without doing much. Fact is that if she had actually got off her duff, and put effort into it, she would have found herself on the Council, and Visconti would be out. All she had to do is do a few photo ops with the kids and she would have picked up votes from dozens of soccer moms across West Hartford. The world says that she was a substitute for her husband who couldn’t run because of a work-related conflict of interest. That’s only speculation since I don’t know the details. I can only comment on what I heard and saw from her as a candidate. Maybe she didn’t want to win. She certainly didn’t campaign like she wanted to win.

If you look at the end numbers of the election, you can make an excellent case that she sort of stiffed those folks that put her up there to run by accepting nomination and folding. A poor debate performance is forgivable (even for someone in a career who is trained in debate and public speaking) but the lack of effort is unforgivable. What she and Peter Martin (who awoke a few weeks before the end of the election) have to realize is that early on the pace is set in an election, and you need to be out in front from the start, since you know that the science of campaigning always tells you that the lead narrows a few weeks out, and if you are behind or off the radar from the start than you’ll probably lose in the end.

Why do I have the right to say anything? Let me tell you. I’m a resident, and I pay taxes in this town, I am outraged, and I was counting on Clark and Martin and my party to WIN this election on my behalf and take back the majority. I was let down. I have a right to be angry with people who I was counting on to make my cases, and make a difference. Now look at what we have. Don’t tell me I don’t have a right to voice my opinion about this election and the candidates that ran (or barely tried to run). I have a right to complain – ask the question – Is this the best we could have done? Is this the best you could have done as a candidate? It’s noble to fight and lose, it’s not noble to sit back and watch things unfold without making the effort to effect change – particularly when you’ve been nominated by fellow citizens to do so.

Giving credit where it’s due – Mr’s. Alder and Davidoff campaigned every weekend at the grocery stores and devoted a lot of time to talking issues with residents. I witnessed this first hand. It’s no surprise that these guys finished first and second given their commitment, and that they had party insider support (more so Adler) than anyone else. Peter M was considered Al Turco’s protégé but he also had Al’s soft touch which is great if you’re on a high-powered winning team seeking re-election with clear sense of confidence from your constituents. Peter sort of ran as an add-on candidate. Perhaps the lesson here for the GOP is to not run upstart attorneys as candidates – they are low risk, low impact players that don’t resonate well with the public.

Michael Seder campaigned his heart out. He went door to door in the rain, stood out holding his sign in the wind, and took his personal message up and down the streets of West Hartford. For a man who is up there in age, he put our younger candidates to shame. The problem is that he did a lot of this work on his own. If Seder had a campaign team with even a handful of young Republicans and concerned voters, he might have had a better shot at being elected. You cannot be (just about) the sole person taking your message to the residents. This is where an active Republican Town Committee would have come in handy. He seemed pretty much on his own through most of this election. You have to wonder if he asked for help, and if he did what kind of response he got from the Party.

Another side note on Clark and Martin is warranted here. Folks who I talked with had very negative things to say about two people running for office who just recently had children. The negative perception of leaving your infants at home with a baby-sitter while you campaign or attend Council meetings didn’t sit well with moms and dads in West Hartford. As a father of an infant and a young child (and yes I write my comments during their sleeping hours and publish whenever), I was outraged at how someone could leave their wonderful child to run around town and seek election to office. To me, these two had their priorities mixed up from the beginning. And whoever was dumb enough to recruit them should be ashamed of themselves.

Martin and Clark belong with their children. This is one of the best times in their lives and they already have lost valuable time when they should have been at home catering to their children’s needs, and enjoying the endearing moments. In reality, it’s a blessing that they lost. God has done them a favor that they may never come to understand. Enjoy the time with your babies; they aren’t babies for very long. In both your cases, a loss was a big win for you personally.

One person I hadn't touched on here and is worthy of note is Theresa McGrath. First, Mrs. McGrath deserves an incredible amount of credit for her personal commitment and dedication to the Republican Party. No, she didn't pull out a win. Frankly, the Town Clerk position was never going to be a position that Republicans could have seriously vied for given their minority demographic, and daunting uphill battle for Council and BOE slots. Paid, civil service roles tend to go to the Dems unless demographics tell a different story, or a popular incumbent mayor gets involved.

Mrs. McGrath did more over the past year than any of the Councilman or Republican politcos did over the past two years. She organized citizens via the West Hartford Taxpayers Association and helped repel a massive budget increase that would have increased taxes and increased spending to near double digit figures. The outward angry response by Democrats reached a fervor pitch unprecedented in West Hartford politics. The level of hate and mean-spirited rhetoric spewed by her opponents reached dropped the civility of the debate to an all time low - particularly for small time local politics. She faced intimidation, public humiliation, nasty scrutiny, personal attacks on nearly every level. I could go on and speak to how even her children received mistreatment, but I don't want to go too far down that road.

Notwithstanding, she sacrificed her family time, her career, and created a personal hardship to make this happen. If that wasn't enough, she helped fill an empty spot on the Republican ticket by running for Town Clerk. West Hartford Republicans haven't seen that level of personal commitment and dedication in God knows how many years. And I have to say, that from this writer's perspective, she didn't receive the support and respect that her level of commitment deserved. This writer wants to thank her personally for what she's done for all of us.

If the chairman is correct in his assessment that "no one is knocking down their door to run" - do you think that given how Mrs. McGrath was treated by her own team over the past year gives residents a warm and fuzzy feeling about jumping on board the GOP candidate express train? And for someone to use the phrase "damaged goods" is pretty pathetic. Think about how families benefited from her efforts. Think about how the party insiders turned a sure-win issue into tomato soup. Frankly, it's an amazing turn of events.

I’ve said a lot here, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

And I recognize that I haven’t offered a great number of solutions to the woes of this dysfunctional GOP Party here in West Hartford. I’m putting together a post that offers suggestions and the party leaders can accept it or choose to ignore it. If they ignore it, my recommendation is that a group of concerned citizens that want to see measures for change taken work hand and foot to uproot those controlling the Republican Party in town. Leaving this group at the helm guarantees poor opposition to Democratic incumbents, and steady tax increases for years and years to come.

Whether Adler, Visconti, or Davidoff want to participate in the formation of a new Republican Party in West Hartford is unknown. But all three of them will show their cards soon enough.





25 comments:

Anonymous said...

King - that was great!
A big AMEN!

I will also tell you one thing - that if Justin Clark becomes the new Republican Town Committee chair that you can expect more of the same. He's just another hand picked Turco/Shepardson boy. Plus his law firm is suing Taubman and works for the Town of West Hartford.
Hardly suitable for a much needed activist Republican Town Committee.

Anonymous said...

I was one of the candidates on the GOP ticket, and I have to concur with The King.

There was no desire by the GOP Leaders in this town to win this election. They were perfectly content to maintain minority status on both the Council and the BOE.The wild card for them was could they get their 3 on and keep Visconti off. The laugh was on them, Congrats Joe!

The Town Committee made a big deal of wanting fresh faces, newcomers. Newcomers need guidance, that guidance was missing. They wanted to run as a slate, that gave them complete control over spending and veto privelege over advertising and fund raising.

Fund raising was not encouraged, and it appeared that at times it was actually impeded.

Campaign decisions appeared to come from sources above the campaign manager. A concious decision was made to not go with print media for advertising, even when possible funding sources were given. Mail was out of the question because we couldn't afford it. The sole media blitz was to be on Cable TV in the last 2 days. Although my spouse saw the ad I never did ( how many others didn't).

Only about 1/2 the candidates had palm cards, and only because they made them themselves. We were initially sent out without literature, a major waste of time and effort.

Frankly, if it wasn't for one candidate on the slate, we would have had less than we did. My thanks to him/her. I'll back into the trenches again with that individual anytime.

The powers in the GOP had their victory. They got exactly what they wanted.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - Just a quick question from a newcomer to town - why do you dislike hate Herb Shepardon and Al Turco so much? Far as I can tell they were the last successful Republicans in town.

Anonymous said...

Only point of disagreement: whatever backlash McGrath has received is well-deserved.

Anonymous said...

King,


“It’s noble to fight and lose, it’s not noble to sit back and watch things unfold without making the effort to effect change – particularly when you’ve been nominated by fellow citizens to do so.” - King

This is local politics, no barrier to entry, no prerequisites, just a desire to help and get involved.
You throw the word "outrage" around like you're owed something yet you don't seem "outraged" enough to do anything about it. The peanut gallery must be great with nothing to lose and nothing to risk except a inane pseudonym. It takes a lot of guts to go out there and to try to make a difference. What’s your excuse, really? You’re clearly passionate about the way the town is run to the point of apparent obsession, why don’t you put yourself up for scrutiny? It’s much easier to sit on the sideline and judge rather than put yourself out there and try to help. Oh, I’m sure you convince yourself that you’re doing you part with your little blog and commentaries but why not get off your duff and hold yourself up to the light? Afraid people won’t like what they see?

Anonymous said...

From another anonymous:
I can't speak for King but how's this for a reason not to like Shepardson and Turco: because they are RINO's.

They have consistently nominated and put Democrats in office masquerading as Republicans. Yeah -that's success alright, for the Democrats.

They have driven this party into the mess that it currently is in. Yeah - that's success alright, for the Democrats.

Turco and Shepardson have done nothing but pull strings. I haven't seen them at Town Committee meetings, nor have they aided in reaching out to the thousands of Republicans in town to get them involved. But they are there behind the scenes. Yeah - that's success alright, for the Democrats.

As for asking people like King to get off their duff and run for office, maybe they would if the party had a good enema to get rid of the current "good old boys".

Anonymous said...

It's getting confusing with all the anonymous posters on this string. This is Candidate anonymous.

King it looks like you hit a nerve.

you called the picture of the election pretty accurately and it would appear to rub some the wrong way. What a shame!

Now how to get the party rejuvenated in town, or is it not possible?

Anonymous said...

I am Peter J. Martin, one of this year’s town council candidates.

First and foremost, without responding to all your points, I do feel that I should at least specifically address your criticisms of my parenting. Something that I ask you NEVER do again.

My children and family are the two most important things to me. They are, after all, why I ran for council -- to make West Hartford a better place for them. Contrary to your opinion, I did not leave my children at home with a “baby-sitter” while I ran around town seeking office. I am lucky enough to have a supportive wife who is not presently working and family in West Hartford to help out when needed. Yes, it is difficult to find time to spend time with family, go to work and campaign -- but everyone with a family who runs for office deals with these difficulties and finds a way to make it work. Likewise, I made it work (and still found the time to “enjoy the endearing moments” with my children).

Also, I do apologize to my running mates for not being more active early in the campaign (as you say, I apparently “awoke a few weeks before the end of the election”). Unfortunately, during August and September, I was unexpectedly spending most of my time in and out of hospitals with my wife (with pre-term labor) and children (in the NICU). It was during that time that I contemplated dropping out of the race, since I could not dedicate as much time to the campaign as I had originally intended. However, my wife, more than anyone else, encouraged me to stick with it and see my commitment to the GOP through to the end. With her support, and with the support of my family and friends, I was able to pack four months of campaigning into two.

Obviously, we are all disappointed in the results of the election. Yes, hindsight being 20/20, there are things I could have done differently. But, for those of us in the trenches (the Candidates), we all know that we fought the good fight and tried as hard as we could to get our message out to the voters. Unfortunately, we did not reach enough of them.

However, we are not defeated. Those of us in the trenches know this is merely one battle of many yet to come. No doubt we will all continue to fight hard to improve the Town for our families, no matter what.

“Success is how you bounce on the bottom.” --Gen. Patton.

Although I disagree with the negativity you expressed towards some of the candidates and the leadership of the GOP Town Committee, I do agree that we need to grow and rebuild this party in West Hartford. So, I issue this challenge to you: I ask that you officially (not anonymously) join the ranks of the GOP Town Committee. Rebuilding starts with one person, then another, then another, etc.

I also issue this challenge to all concerned West Hartford citizens that are reading this blog. Whether you are a Republican, unaffiliated or curious Democrat, I challenge you to join us at the next GOP Town Committee meeting to voice your concerns and help us rebuild the GOP in West Hartford. Participation is the key to success.

The next GOP Town Committee meeting is November 19, 2007 at 7:15pm at the West Hartford Town Hall Auditorium.

The King said...

A lot to respond to here. Peter Martin's posting requires a more detailed response - particularly since he made a constructive pitch. So I'll respond to him later.

Anonymous, your claim that local politics has no barriers is the biggest lie in cyberspace. I cannot begin to tell you how entirely closed West Hartford Politics has become; moreso than in previous years that's for certain. Since I don't know you, I'll assume you aren't one of the people responsible for making it as difficult, if not impossible for people to participate in helping to work on policy and campaigns here. The district process is broken and useless. Morover, only those that write big checks or have been around forever get a spot. Or if you are going to be a candidate - they "find" you a spot.

As for outrage. Yes, I am owed something as a taxpayer and real Republican (not a RINO), that is a team that gives 100% and seeks to take the majority. What you had here was not a joke, but an insult. For those of use that continue to pay taxes, we are stuck with the bill, and the Republican Party Leadership has the audacity to question MY loyalty, and my fortitude?

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

What I'm also hearing from some of you is that just because this isn't a race for the White House, it's somehow less important. That's part of the problem right there! Fact is, you need to look at what percentage of total taxes you pay and tell me that its somehow not important. All politics is local, Tip O'Neil said. He was right.

Republicans like myself don't believe in "off years". We believe you work your tail off 100% of the time and stop making excuses for sh`*tty results.

Now, as for my activism. It's well respected by those who sought and asked for my involvement. I'm proud to say that I helped six candidates with their elections this year. And only one in West Hartford. I had asked others if I could get involved and I was told "they were all set". Looking at the results of the election, I can see what they meant.

I've worked on campaigns in six states, local, national and state races, over 15 years of experience doing more than just putting signs in lawns - although I STILL do that today because it matters. There is no job too small, but in West Hartford, they dissuade new people and non-attorneys from getting involved. (Ok, that was a sarcastic remark).

I've served on committees, and no I haven't run for office. I like to run campaigns, and have no interest in running for office (although I've been asked numerous times). I'm an activist, and I love Republican/Conservative activism more than most ever will. And I don't mind working for people like Joe Visconti and Jeff Wright who have passion for real victory, to some warped concept of small time gains and small time results.

You know, I heard over and over how all these blogs and youtubes and all of this stuff was a big waste of time. And most of that commentary came from people who still campaign like its 1975. Boy, this town needs a real shake up with some forward thinking people. It's not the money folks, its the attitude and mindset.

Look at Visconti, he spent pennies on the dollar, and you guys were kicking him in the arse all the way and he still got in. And you are still kicking him in the arse for winning. Now who's breaking Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment?

The leadership stinks. Accept it. Make changes and get going. One thing is for sure, the only thing that counts is results. Look at the results. Time for a freaking change.

Y'know, you people out there who think they know what they are doing dislike blogs because there are no strings to pull, no favors to owe, the buddy system doesn't apply out here in the 21st Century. This blog is one of many that you are going to begin to see pop up.

And if Adler, Visconti or Davidoff start moving to the left or wheeling and dealing away my tax dollars, they are going to get hammered. I don't care if they like it or don't like it. This party has failed to keep its representatives loyal, because they made bad candidate choices. Stop fudging the truth.

Can we expect Davidoff and Adler to do as promised? Or will Steve Adler suddenly begin working with the Democrats and give us nothing to run on in 2009? The Adler watch is on.

And I hope I have only praise for Steve and Leon. But its up to them.

Don't know about you people, but I'm sick of SECOND PLACE.

Anonymous said...

Anon - I hear you about the RINO's. Republicans in name only are what is killing this party. Beyond those you mention, you've got some of the GOP's own candidates saying very un-Republican things. You've got the town clerk candidate (McGrath)saying in the WHartNews that she wanted the position because she was "looking for a job" and that she wanted to be non-partisan. What? It doesn't seem very Republican to want to run so you can get on the piubnlic dole. Then you had Mike S. saying he wanted a cross town bus system??? How much was that going to cost?All the Board of Ed. folks wanted more money for quest, etc.

This town needs to shrink the size of government - not shirk from thaty responsibility.

Donald J.. Dodd said...

The King is right. The conduct of specific members of Town Committee has been outrageous!

It is one thing to enter the debate and lose as a matter of course and quite another to have the so-called elected members of West Hartford GOP not respect the outcome of the nominating process. Joe Visconti won the Republican nomination for town council and deserved the support of those officials!

And I would say it is not a question of semantics to suggest that the leadership of town committee is directly responsible for their dismal performance this year.

West Hartford and Newington are very similar and shared many of the same circumstance. Yet a united Newington Republican Town Committee won a spectacular victory with bread and butter GOP politics – fiscal responsibility. A united West Hartford Committee looking to win an election and not just put three of their favorites children in office could have and should have won a similar victory.

The decline of the West Hartford Republicans can be traced directly to Herb Shepardson. Prior to Herb’s chairmanship the committee was vibrant, its district committees met on a regular basis and the Town Committee itself was an open forum for debate.

It is my understanding that since his chairmanship issues are no longer channeled through Town Committee or the Chairmans Committee. Issues are instead channeled through privet closed-door meetings with Herb who never relinquished his stranglehold over the committee after stepping down as chairman.

Such conduct is tantamount to corruption and in the very least leads to debacles like the one we just witnessed with Joe Visconti.

It is time that GOP step forward and act to clean up the West Hartford Republican Committee and their first act should be to retire Herb Shepardson.


Perhaps the real solution would be to nominate Joe Visconti chairman and build a new committee interested in honest debate, growing the Party and winning elections!

Elliot Check said...

"All the Board of Ed. folks wanted more money for quest, etc."

Where did you pick this up? Neither Diane nor I were talking about increased spending, we both wanted to know where the money was going. Any questions I had regarding Quest was not to reinstate it but to find out why it was cut prior to using the $500,000 that appeared magically for the final budget balance.

"Mike S. saying he wanted a cross town bus system??? "

What is unrepublican about a crosstown bus system, if it can pay for itself? Better you comment on Thornberry and the Dems for bragging about the trolley that is only funded til January.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Check - Thanks for the response. I am picking up the "quest" and other comments from the debates on public access. Neither Repub cand. would say that they would cut spec. programs and neither of you said you would cut quest. More of the same liberal thinking from the GOP this year.

As for cross-town buses, how would we pay for the start up? Who would run it? If it is the government then it isn't a Republican idea - if the market demands a cross town bus system then it will be built with private dollars. If the government funds it (even if it breaks even) then it is more intrusion into our lives - Marx would be proud of such a system.

Again, i certainly do criticize the Democratic council/board mmbers, but it is hard to find any distinctions between them and McGrath, Seder and the rest of the Republicans.

Anonymous poster was correct correct earlier - RINO's all the way.

Elliot Check said...

Anon #?

I appreciate your points.

After having walked through town with Mike Seder I can tell you, He was not thrilled with the trolley situation, and wanted to know how it would be funded after the Holiday Season. This should have been addressed by the former Council prior to it being instituted, obviously it wasn't. But it worked well for them at election time. It was not Mike's idea.

He talked about a cross-town bus, as a candidate, it never got into the evaluation phase and probably never will since he wasn't elected. How would it be paid for? Wouldn't that be part of the evaluation? Could CT Transit buses be routed differently to accomodate? Would merchants help out - since they stand to benefit? Would a private company look into the project? Discussion never got that far. But it certainly doesn't make you unrepublican to bring up ideas.

When it was brought to life last spring that Leisure services wanted to build a mini-golf over by Buena Vista I was one of those that asked the Council that if it was such a good idea why not invite private developers in to do/run the project and lease them the land. The response from the Council was they were not funding such a project, yet it is still in the capital improvement plan.

The Board of Ed Candidates had different problems. Last years budget was undecipherable, ask the WHTA. Diane and I needed to find out where the money was going before we could advocate cuts, we needed to know where cuts were possible.

As I digested the situation with Quest last year, I was left with the feeling that the BOE/Administration were looking to eliminate it and do so to maximize their political advantage. I would not be surprised to see Quest disappear completely the way things were handled. The BOE will probably wait for the next round of budget discussions to eliminate it and then blame it on the WHTA.

Can the BOE/Administration control union negotiations with their runaway benefit costs. Not if you listen to the incumbents. Diane and I both discussed ideas on these lines.

Diane and I were also the only ones concerned about test scores and our falling behind our neighboring towns. At Bristow Bruce Putterman didn't seem to know that the town was #56 in the State on the Mastery Tests. Terry Schmitt had to inform him of what I was referring to.

If you listen to the incumbents, it was repeated over and over that their expenses are 80% personell. Diane and I never got to the point where we could look into to it. I guess the current Board is already informing us to get ready for another 8% increase, since they have been pretty easy going on contracts and hiring so far this year. And, now out of the blue they're talking redistricting and/or temporary classroms.

Diane and I both wanted to see full reimbursement for Project Choice students, why should the tax payers of West Hartford be paying for these students?

Diane and I had the problem of working with limited information. When we asked why the administration did not appear to have any ideas for a plan to improve grades, we were told the Administration had until the end of November to present a plan.

I have to disagree with you, Diane and I were doing the best we could under the circumstances and with a deck stacked against us.

The King said...

Peter,

Let me take a few minutes to address your comments. First, I did not as you say - criticize your parenting. Parenting, by the way is the act of raising children, so your comment is somewhat misplaced. But I do understand what you are trying to imply. I do not take issue with your "parenting" but rather your judgement. (Not your family first judgement for you to be by your wife's side which is absolutely correctly placed IMHO.)

I am referring to your judgement to decide to run at all.

You knew darn well before you committed to run exactly how much time and effort it would take to be an effective candidate for public office. The fact that you knew you were having children ahead of this is even more disturbing. Voters count on you (and others) to run a good race and give 100%. I strongly believe that even if you were qualified, that you chose unwisely to attempt a run at this time in your life.

This is also a reason as to why I am not fully committed to politics; it is because my job is already demanding (travel, weekends, late nights) and I will only help out where I can so that I don't leave my wife in a lurch with the kids. And I don't miss out on these fun years. No town is that bloody important.

Now everyone makes their own decisions. And everyone, including you has their own set of priorities. My priority is my children above all else, and you tried to split your priorities. Which is totally up to you.

Candidate selections/decisions aren't made in a vaccum. The Republican leadership in this town must have known full well what your family status was. Shame on them for not having the courage or foresight to politely urge you to not run. If you had dropped out, it would have more more noble than - finishing what you started. At least to most of us. This is not camelot.

Ok, so I wanted to get that out and get on to other matters since you took such issue with my remarks. Hopefully, we can move on from here.

Second, you cannot seriously give undying loyalty to the town Republican leadership after such a horrendous election. The strategy was terrible, the leadership and unity was unseen, and the decisions to implement a unified strategy to take the majority was never in the cards.

You can read the disastisfaction from some of your own candidates above. And they have a right to be frusterated for being left on their own to fend for themselves.

If you care deeply for this party, and you want to see serious improvement, then you have to admit that the same people that were involved this time around with decision making, candidate selection and political strategy must step down. Thank them for trying if you must, but its time for them to move on. If you always do what you did, you always get what you got.

This Republican town committee needs an overhaul from the top down. You say hindsight is 20/20, sure. But do we learn from our mistakes or do we deploy the same ancient tactics proven time and time again to have failed us?

You had one incredible springboard and issue to take to the people - high taxes with more on the way. So what happened? Nothing happened. You guys didn't try as hard as you could have, because if you had, you would have won the day, in the same way that the WHTA creamed the dems at the referendum.

You didn't energize the Republican base, and the Democrats went largely unanswered. Diehard Republicans that I know, unmotivated by your public performances, stayed home sensing that you guys didn't care (I know that is far fetched) but perception is reality. And the results show it.

Peter, you cannot rebuild the party without at least spending time letting people vent about the real problems that the party has. If you run with the same old crew calling the shots you aren't going to get very far. And the Democrats I know are counting on just that.

I also hear that Justin Clark is in the running for chairman. I really hope this is not the case. I'm sure he is well meaning and wishes to please, but you need someone who knows what their doing with real experience organizing and winning elections.

And if I were the Democrats, the first thing I would do, sensing disorganization and confusion, is amend the charter to make sure that the three courtesy seats disappear as an option. At this rate, they could run 9 and elect 9. It's no joke you know. There is a small window to get this up and running.

Activism is the key to success. Rebuild it from scratch.

The King said...

To everyone else: I apologize that I've been very short on posts lately. I'm going through a family emergency that is taking precedence over blogging.

Keep the faith!

Anonymous said...

King, I'm having trouble figuring exactly what you're looking for in a candidate. You state in your post that the WHGOP should be recruiting "few upstart [candidates] with young children" and then turn around and take Martin and Clark to task for being exactly that, stating, "I was outraged at how someone could leave their wonderful child to run around town and seek election to office. To me, these two had their priorities mixed up from the beginning. And whoever was dumb enough to recruit them should be ashamed of themselves."

Your self-righteous indignation and semantic exception to the definition of "parenting" aside, you criticize Martin and Clark for not being able to handle both the rigors of a campaign and the challenges of a young parent. So, just out of curiosity, what kind of young parent would you like to see running?

Also, you seem to take a lot of pride in fancying yourself an "activist." The thing about being an "activist" is that you never really risk anything. Sure, you sit on the sidelines, maybe serve on a committee or two, but you never actually put yourself, or your ideas out there to be judged. Sounds kind of like a cop-out to me to say, "I'm an activist" so I don't need to run, I can just sit back and criticize everyone else who does.

Also, just out of curiosity. You mentioned the "lie" of there being no barriers to entry in local politics as being "the biggest lie in cyberspace." Two questions, one, why is it in cyberspace? You need to step away from the computer sometimes. And two, what are those barriers exactly? If you have an idea, run. I'd be surprised if someone as eager as you are would be turned down by the WHGOP, you claim that it's so hard to get on a ballot and that it's such a closed process, yet, at the same time claim, "Look at Visconti, he spent pennies on the dollar, and you guys were kicking him in the arse all the way and he still got in. And you are still kicking him in the arse for winning." Clearly he was able to do it without the blessing of the leadership. Excuses, excuses, excuses King. And, if you don't like the leadership, run as an independent.

The King said...

Anonymous. You misread my post, but I'm not surprised. I don't follow your points - at all. Criticize me for writing in cyberspace, if you'd like. Note that you are spending time here to. Welcome to the new world we live in. Stop be indignant about the unimportant.

Sometimes you need to THINK OUT OF THE BOX. Please try to THINK instead of kissing your friends arses.

Look, you are missing the point, aren't you? These folks have infants and babies, if you are trying to get me to say I don't think that people with infants and babies should run - then fine. Yep, like it or lump it, that's what I think. Babies and infants take a tremendous toll on families and mothers. No, I don't think anyone should be campaigning at that time in your life.

You can fill in your own decisions about what kind of parents should or shouldn't run. I won't be baited into such a useless discussion.

Excuses, excuses? And what praytell do YOU do for the Party, or for electing Republicans? Maybe I'm only the Republican in this discussion. You don't like it, maybe you should vote independent or find a blog that entertains your shallow analysis.

Headline, Republicans crushed by Democrats last week. Time to get onboard and see that the problem isn't blog writers, its the party leadership.

Who the hell said they should recruit parents with young children? What post are you reading?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you didn't follow, I guess I was just curious why the "lie" about there being no barriers to entry in local politics was "the biggest lie in cyberspace" rather than just, "the biggest lie" in general. I just don't see how "cyberspace" had anything to do with the "lie." That's really neither here nor there though.

You said, "The problem here is that the GOP should have been recruiting “A player” candidates all year long. Courting, planning, grooming, coaching and positioning credible individuals with person success records and real passion to run for office. But instead they did nothing. And the Party Chairman and his friends did nothing visible to make this happen. Recruitment is part of the game. You can’t tell me that even with 20,000 registered Republicans that they couldn’t find more a few interested people, a veteran and a few upstart kids with young children (and I’ll get to that part later). In short, they sat on their arses and talked to a few wheelers and dealers that wanted representation on the Council on behalf of their firms."

I may be dense, but that looked to me like you were calling on the WHGOP to try to find some "upstart kids with young children." I guess I was mistaken.

Also, I guess you didn't realize my point regarding Visconti. You said, "Anonymous, your claim that local politics has no barriers is the biggest lie in cyberspace. I cannot begin to tell you how entirely closed West Hartford Politics has become; moreso than in previous years that's for certain. Since I don't know you, I'll assume you aren't one of the people responsible for making it as difficult, if not impossible for people to participate in helping to work on policy and campaigns here. The district process is broken and useless. Morover, only those that write big checks or have been around forever get a spot. Or if you are going to be a candidate - they "find" you a spot."

Then you said, "Look at Visconti, he spent pennies on the dollar, and you guys were kicking him in the arse all the way and he still got in. And you are still kicking him in the arse for winning."

My point was that clearly Visconti was able to work around this barrier to entry, so, I guess I just don't see how there is much a barrier to entry in local politics. Sure, some people may not want you to work on their campaigns, but that doesn't mean you couldn't campaign yourself.

Elliot Check said...

As to the comments on the Visconti candidacy, let's back up a bit.

There is no question that The Town Committee did not want Visconti on the slate. Visconti was on the verge of forcing a primary to get himself on the ticket. When 1 of the candidates dropped out the Committee came to terms with Joe and put him on the ticket.

This probably occurred out of fear that if there was a primary Joe would have knocked out one of the other candidates, rather than the one who dropped out (since he was considered by many to be just a temporary place holder). Now the Committee would have to deal with Joe as well as an empty slot in the ticket.

Had the Committee been able to put together a stronger ticket Joe would have either been forced to go to the primary or run as an indipendant.

In the end Joe got on despite the Town Committe. And both of you are correct in your evaluations of the local situation depending on the perspective. Most people would not be willing to go through what Joe did to get on the Town Council, but yes it can be done. By the same token Joe did it mainly on his own despite the Town Committee, not because of it, and in the end Joe and the Committee had to work together.

The King said...

Visconti overcame the barrier by running independent of the party loyalty machine. He overcame the barrier (not permitted to run on the endorsed ticket) by running his own Republican campaign.
Pretty gutsy move.

But the barriers are very well defined in WH politics. Maybe some of our candidates and previous district chairman can shed some light on this. A lot of it is cliques and money. Some of our candidates were favored by certain firms that do business in town.

A flawed approach considering the results.

Oh, on your question about biggest lie in cyberspace... I was being silly. My point is that there is a serious barrier, even volunteers get turned away when they offer assistance. A lot of people are pretty fed up with it. I just don't have the confidence that all of a sudden the crowd in there are going to suddenly turn over a new leaf and welcome the world with open arms.

This is a pretty tight crew with a very closed agenda.

The person to watch is Leon Davidoff. He is quite capable of really helping to turn things around. It will be interesting to see if he moves to organize things differently. I'm sure he'll have his hands full trying to keep Adler on the choke chain and away from wheeling and dealing with the Dems. But we'll see.

Of course I say that jokingly. If the three of our elected Republicans can work together, they will show WH that Republicans can help govern from the minority seats, and show WH how great life could be with a Republican majority.

Again, we'll see. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

The King said...

Thanks for correcting me on the history, Elliot. Appreciate the comment.

Peter Martin said...

King,

Peter Martin here.

We obviously disagree about the issue of whether or not I should have run for council when my wife was expecting. I believed and still believe that this was as good a time as any to run; you obviously don’t. So for everyone’s sake, let’s put it to bed.

As for our GOP town leadership, if you do not think they are doing a good job then vote them out -- it is as easy as that. Personally, I thought they did a good job during the campaign and supported the candidates as well as expected. Just out of curiosity, who would you put in charge of the GOP town committee?

By the way, the 6-3 split on the council (the so-called “minority rule”) is mandated by state statute, not town charter. See C.G.S. section 9-167a.

For now, we need to get back to basics and rebuild our GOP base. We cannot afford to continue to point fingers and play the blame game. Let’s look forward to 2009. Your most recent blog is definitely a step in the right direction.

As an aside, you still haven’t responded to my challenge. Will you be at the next GOP town committee meeting? You can come as either a participant or activist.

The King said...

Peter:

Agree 100%, the matter is overdue to be put to rest. It is water under the bridge now. Onward, forward.

I don't have a specific person in mind to be chairman. If I had to publish a help wanted ad, it might look like this:

Republican Party Chairman Wanted. Must have extensive campaign management experience; 10 years minimum of running recent, successful Republican campaigns at any level, and/or issue or policy management on the Republican side. Must have minimum of six years of fund-raising experience in political or non-profit organizations. 10 years involvement in recruiting Republican candidates. Solid organizational skills a must, excellent verbal and written communication skills. Media experience a plus.

Must not be afraid to cut through internal political BS to get the job done. Must be loyal to the goal of electing a majority of Republicans to the West Hartford Town Council, BOE and Clerks office and able to dismiss factions, internal politics, strong-arming, lobbyist or special interest groups. Must be strong enough to not be bought by firms, or special interest groups.

Must have a tough skin. Must have experience organizing volunteers. Must be proficient in new technologies including the internet and electronic media. Must demonstrate campaign and election knowledge (not legal) and show profiency of understanding Republican ideals and principles.

Must have a zest for campaigns and issue management. Must serve as a motivator and energizer in tough and difficult times.

Joe Visconti said...

All

For off I would like to thank all who came out and voted this past election.

I would like to take some time here to share some of my feelings and ideas which helped me through it all.

My first comment is about my running mates. It was a pleasure getting to know you all,Diane and Elliot for your Insiration and Wit respectively. Leon and Steve for your courage and ability to transcend the flack you must have had to take from so many voters who support you both and who loathe me. Michael Seder for working the hardest of all us Council candidates, Good Luck Mike as our new MDC commisioner, you deserve it. Kelly for stepping to the plate and giving it your best under the circumstances.Peter for your upbeat attitude when doing the supermarkets with me. Peter is not Al Turco's boy, he's his own man. Theresa for fighting the fight and laying it all out on the table no matter what.

Next I want to explain that in order to transform powers in conflict and confusion one must be able to look to the humanity of it all first or there would be know way to deal with the issues or the personalities.
Although the party members didnt want me at convention time I knew better and felt what the public was saying, what the public wanted. Herb, Al, Carl, Alan and the rest are very capable people regardless of past errors or ommissions. We are all family in conflict with each other on different levels and sometimes that can be a good thing.
We may be outnumbered as Republicans in this Town but with Leon, Steve and Myself as a team we are not outgunned. The better ideas will win out every time,if we don't have em than we are irrelevant.

There is much to look forward to in the near future, I cannot share all my ideas or those of my teamates for political purposes but one thing I will say is that I believe the next two years will bring many opportunities for the Republican Party to grow and expand in West Hartford as well as across the State of Connecticut.

Judy Aron gave me a little quote from Ghandi this week regarding how I have been treated in Town in the past: First they Ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. The Republican Party has also been ignored and laughed at in the past by the Democrats in Town as well as other Republicans and Independents. Soon because of our better ideas "THEY" will begin to fight us, then we will win, the Majority.