Exploratory campaigns concerning

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ columnist

“Hey, since you work for the newspaper, there’s a guy I know…”

I hear this statement a lot, but I’m finding these guys they know are most often considering running for office.

“He’s not running yet, but he’s considering it, and I wonder if you could give him some coverage.” I’m as polite as possible in my response, but I’m really thinking, “He’s not worth coverage yet, and I wonder if you’ll hold off on calling me until he’s on a ballot.”

Granted, it’s a slippery slope, as we’ve already talked to a few people visiting the area who are only considering a gubernatorial run. But we always disclose early that they haven’t committed, and they’ll never leave an interview with me without being asked, “So when will you make a decision on running?”

How does somebody who’s not a candidate try to get the attention of a candidate, without being a candidate? It’s simple.

First, establish an exploratory committee. This is the group that tells you if it’s a good idea to run or not. There are no requirements for who’s in your committee. It could be a mix of trusted allies and people you respect from other political parties … or it could be you and some guy you play Xbox with.

Next, set up a listening tour. It starts with five minutes about who you are, and 10 minutes on why you’re running. Next, it’s the Q&A stage where you maneuver each answer into an attack on the incumbent and/or a repeat of the first 15 minutes. The final five minutes you make a closing statement and solicit help on the campaign that’s not really a campaign.

An exploratory campaign has positive purposes. Since an explorer doesn’t have to disclose donors, it lets a candidate get bookkeeping straight before running. Also, the candidate gets the word out and determines whether people say, “ya got my vote” or “never heard of ya.”

The problem is when the exploration is a shadow campaign, and competition doesn’t get to play under the same rules. The exploring candidate can level any attack, but be insulated from response by playing the “I’m only a concerned citizen” card.

Also, it’s still June 2009, a year from primaries. I’m not sure how serious I’m supposed to be about people considering something they don’t have to commit to for another 12 months. I’ve already had a person consider two different 2010 opportunities, with media coverage requests for both. The fact that you’re on your second race is kinda why we held off on covering the first one.

But why stop at 2010, or even 2012? I just realized I’d be old enough to run for Senate in 2014. I made a short stop into the office of David Stevens, editor of Freedom New Mexico.

“Hey David, I’m in the formative stages of considering an exploratory committee to campaign against Tom Udall in five years.”

“Kevin, we’re not endorsing you.”

That was quick. Guess I’ll just go back to exploring my movie collection.

Kevin Wilson writes for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail at:
kevin_wilson@link.freedom.com