Here's how we did it in my day... Younger pols could learn campaign lessons from vets


Joel Pritchard told me years ago that if you are really thinking about running for public office, get out your Christmas card list and write a note to everybody on it asking if they’d be willing to contribute to your campaign.

Enthusiastic responses or lack of same should help you make up your mind, he said. If the people who know you best won’t part with a few bucks to encourage you, the ones who don’t know you at all surely won’t help and money is the mother’s milk of politics.

I don’t know how many other people he told that to, but I also never knew anybody who ever tried it, including him.

I first met Joel when he was a state House member and part of the Dan Evans bunch that was there then and produced some top-notch officials, governor, attorney general, secretary of state, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, U.S. senators, etc. Joel went on to the state Senate, Congress and, finally, lieutenant governor.

Most of these pols were from the “what you see is what you get” school. That is, they’ll tell you their education, job history and what they’re for and not for. You are expected to trust their judgement and if you don’t like what they do, kick them out at the next election. But they will not ask your opinion on how to vote.

Probably more numerous are the pols who promise to consult you regularly on what you want them to do. They are prone to taking polls and holding town meetings, etc., so they stay up on what their constituents want. So how do you get people to vote for you?

For one thing, people like to be asked for their vote. One election day, I asked the city editor who he’d voted for that day and when he told me, I said what did you vote for so and so for? He isn’t worth a damn. He was the only one who asked me, said the editor.

That’s why door belling is important. Believe it or not, many people like to be able to tell their friends they shook hands with a politician.

Rep. then Sen. C.W. “Red” Beck (D-Port Orchard) had his own method. He attended every meeting he heard of. At one meeting, which was a potluck dinner, he said, “I went out in the kitchen and asked the ladies if there was anything I could do to help. I wound up dishing out cole slaw and potato salad all evening but I got to speak to everybody that got some. When the meeting was over and most of the folks went home, I stayed and helped wash up the dishes. I don’t know how many votes I’ll get from the people we served but I’ll bet all those little ladies in the kitchen will vote for me.”

Another master campaigner was Art Morken, a longtime Kitsap County sheriff. When he was introduced at candidates’ forums, he’d launch into a speech about how badly he needed more deputies and where they were needed, etc., just as if he had the sheriff’s job for life and the only question was what he needed to do it. He never lost an election.

Campaigning can be dangerous. Onetime Rep. Ron Hanna (D-Gig Harbor) told me about going up to a house and noticing a very large dog dish next to a staked chain that went around the corner. A dish that big signified a very large dog, he decided, and quickly turned and sprinted back to his car, just as the dog came barreling around the house and snapped his jaws just short of Ron’s behind when the chain came up short.

Rep. Bill Eickmeyer (D-Belfair) campaigned near Shelton and was let into a house on a hilltop by a one-armed man who was stirring apples in a big kettle for applesauce.

“Let me do that,” Bill offered. The man did. When their talk was over and the apples were done, the man thanked him and told him how he usually put apples in the kettle when he saw a candidate coming up the hill so he got a lot of applesauce made that way.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA 98340.

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