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Seeking A Cure For "The Bug"

Norman M. Covert

June 07, 2002

There is no vaccine for "The Bug" that infects unwary citizens, convincing them they can run for public office and win. Losing is a temporary cure; winning only makes it worse. "The Bug," however, does impart hard lessons in life and counseling is the only viable alternative.

As the Old Man told us kids, "You learn more by feelin' than you do by tellin'." The smart people avoid candidacy like the plague.

A close friend ran an almost-successful campaign against entrenched party candidates in two separate state elections.

"The most exciting time," he related, "was the day I made my announcement and the day of the election. Ten years later, I still believe I could have won."

At the conclusion of Frederick's election two years ago, several unsuccessful school board candidates bemoaned their losses and declared, "Not again." One admitted she was glad it was over; another said he might have been fortunate. As the latter reviewed the time demands on the board this year, he figured he won, too, by not winning.

"The Bug" still infects at least one of those unsuccessful candidates, who admits he is considering running again. He reasons there is a dearth of announced candidates for the new elected school board.

"Election Alzheimer's," forgetting the pain of loss, is one of the symptoms of "The Bug." Your brain suppresses the lessons learned. You believe what people tell you and your ego swells. You suppress the realization that your boosters skedaddled after you jumped into the bullring.

A Frederick professional showed recently that he has been infected with "The Bug." He has had some moments in the glare of the media; he liked it and wants more. He's changed his mind several times, but several local movers and shakers have encouraged him to run for a county commissioner slot. Better call 911 for him.

He's another "babe in the woods" who means well, has high ideals, a sense of community, good connections, and is a proven hard worker. He's hazy on how he will fund his campaign, which may demand no less than $10,000 to become a viable candidate. It's clear the job and salary won't amortize the expense.

This probable candidate has attended other rallies and announcements and may see himself standing at the podium surrounded by signs and slogans bearing his name and a throng of adoring supporters rallying to help him. He's a long way from organizing such a campaign.

He made the common error of believing he could be his own campaign manager and his wife could be the treasurer. That's another symptom of "The Bug."

Many losing candidates in the last state election erred in serving as their own counsel. Two of them, who are running again, appear to be making the same tactical error.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney (R, 3rd), who is seeking re-election, was well organized and funded in 1998, as was Del. Sue Hecht (D, 3rd), who is challenging for the Mooney Senate seat. They are the only heavyweights in the fall election run.

Some losing candidates in 1998 believed what they were told by state party leaders in Annapolis, forgetting that especially in Frederick, all politics is local. Both Frederick state central committees turned on certain candidates in favor of their chosen party candidates.

Yet another losing state candidate four years ago had a difficult time dealing with the infection. He got entangled in the nuts and bolts of the campaign machinery, forgetting such essentials as knocking on doors. His support faded as his failings became obvious.

One of the realities of being encouraged to run arises when the victim astutely returns to his confidants and demands, "If you want me to run, help me raise the money!"

If you, dear reader, get the pitch, and that smart person ponies up a real donation to your "Friends of ." fund, you also may find it easier to put together a winning team of advisors and ultimately sufficient bucks to be a viable candidate.

Donors certainly want to engender good will. Sometimes money is donated out of a sense of friendship and obligation, but as the campaigns develop, small donations could become large ones. The financial support, though, will dry up if the campaign appears to be going nowhere.

"The Bug" hides the need for hard work out on the stump. Candidates also need an abundance of faith that voters will put their name with the face and actually mark the ballot for you.

It is clear, candidates should never believe everything advisors say; never depend on the voters to be perceptive and smart; and never, ever believe the party central committee will give you anything but lip service.

There is always hope for those of you with early symptoms of "The Bug." Look at some of the state, city and county elected officials. If these lightweights can be elected, so can you. "The Bug" is not fatal, especially if you remember to figuratively take a gun to a knife fight; and don't get into a battle of wits when you've got no ammunition.


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