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August 9, 2006

Election Lessons, Part 1

Chris Patterson

It's the dog days of summer. Temps are in the 90s and 100s. The primary election is around the corner. It's time for a lesson in how to run a campaign. Today's lesson is SIGNS.

Candidates for this year's elections are putting up signs.and, of course, signs are disappearing like they do every year. No surprises here, by the way. It happens every election.

One candidate complains that his signs are missing and the opposing candidates say their signs are missing, as well. It's a "he did it" and "she did it" contest. After all, no one wants to look like no one hates them. No candidate is going to say, "Hey, no one has taken any of my signs!" Then voters would just think that candidate wasn't worth harassing.

And the truth is that every candidate really is experiencing the same problem. The best plan is to just write in a line on the old election budget that says "loss of signs" and get on with your life. But noooooooo. There's got to be this big deal about stolen signs every election.

Now, keep in mind that the average Joe or Jane Voter doesn't notice the missing signs because to the untrained eye more signs are popping up than disappearing.

But here's the real reason the candidates can't let this go. The aspiring candidate is not just using signs to get your attention. They are using the press. So, when their signs go missing, it's a given that the candidates are going to complain to the newspapers about it! Free press coverage..Yippee!

This year's best image from the election so far - perhaps from any election I can recall - was the recent front-page story in The Frederick News Post featuring a photo of County Commission Vice-President Mike Cady standing next to a large sign that said "Cady Can't." The sign was his and it didn't start out saying Cady Can't, but some unidentified person changed it to say that.

The commissioner, rightfully irritated that his property was defiled, filed a police report and complained to the press. He's offered a bounty for the perpetrator, the story says.

Here's what's wrong with this picture..literally. We all know that a picture speaks a thousand words so there is not a single person who saw that picture that will not remember it.

If you love Mr. Cady, as many folks in this county do, you will forever wince and your stomach will tighten at the thought of him pictured passively standing next to a giant sign that declares in foot-high letters that "Cady Can't." He was portrayed as a victim.

If you don't admire the commissioner and don't want him re-elected, you saw the words "Cady Can't" and probably thought that same thing every time you saw one of his signs anyway. And now that photo on the top fold of the paper will leap into your mind, as well. You will snicker.

But here's the really important part of this lesson. If you don't know Mr. Cady very well, and you are trying to make a decision about him, you will still have that photo etched in your mind. Can you hear it flooding into your mind like a ghost's voice on a night wind? "Cady Can't!"

So, when you go to vote and you are picking between names of people you really don't know, will that picture come flooding into your mind? I'm thinking yes.

Mr. Cady is probably wishing about now that he had a stylist like those American Idols on TV. In fact, given things that have come up for Mr. Cady during the last four years, he might have wished that before now.but that's another column. Perhaps a good stylist or publicist might have suggested to him that this story, let alone the picture, was not such a good idea.

But just in case any other candidates are out there with missing signs and are thinking of offering a reward and getting a piece of the media action, here's a tip for you. The first lesson for all candidates during this campaign is simple. Consider that front-page, top-of-the-fold picture of Mr. Cady and his sign that said, "Cady Can't," then remember...

Don't let this happen to you.

Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
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