Professional campaign consultants run campaigns like football coaches execute game strategies. Most of what happens in the beginning is standard process stuff for everyone. As the games progresses coaches change strategies based on whether they are winning or losing and by how much. If they’re down a lot of points they stop running the ball and start throwing it down the field a lot in order to score points faster. You can guess the score of the game if you flip to a channel and you see Tony Romo throwing deep on first, second and third down. Well, if you’re a Cowboys fan you can always guess the score of the game – you’re losing!
Campaigns work much in the same way. In the beginning candidates run on their ideas. Once the first few rounds of polling come through and they aren’t winning, they start throwing the ball deep to try and catch up. You may recognize this as “going negative” in a campaign. It’s the point where you stop talking about why you are awesome and start telling everyone why your opponent sucks. This can be an effective strategy if deployed at the right time. Candidates, unlike restaurants, can survive some bad reviews, so you have to tell everyone that your opponent is an asshole at just the right time or they’ll forget about it when it comes time to vote.
Lyda Ness has pretty much started throwing Hail Marys and it’s only the first quarter. Obviously she knows she’s losing to Rep. Marquez and given that the only noticeable difference between two El Paso Democrats is in their DNA makeup, she’s got a problem. It’s not like they can debate the issues – they agree on everything. Name calling is all Ness has left.
Ness worked her magic with the El Paso Times by inspiring them to investigate local politicos who have taken money from the payday lenders. And by “inspiring” I mean that she sent them a press release detailing Marquez’s donations from payday lenders because Wendy Davis’ recent useless attack on Attorney General Greg Abbott on the issue and the city council’s recent vote to do what they were going to do in the first place with payday lenders in El Paso. (Why did they have to vote to follow a law they already voted into place? Ask yourself that.)
Because the El Paso Times has some standard of journalistic ethics (and ability) that far exceed KVIA’s, they decided to do a story about all the local reps with a focus on Marquez and Ness. You may remember that KVIA would pretty much break into live programming to bring you unsigned, worthless court documents provided to them by Ness when she was running against Ann Lilly for a city council seat. The El Paso Times took the time to ask everyone about their payday contributions and patiently recorded all of their hypocritical answers (more on this in a minute).
Ness’ attack is poorly timed. If two minutes in the NFL is a lifetime, two months in a campaign is ten lifetimes. People are going to forget this by Tuesday of next week. Nobody is voting between then and now. If Ness tries to run this same play again – nobody will be interested. Been there, done that. The newspaper won’t cover it and a direct mail piece featuring this issue in a month from now will feel like it lacks context. The fact is – the majority of likely primary voters don’t patronize payday lenders and their interest in them is only to the point of casually mentioning their displeasure with them if they are a current topic in the media. They won’t be a current media topic until the next legislative session.
And let’s not forget that an off-year local Democratic primary doesn’t feature any “undecided voters.” This vote is going to feature people who know exactly who they want to vote for and they’ve known it for a while because they are somehow connected to a party faction or directly to a candidate. The best Ness can hope to do is trick Marquez voters into voting on the wrong day.
If Marquez takes away anything from this attack, it’s that Ness knows she’s way behind. Ness, I have found out, has the backing of an offshoot of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association (not affiliated, but there’s a past connection). That means someone is spending money on Ness’ behalf and they likely had a poll in the field in late December. That poll convinced Ness’ crew to skip establishing herself and go straight to passing on all four downs. They have a ton of catching up to do.
If I were Marquez, I’d put out a press release offering to use some of the payday lender money to help Ness pay either her federal taxes or her Texas Ethics Commission fines. It’s funny that Ness would have had to find the donations on the website of the very entity that has a judgment against her.
As for the local officials who have taken payday lender money, but claim they are against them – SHAME ON YOU. It wasn’t okay when Norma Chavez took money from a tribe that sought to keep the Tiguas from operating a casino and it’s not okay to take money from payday lenders if you claim you are disgusted with their business practices.
Guys like Rep. Pickett and Sen. Rodriguez don’t even need the money. Why have a conflict in this situation? It’s not like they are in a race for survival. I’m not saying you have to love everyone who gives you money, but you surely shouldn’t hate them… or even dislike them a little.
It’s these types of situations that make constituents hate all elected officials. Most of the people in El Paso get by, but they do it by working very hard. Here you have people getting $1,000 checks from people they don’t even like and they treat the whole thing with such little respect. How many people in El Paso won’t get a single check this year that totals more than a grand? Here these guys get that money for not outwardly expressing their dislike of an industry. They are getting paid to essentially do nothing. It’s just ugly. There is no excuse.
If you don’t like guns, you don’t take money from the NRA.
If you don’t like payday lenders, you don’t take money from payday lenders.
If you want the Tiguas to have a casino and you sit on calendars, you don’t take money from a tribe that seeks to bar the Tiguas and every other Texas tribe from opening a casino. Especially if you’re in a position to affect the outcome of the vote and your name is Norma Chavez.