Monday, June 29, 2009

Pride Report

I arrived at the parking lot behind Ann Sather's earlier than most and spent the pre-march time meeting marchers who were there to support their favorite candidate. I marched with the Mike Quigley contingent. It was the perfect opportunity to network with like-minded Democrats and Independents, garnishing yet more names of those interested in my campaign. I may have even found a few more supporters.

The march was under a beautiful, albeit hot, summer sky. Though my feet complained by the time we had walked to Lincoln Park, my soul was soaring with the positive vibes of "Yes, I can."

Friday, June 26, 2009

A very hot and summery June 26

There are times when I just have to get away from the monitor and keyboard. This morning was one of them. The weeds among the onions in my garden only added to my frustration and workload so I donned shorts and pulled them up with a sigh of relaxaton and a commitment to stay centered and focused.

The passing of more than a week since my last blog entry gives emphasis to how busy this whirlwind called campaigning can be, especially in light of the fact that there isn't yet any experienced staff with lots of free time to help me on my way to getting out the vote.

Of course the days spent at the Victory Fund training (Thursday to Sunday) were part of the hold-up in posting. I had no Internet connection and little time to write in any case. It was packed full of information and worth every minute of my time.

So what did I learn? Get a staff so I can do the job a candidate needs to do: knock on doors to meet registered voters in my district and raise money. How many voters? There are 14,500 registered voters in the district and I'll need half of those voting in the primary, plus one, in order to win, if indeed it's a two-way race. How much money? Well $250,000 would be nice.

Visit my website to volunteer or contribute.

That brought me to Monday when my first job was to recruit more volunteers and to hire a campaign manager. I've been able to interview several in the past few days but none have yet asked for the job, nor have I had enough information to offer it to any of them. Let's just call it a work in progress.

I also met with Richard K. Means, my election lawyer, on Monday. He's a sharp-witted expert and will obviously be a strong ally.

On Tuesday I caught up on some of the work that had been piled on my desk while I was away. Wednesday was my day to work in the union office (I do that once a week) and afterwards I interviewed an experienced campaign manager. I'm waiting to hear back from him now to schedule a second interview.

Thursday morning I earned some money as a genealogist. I do, after all, have to get some income to survive the summer financially. Then I rushed home and dressed in my best campaign clothes to have my official campaign picture taken.

That brings me to the garden this morning and more reaching out to voters to boost my campaign into higher gear. Tonight will be a bit warm for canvassing but I'll still be out there knocking on doors. Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday before I head to O'Hare

When I registered my political action committee in April, doing so gave me access to the list of registered voters in my district – all 41,000 of them. Of that, some 14,500 are registered Democrats who have a track record of voting in primary elections. In Chicago, after all, winning the Democratic primary is the way to win the general election.

At the same time I began searching for a campaign manager (someone I have yet to find by the way). I networked from friendly adviser to friendly adviser and by doing so gained lots of information. One bit of advice was to contact the State Democratic Party for access to a web-based program called Vote Builder.

Commissioned by the National Democratic Party it is an online program that integrates voter registration and demographic information by the candidate’s district, allowing one to search for specific types of voters and to both plan and track voter contacts. It is extremely useful for planning, as an example, the best way to walk through a precinct, record who has been contacted, note their support or lack thereof, etc. It prints out all kinds of to do lists, mailing labels, and phone lists so that one can make effective use of one’s volunteers.

Perhaps you can see why I have spent more than six weeks trying to get access to this tool. As the story goes, the State Democratic party didn’t want to use it, so the state council of County Democratic organizations took the responsibility to distribute it. Unfortunately, Cook County Democrats aren’t very active with the council (or so I am told).

I spent a month trying to track down the executive who collects the money ($500 in my case) to use it and gives out the password to access it. I finally had to contact the manufacturer who then forwarded my email to him. That response informed me that the Cook County chair was the man to contact. His office said that they (and later he) had no idea what I was talking about.

So I had to give them the phone number to contact in Springfield and the Springfield office had to send information on the program to Cook County.

One of the memorable parts of the David and Goliath story is that David had a sling shot. In my case, Vote Builder is a kind of sling shot. After all, rumor has it that my opponent’s (Deb Mell) father (Richard Mell) has 1,500 precinct workers at his disposal.

At present I have two. There are 63 precincts in my district with, as I noted, some 14,500 registered Democrats who regularly vote in the primary I have to win. Not only do I have to work harder but I have to work smarter. I’m sure the saga of Vote Builder will continue. At present it remains elusive and an illustration of how hard it is to change the status quo.

Of course, that won’t stop me from trying.

Wednesday night I met with members of the Villa Improvement League in another step in networking, introducing myself, and moving toward success. It was a beautiful night and the Villa folks had a good turnout. I gave a short introduction of myself. This is the kind of progress I like.

Now I'm off to the airport for my trip to Cleveland and 4 days of candidate training.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday after walking the picket line

Scores of concerned people marched today in solidarity with the striking hotel workers at the Congress Hotel. I was privileged to be able to walk with them, as did my fellow union officers Pete (Treasurer of the Part-time Faculty Association at Columbia College) and Arvis (President of the same).

Where were our Chicago aldermen? our Cook County Board members? our State Representatives and Senators? No where to be seen.

As my friend Arvis noted,"If this were the day before the election, they'd be here." Arvis is an experienced campaigner, having served on Harold Washington's campaign for mayor. He knows politics better than anyone else I know. Happily he's on my team.

The hotel workers have been on strike for six years. What they want is the management of the Congress to give them the same contract that every other unionized hotel worker in the city has. But the management of the Congress says no and the picket line now enters its seventh year! See for more information.

Earier in the day I sent out thank yous, made phone calls, and generally tried to contact more people about my campaign.

That's not an easy thing to do. The Democratic party has special software for its candidates (called Vote Builder) that helps them to orgaize precincts, voters, and staff. I am eligible to use it, but I sure can't get anyone to help me access it. I have a phone number to call but having left four messags has done no good. The state Demo chair has tried to be helpful to no avail and the Cook County Demo Org receptionist has no clue about it or the guy I'm trying to reach. Emails about Vote Builder go unanswered.

Ah the trials of being a progressive candidate who wants to reform the system. The system wants the status quo.

Little do they know how stubborn I can be!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Saturday afternoon

Well I can see that if you do this campaign-thing correctly, you are busy all the time.

Had a really good house party at Joan and Mike's last night. My first political speech was well received, garnered good cash, and most importantly I was able to recruit several precinct captains with experience.

This morning was spent doing book-keeping, sending thank you notes, updating addresses, and getting a better handle on the geography of our district.

After lunch I headed to a meeting of the Green Party, which wasn't held as their out-of-date website had advertised. I was hoping to find some willing co-combatants in our efforts for grass root politics. Oh well, maybe a better strategy ought to be considered anyway. What do you think?

Tonight we'll be going to another house party.

All that said, when are you going host a party for me or volunteer to captain a precinct?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday after a walk to the bank

Finally it's a sunny day. --- Boy, that feels good.

Yesterday afternoon was spent with Katie, an intern and my first staff member. She did clerical stuff, including typing addresses into a database and stuffing envelopes. Yes, most campaign activity is drudgery.

This morning I built an excel spreadsheet listing the wards, precincts, and number of Democratic voters in my district. Katie's next job is to research vote totals by precinct and candidate to help develop a strategy for getting more votes than my opponent.

The mailman rang the bell this morning because he was delivering a plant that my friend Craig sent from Iowa. He noted, as he handed me the mail, that "Someone must be running for office," since he saw two letters addressed to Friends For Joe Laiacona. That led to a short discussion about electioneering and my giving him my card with the sincere request to come back and talk to me during off-work hours. It seems he has significant campaign experience as a precinct organizer. Ha! There's a man who can help make sense of the numbers that Katie compiles for me.

On the flip side, the postman reminded me that my opponent's father is a millionaire who has 1,500 precinct workers in his aldermanic ward, many who are on the payroll of one or another of his companies. Did I note that his ward comprises nearly half of my district? No one, and I mean NO ONE, said this race would be easy.

Later I processed the letters which included checks, hence the walk to the bank. One of the donors sent $25 with the request to not send anything to him ever again. I guess he doesn't get a thank y0u, huh?

This afternoon Lynn and I are driving around the district to get a better sense of its geography and demographics.

Tonight Joan and Mike are hosting my first fund-raising house party. I'm really excited about that and can do little more than think about giving my first political speech.

I also opened a twitter account. You can follow me at @jlaiacona. At least I think that's what you type in.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thursday morning with my cup of coffee

Wednesday was another busy and exciting day.

In the morning I met with four digital marketing specialists to discuss promoting my campaign. Can you spell blog? website? email? TWITTER? They suggested I needed a dedicated digital media specialist --- are you listening James?

They were also interested in being spotlighted on my blog. So with a drum roll please, a hearty thanks to Hugh, Amber, David, and Carey.

After working in the union office, I headed over to the Library with my spare two hours and borrowed a copy of "How to Win a Local Election." From there it was a walk up State Street to the Hard Rock Cafe for a meet and greet hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

There I learned from an admittedly small sampling of people, that few in the Gay community know a whole lot about the encumbent in my district. I also found that no one recognized me or my pen name, until I reminded them. We do have such short memories. Sic transit gloria mundi. For those who forgot their Latin I, that translates to "So passes the glory of the world." Yes, even gravestones suffer the ravages of time.

On the other hand, the theme of political reform resonated deeply with those present. I think the reform issue is stronger than we think, though it's only a humble opinion. (See more below.)

When I got home, I was pleased to find a Facebook email suggesting the name of a campaign manager. I also smiled a bit yesterday while recollecting that recently three people actually commented that my campaign might be winnable.

As for humble opinions, I do feel the impulse of self-delusion in some of this. What people affirm to my face may not translate into votes. After all, my audience is generally self-selected into those who probably agree with me, like me, or are being polite. For my part, I am liable to read more into what I hear than is really there.

In any case, the challenge is to believe deeply and work harder. Now if the rain would pass and the sun shine we could get some door to door campaigning done.

"We?" Yes, we. I have the joy of welcoming an intern to my staff today. She's a poly sci student at Miami University in Ohio and is earning credit for working in community organizing.

Progress... It is so sweet.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tuesday again

The weather is gray, cool, and damp...

I am spending my morning rounding up bits and pieces of the long-overdue work that clutters my desk. I can't say that there is much of a bright spot in all this, until I go to my mail box and find three more donation checks.

I breathe a sigh of relief, process the donations by 1) entering them in my accounting system, 2) sending thank you emails, and 3) making a deposit at the bank down the street.

I also sent press releases to the columnists at the Sun Times and at the Chicago Tribune. My campaign won't be newsworthy until after all the candidates' filings are in, which is sometime in November. In the meantime, I can only hope and work to get some press as the various columnists write about the issues of the day.

I want to thank the 5 people who are reading this blog! It helps me to feel less alone, though the truth is that I have lots of backers.

June 9

My rather slow weekend is morphing into another busy week.

Energy levels and weather conspired to make me lay low on the weekend so I campaigned until I got rained out, addressed invites to house parties, and rested.

Last night (Monday) Patrick and I attended a meeting of the Progressive Democrats of America where I breifly introduced myself and my candidacy got a round of applause. The program included a panel discussion about the closing of various Chicago public schools.

On this week's agenda is to meet with a representative of the Fraternal Order of Police to find out what their legislative priorities might be. Certainly voters in my district are concerned about the rise in crime and gang activity.

I have a college intern coming to help on Thursday. Friday is my first house party fund-raiser, followed by another on Saturday.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday night

Just back from three hours of campaigning...

I spent a couple of hours (who's counting?) passing out literature outside the Irving Park Blue Line station: "Excuse me, are you a registered voter?" I asked. When the answer was "Yes" I asked them to take a brochure. It is, after all, about name recognition and it's not as if Laiacona is a household word.

Two things of note did happen.

First, one guy took my lit, read it, and came back to say he would "Look for me" because he liked what he had read.

When I asked another young man if he were a registered voter, he replied "No, I'm Irish."

What one learns when one campaigns.

I was also reminded, by the folks who refused to even look me in the eye, much less take my lit, of how many times I have done the same thing...

Then I went house to house. It is such a small world. One of the doors I knocked on was the entrance to home of a fellow Columbia College part-timer.

PS Thanks to my good friend Josephine who came by at the right time to take this photo on my cell phone.

Catching up

I haven't been so busy in a long time.

On wednesday I had a long phone chat with a Democratic mayor who lives in the northwest suburbs. Once again he was helpful, even if his most serious bit of advice was to raise $50,000 now. He suggested I find two "angels" to donate $20,000 each to my campaign.

Well the lottery ticket I bought last week didn't do it... Any other ideas?

Thursday I spent meeting more people. The first was a third year law student who wants to volunteer to work for me. YES! He was very intelligent and left with a serious assignment to research issues, house bills, and my opponent's voting record.

Later I met another experienced candidate who once again said "Raise money." OK, I agree and I'm doing it, though I admit that I have lots of $25 contributions and no $25,000 ones. Hey, they don't call it a grass roots campaign for nothing.

After that I met with a friend who pledged $500 and to host a fund-raising house party. What more can I ask for? OK, another zero on that donation?

Then it was off to the Northside Democracy For America meeting. After which I took the bus home. A full day indeed.

On another note I was very pleased to see that my door-to-door campaigning actually brought in some money as well as registered voters in my district who are supporting me.

Patrick and I agree that the door-to-door method is the best. Now let's hope for more warm days and less rain.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The present state of government

These steps greeted me this morning as I went to our local post office to mail yet another pile of fund-raising letters.

I know that State Reps don't control the postal system, but here is an example of the refusal of our elected representatives at all levels of government to make good decisions.

Our current sad state of political affairs is the result of many factors, two of which are short-sighted budgeting and postponed decision-making. As I see it, too many elected officials base their decisions on the question "Will this get me re-elected?" rather than on the questions "What would my constituents have me do?" and "What is best for the greater and long-term good?"

I understand the predicament of economics as I face financial decisions every time I pay a bill. And yes, my home needs a new roof and I can't afford to buy it.

When it comes to the political world, there has been much too much short-sighted thinking, maintaining the status quo, and casting votes to get oneself re-elected rather than to serve the best interests of those one is representing. None of us can afford to run our homes or businesses the way the Illinois House of Representatives runs the state. It's time to tell the our elected officials to add fiscal responsibility and true representation to the list of what comes first.

Merely doing what it takes to get oneself re-elected ought to be last on the list, if on the list at all.