Friday, April 29, 2016

Losing Strategies

In 2013, a wealthy guy named Shawn O’Connor moved to NH in hopes of purchasing a US Senate seat. He was thinking about running as a Democrat against Kelly Ayotte. He began by not getting involved with local or state politics. The day before the election in 2014, he donated $1000 to the Manchester Democratic Committee, and $1,000 to Executive Councilor Chris Pappas. Those were his only donations of the election cycle.

The 2014 election cycle might have been illustrative for O’Connor. We all watched a former US Senator from Massachusetts move to NH and lose his bid to defeat Senator Jeanne Shaheen. Scott Brown had big name recognition. Shawn O’Connor? None. When Governor Hassan decided to run against Ayotte, O’Connor set his sights on Congress. He decided to run against Carol Shea-Porter in the Democratic primary against Frank Guinta in the first Congressional district.

In early 2015 he hired a bunch of people. There were media consultants, communications strategists, direct mail consultants, fundraisers, digital strategizers, and legal counsel. (To date, he’s spent over a million dollars of his own money.) And still, he couldn’t seem to get any traction. No one knew who the heck he was.

There were some mentions here and there, most not very flattering. NH is suspicious of carpetbaggers with big wads of cash. When O’Connor moved to NH he was a “third way” Democrat. The Third Way think tank is funded by corporations and hedge funds. Third Way Dems are centrist to right leaning types – friends of Wall St. not friends of workers.

Then in the summer of 2015, he made a speech at a political event about being a survivor of domestic violence. Even with all those communications strategists, he wasn’t getting any name recognition. In early January 2016, he endorsed Bernie Sanders. Bernie’s campaign had caught on fire in NH, and it was a way to differentiate himself from all of the other top ticket NH Democrats. They’d all endorsed Hillary Clinton. Suddenly he was a news story. Fighting income inequality, he said, was his number one priority. Those who heard O’Connor speak over the summer don’t remember ever hearing him mention that. He must have been saving the announcement of that priority for a special occasion.

The glow of media attention was what he’d been waiting for. Sadly, it waned. Desperate measures were called for. And early this month, he began to take them. He announced that he was going to sue former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter for defamation. He claimed that her campaign had engaged in a whisper campaign, accusing him of being a domestic abuser. There was evidence, he said! He said it loudly and often. The Shea-Porter campaign said it was “a sad, desperate, and untruthful attack.” O’Connor called on Shea-Porter to end her campaign. There was evidence, he said! He roped in some state legislators who really should have known better. More huffing and puffing. More legal threats. More claims of evidence.

This week, the NH Democratic Party released a statement saying that O’Connor had threatened to sue the party, and suggested they pay him to drop out of the race. O’Connor responded with a lengthy press release that made some peculiar accusations. In the weirdest game of telephone ever, O’Connor claimed that one state senator told another state senator that O’Connor planned to buy rats and put them in the kitchen of the Puritan Backroom – a restaurant owned by Chris Pappas, the Executive Councilor. O’Connor stated that he does not know where one would purchase rats. He further claimed that the restaurant had a long-standing rodent problem. That, of course, was easily checked with the health department, and quickly proven wrong.

It’s difficult to imagine what O’Connor hopes to gain at this point.  He’s made many accusations. Some of them have changed over time. The one thing he hasn’t done? He hasn’t provided a single bit of proof. Not one item of corroborating evidence to back up his many bizarre claims. It’s too bad that none of those high-priced advisors O’Connor has on the payroll are telling him that this is the worst election strategy ever. He spent over 10 hours tweeting at the media on Tuesday. For Shawn O’Connor, it’s all over but the shouting, and he seems to be determined to shout for as long as his keyboard holds out.

On the local level, the Concord Monitor had a story over the weekend about the number of state representatives that aren’t showing up to do committee work. All legislators are assigned to committees. Some refuse committee assignments – both former Speaker Bill O’Brien and Rep. Max Abramson (R. Free State) have refused assignments. There seems to be an epidemic of “I’m too good for this” going around.

One of the representatives mentioned was Lino Avellani of Wakefield. He’s assigned to the House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee, and he hasn’t been to a single committee meeting or hearing this year. He told the Monitor that it’s “hard” to get away from work. Avellani owns a restaurant. He owned the restaurant when he ran for office, yet he ran anyway. Still, as “hard” as it is to get to committee meetings, he does make it to House voting sessions. Luckily, members of the House Liberty Alliance stand in the hallway and hand representatives “The Gold Standard” a sheet telling them how to vote on libertea issues, so no preparation or thought is required.

This committee information should be readily available to us all, on line, but it isn’t.  The 21st century beckons, but NH is still looking wistfully into the distance. The libertea crowd brays about transparency, but does nothing to actually further it, when it comes to our state government. There are gun bills to write and women’s bodies to control.

Call me old-fashioned, but I have this silly belief that if you make a commitment, you should honor it. If you are elected to a position of public trust, you should be worthy of it. If you can’t do the work of The People, you shouldn’t run for office.

published as an op-ed in the April 29 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

1 comment:

Jerry S said...

What I gather from reading about this fellow makes me think he is odd and unstable. I hope he is okay mentally but it appears to me that he is not tough enough to put himself into the political arena. Politics is not a comfortable place to be for thin skinned people.