This letter is to all candidates (local, state, federal) and their campaign staffers. I’m really not one to dance around the edges of an issue. Sometimes things just need saying straight. This is it.
Thank you for running for public office. Though it has been badly damaged by men and women of low character, public service is still an honorable pursuit.
There’s something disturbing in the air these days in politics, and it’s a bad sign. There’s an air of “aristocracy” and entitlement in the tone and actions of some candidates and/or their staffers — even a hint of bullying. So, in an effort to avoid strife, everyone needs to understand their respective roles — yours as a candidate and ours as one of many citizen groups vetting candidates.
First, you need to know that after 21 years of life as a volunteer conservative activist, I’ve seen and heard plenty. I’ve worked with a variety of candidates for every office imaginable. My private sector and public service experience has also exposed me to a wide variety of personalities. I’ve conducted more candidate forums and debates than you can imagine. Our membership is made up of folks from every walk of life. They are smart, salt-of-the earth people and very educated on the issues. They deserve respect.
Second, I’ve already been called every name in the book. I’ve dealt with the hate websites, the hate blog posts, the hate letters-to-the-editor, and hate e-mails for many years. These things don’t scare me, don’t keep me up at night, or move me off principle. If you come after me personally, I’ll say a prayer for you and move on, but if you come after the patriots in Grassroots America – you’ll be buying yourself some trouble. So if bullying is a tool in your consultant’s tool box, you might want to rethink it.
Third, please don’t invite me to lunch or dinner. Don’t try to make an appointment with me before a forum so you can figure out what’s on my mind. If you have a question about the event or how to interact with the Grassroots America membership, please call. I’m happy to talk to you, but don’t expect to get any special insights. Just as bullying doesn’t work with me, neither does flattery. I’m not a political groupie.
It is in my nature to work hard to give people the benefit of the doubt. Everybody has a bad day. Far from perfect myself, it really is a goal of mine to employ The Golden Rule. Because I have been a candidate and an elected official, I am very aware of how mean and nasty some people can be. We will make every effort to treat you and your staff with respect, kindness, and good manners, but we expect the same from you.
So let’s be clear on a few things that will save you and your staff a lot of angst:
1. You are the candidate. You are asking “We the People” to take a chance on hiring you to perform a public service.You will be asked tough questions of substance. We don’t do sound bite drive-bys or softball questions here. We don’t allow candidates to spew poll-tested, focus-grouped rhetoric without answering questions. If you aren’t up to tough questions, you might want to consider another line of work. The people paying the freight deserve an assessment of your temperament, to know what your core beliefs are, how you make tough decisions, and where you stand on the most vital issues of the day. This is not about embarrassing or disrespecting you, but it is all about hiring the best person for the office, because we simply cannot afford to hire the wrong one. That means your record, what you have said in the past, and your documented actions are all subject to being questioned during your job interview. On the other hand, anonymous tips, rumors, and hearsay will not be used to discredit any candidate. Please don’t send us any.
2. If you are an elected official, you as a person – and your office – are to be respected, but you are not a rock-star or a god. You deserve to be treated with fairness and good manners, but you are not entitled to special favors. Don’t ask for them.
3. You will not dictate what questions we ask, how we ask them, the rules of engagement, or the format we use. This is our business – not yours. Our forums and debates are styled to extract from each candidate their actual belief system and their core values. We are giving you free exposure to potential voters, and in many cases, free media. Through live-streaming and archived videos of the forum/debate, your candidacy will get free local, regional, and statewide exposure further compounded via social media.
4. You will not dictate those chosen to be our panelists and moderators. We will never knowingly choose a moderator or panelist who has publicly endorsed a candidate in your race. If you have evidence of an endorsement, bring it to my attention, but do not ask for a change in moderator or panelist just because they have a reputation for asking tough questions. It is our job to ask tough questions. It is yours to answer to the best of your ability. We won’t try to tell you how to run your campaign. You shouldn’t try to run our business. That’s bad manners.
5. If you or your staff agree to a date and time to appear, please be sure you get it on your calendar. It is a commitment, and we expect you to keep it unless you have a health issue or a family emergency. Football games that conflict with your original commitment, getting a better deal, double-booking, or having an incompetent campaign team do not constitute an “emergency” for us. After the date has been accepted by the candidates in your race, we will not change the date or time of the event, nor will we jump through hoops at the last minute so you can appear via a web or satellite link.
6. If you are late to a forum or debate, we will not hold up the questioning period of the event for you. You will forgo opening remarks and all questions previously asked of the other candidates. If you must arrive late due to an unforeseen situation, contact me or one of our advance team members immediately. You may join the event upon arrival.
7. Please do not try to speak for another candidate. I am weary of campaigns calling to tell me what another candidate said to tell me. This is not grade school. Every candidate should speak for him- or herself or have a staffer contact us.
8. We will schedule candidate forums for all races appearing on the March 2014 ballot. The Grassroots America Board of Directors will make endorsement decisions based on a deep vetting process, which includes a background review; review of your voting record, conduct, and performance in any offices held; conservative ratings from a variety of sources; performance in debates and forums; your command of pertinent information and knowledge germane to the office you seek; and your core values. The GAWTP Board of Directors reserves the right to call a candidate back for an additional interview with the Board. It takes seven of nine board members or 3/4ths of the Board to make an endorsement.
The GAWTP Board of Directors has not endorsed any candidate as of October 8, 2013. The GAWTP Board will only consider endorsements of federal, state, and local candidates who will appear on the ballot in Smith County. I will make personal endorsements in a very limited number of races outside Smith County, based on my volunteer work with the Texas Legislature’s TEA Party Caucus Advisory Committee, the Conservative Budget Coalition, Heritage Action, American Majority Action, and FreedomWorks.
Again, thank you for running for office. It will be a less stressful experience if we employ statesmanlike conduct as we vigorously debate the serious issues.
JoAnn Fleming, Executive Director (volunteer), Grassroots America – We the People PAC www.gawtp.com
Chair – Advisory Committee to the TX Legislature’s TEA Party Caucus
(903) 894-7204 home office or (903) 360-2858 cell
“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” (Samuel Adams)