So you want to run for re-election? Here’s a short primer

The California state Capitol at dusk. (Photo: Karin Hildebrand Lau, via Shutterstock)

You are an incumbent officeholder. You’d like to keep on being an incumbent officeholder.

That means a re-election campaign – you know, where you kowtow to special interests, rail against fraud and waste and, above all, avoid being called “one of those Sacramento politicians” — even if you are one of those Sacramento politicians.

The first step, of course, is the speech declaring that you are indeed running for another term.

Issues are not complex. It’s simply a matter of common sense and prudent business practices.

The speech must first please your constituents by sounding alarms over the goings-on in Sacramento. When you’re re-elected, you will put an end to it. You will lead the way toward a bright future of lower taxes, frugal government and free ice cream.

Some damned reporter might point out that you’ve been in office while all that bad stuff was happening. Not to worry. Know that there are clever people in offices in and around the Capitol who are good at making you come across as a fresh new face even if you’ve been around since Ronald Reagan. This image-making doesn’t come cheap, but that’s what campaign contributions are for. And that’s why campaigns are expensive: There are a lot of mouths to feed.

Your chief of staff was caught making love to a goat on the west steps of the Capitol? Not to worry. You’ll talk about “challenges” that will be overcome in your next term.

By some odd twist of fate, did your office somehow spend less on paper in this fiscal year because the copying machine broke down?  You’ve “reduced administrative costs.”

Issues are not complex. It’s simply a matter of common sense and prudent business practices, whatever they are. They will save “taxpayer dollars.” Better yet, “hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”

For sure, there will be someone out there who is mounting a campaign to get you kicked out of office.  Don’t defend yourself.  Attack them. They are dishonest. They lie. They are morally lax.

Lyndon Johnson, running for the U.S. Senate in Texas, said he wanted to accuse his opponent of having sex with barnyard animals. His aides were aghast. “You can’t say that! It’s not true!”

“I know,” Johnson reportedly answered. “But I can make him deny it.”

Say your opponent wants to raise state income taxes by 50 percent and double automobile license fees. Keep repeating that, loudly, over and over again, on social media and everywhere else. Your opponent will indignantly deny the accusation, but see what you’ve done?  The campaign now revolves around whether your opponent wants to raise state income taxes by 50 percent.

Endorsements are a good thing.  Just be sure they’re from people who are not going to get themselves – and you – in trouble. Those include zealots on the fringes of both major parties, flat-earth advocates, Holocaust-deniers and felons. Governors are good, as long as they’ve been out of office long enough so that people forget what made them angry at them in the first place. Elder statesman is where you want them to be.

But one prominent L.A. politician, City Council Member Mark Ridley-Thomas, was hastily dropped from the list of supporters of Rep. Karen Bass, who is running for mayor of L.A., following his indictment, along with a former USC official, on 20 federal counts involving corruption. Among other things, he is accused of colluding with the USC official to steer money to the school in return for USC giving his son a full scholarship and professorship. And so it goes….

So there you have it. Relax. The records show that most incumbents win. And then all you have to worry about is your next campaign.  There will be another campaign, right?



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