September 19, 2017

The Nomination Process

• By John Chisholm •

Friends have been inquiring. “How’s the campaign going?”

The answer, as truth so often appears, is short: It’s gone.

It went by in a heady mixture of idealism, folly and naiveté. I claim all three.

That’s right. I spent the last ten weekends, beginning back in January, collecting nomination signatures. Of those, I took one Sunday afternoon off to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. The Super Bowl intervened as well. I stopped knocking on doors a half hour before game time. (Come on. Who appreciates being interrupted by a politician when New England is playing in the Super Bowl?) Otherwise, I was out there (in more senses of the phrase than one) each Saturday and Sunday campaigning.

Please understand that I wanted to meet my neighbors. All of them. It only seemed reasonable. If I was to represent them in Augusta, how could I claim that honor without having met them? I knocked on hundreds and hundreds of doors. It’s true. I’m not exaggerating. I met a great many people that I’d never seen before. I also learned that I have a startlingly large circle of friends and acquaintances.

Of that entirety, not everyone was courteous. Some were outright boorish. But happily a great many were polite, curious and interested in both my credentials and the process.

This is where I have to apologize and ask you to please bear with me. Both the pathos and humor of this situation require figures and percentages. They make dry reading. I can only assure you that they have to be included for full appreciation of the circumstances.

Here goes:

There are three municipalities in House District 102; Glenburn, Kenduskeag and Levant. Clearly and sensibly all nomination signatures must come from residents within these towns.

Further, 100 percent of the signatories must be registered voters. Again, this only makes sense.

The Secretary of State’s office forwarded me the nomination forms. They advised me that sufficient space was provided on the sheets enclosed. With five pages of 60 lines each in hand, I concluded that 300 valid signatures were required.

Armed with these understandings, I set out.

In two and a half months I collected 384 signatures. Nine were from individuals outside this district. Clearly those are invalid.

That left 375 signatures. Great! With 75 signatures to spare I was confident that I had more than enough to secure my nomination. With the submission deadline of March 15th, 2016 looming, I hastened to the Town Clerks of the constituent communities for signature validation.

I have nothing but nice things to say about these hardworking people. Validating signatures is crucial work. It’s also a linguistic feat; reading some signatures is incredibly difficult. On top of that, it’s both time-consuming and tedious. Compound all that by impatient candidates breathing down your neck and you have an idea of the process. It’s no fun.

Being fair, it wasn’t any fun for me, either. The results took my breath away. Truly. I gasped, grasping the implications.

Including all three towns, I possess 88 valid signatures.

Remember, I need 300.

Now realize that on my best day campaigning, I collected 34. That’s right. That took me a bit over ten hours, too. Please understand. There are always people who want to talk. They have worries and agendas, just like you and me. They’re looking for a responsive government. I was looking for their support.

You bet, I listened. That can be time-consuming.

But the result of all this; only 23 percent of the signatures collected are valid. Ouch!

You bet, with my nomination at stake, I broke down the figures.

Almost 8 percent of the signatures collected came from unregistered residents. That number still shakes me. I’m not surprised as much as saddened by this. (Recall that I collected 20 percent more signatures than needed precisely to offset this faction.) How can anyone live in America and not be involved in at least local politics? It’s so important.  

Beyond that however, 70 percent of the signatures collected came from Republicans.

It turns out that only registered Democrats can nominate a Democratic candidate for State Representative.

Wow.

In a limited way, that makes sense. In another way, it’s incredibly narrow-minded. After all, candidates need support from both parties if they’re ever to be elected. I’ve been both a Selectman and a School Board member. Any registered voter within the town or school district may nominate you for those positions. Their political affiliation doesn’t matter.  Further, you’d imagine that either party would be delighted members of the other party support their nominee.

But no. That’s not the case. In fact, it doesn’t work like that.

Who knew?

I didn’t, that’s for sure. I’m laughing about it now, mocking my own folly. Here I wanted to make a difference, too.

Ha! With sixty years of living behind me, wouldn’t you imagine I’d realize that knowing exactly how matters stand beforehand is a critical step in that process?