Running his third campaign for City Council, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel earlier this week was kind enough to let me in on an insider’s perspective.
Apparently, the secret is zip ties and a truck filled with yard signs.
According to Maciel, the signs are for those who ask to support you unexpectedly, and plastic zip ties keep bigger campaign banners from flapping away in the Tracy breeze.
Who knew it was so simple?
Of course, the real story behind the success of many local campaigns — both here and across the country — is much more complicated.
Even in little old Tracy, campaigns are using increasingly sophisticated strategies to gain the upper hand, including data mining and demographic tracking.
Many of those techniques were pioneered at the highest levels of politics.
In 2008, the operation of then-Sen. Barack Obama revolutionized the timeworn tradition of grassroots mobilization, utilizing statistics, databases and a vast collection of volunteers to spread his message.
It helped deliver him the presidency.
This year, Obama seems to be reprising the effort, and many campaigns are following suit — right down to the streets of Tracy.
Representatives from both Republican and Democratic organizations in San Joaquin County have told me they’re using detailed information gathered over multiple surveys, phone calls and house visits to hone in on voters who could swing an election.
Many times, the information is handed down from well-funded congressional campaigns or national campaign committees.
There’s also an entire industry rising to serve aspiring politicians.
It includes outfits like NationBuilder, which offers voter data “whether you’re running for school board, Congress or state office,” according to its website.
A.J. Carillo, who works for NationBuilder but before the June 5 primary election was helping run the campaign of local congressional candidate Jose Hernandez, said there are several campaigns in the area utilizing his company’s services.
For as little as $30 a month, he said, smaller organizations can get a data management system similar to those used by some of the largest campaigns in the land — a weapon that could make or break a local effort with limited resources.
If you know which people are likely to receive your message, you don’t have to waste time knocking on dead-end doors or money on certain-to-be-trashed mailers.
That makes information the currency of modern campaigns — especially in crunch time.
As one veteran San Joaquin County campaigner told me this week, the final month before Election Day is when a savvy adviser decides which races are locks and which are lost, so he can focus on the toss-ups where a final push might really make a difference.
So don’t be surprised if a candidate — or a surrogate — knocks on your door between now and Nov. 6. Just know that there’s a lot hidden behind that person on the stoop.
Congressional forum no-go
It’s with sadness I report that a congressional forum planned for Sunday, Oct. 14, will not happen.
Originally, the date appeared to work for both the campaigns of Rep. Jeff Denham and Jose Hernandez, who are running to represent Tracy in the 10th Congressional District.
But a late change in the congressman’s schedule threw that off, and the Press has been unable to find an amenable date for both campaigns over the past week and a half.
I and the rest of the Press staff remain determined to host a congressional forum before Election Day.
It’s my sincere hope that the Press can broker an agreement between the congressional competitors, and that the Press can announce a forum date in the coming days.
• Second Thoughts is a personal opinion column by editor Jon Mendelson. Share your thoughts at 830-4231 or jmendelson@tracy