From the Publisher: Handicapping an Election

Arnold G. York

Every couple of years we have an election for seats on the Malibu City Council, some years we elect two, and on alternate years, three. Sitting here on Tuesday afternoon before knowing the results of this year’s election, I got to reminiscing about all of the dozen or so elections I’ve seen over the last 24 years. In the intervening years since we became a city, many have tried for city council, a few have succeeded and most have failed. It’s a healthy thing in a democracy when people run for political office because we always need new talent, energy and ideas. Sadly, many of the people who run have little talent, lots of energy and few ideas, or at least few practical ideas. I will say that I admire people who run because they are willing to put themselves on the line and take whatever comes. When you run, you get a certain amount of strokes but you also get a coterie of people who are only too willing to beat up on you, some for sound policy reasons, and some who do it because they are personally unhappy and love the opportunity to take it out on someone else.

So, to save some of you future candidates from a lot of grief, I’m going to give you some advice which you have not asked for and are free to ignore. Call this York’s rules for running in Malibu. That’s not serving, just running.

Rule #1: It’s going to take a lot of time. It typically takes a couple of thousand votes or so to win. In a Malibu election, you shake the hands of 2,000 voters if you work hard and walk the precincts.

Rule #2: It’s going to have an impact on your family and your work, and if you win, the truth is you’re adding another full-time job to whatever you’re already doing.

Rule #3: It takes money to run for office. Fortunately, in a small town you can probably do it for about $25,000, but that keeps climbing with each election. The money goes for mailings, newspaper ads (very important), online ads, social media printing, signs and all the other paraphernalia of contemporary politics.

Rule #4: You’re going to need a consultant, someone to run your campaign. It can be a volunteer consultant, but it has to be someone with experience who understands elections.

Rule #5: You need to get the results of all the past elections and very analyticallytr y and figure where the votes are and how you can form alliances to get those 2,000 votes.

Rule #6: You absolutely need a group of highly enthusiastic supporters who will walk precincts, hold up signs, run coffee parties in their homes, and talk to and recruit all of their friends to vote for you.

Rule #7: Generally speaking, you do better with a slate. However, you want a balance in terms of voter appeal, perhaps geography, perhaps gender, people who have different areas of support that can be joined together.

Rule #8: You genuinely have to stand for something. Understand that in Malibu everyone is for very slow growth, everyone is for a cleaner environment, everyone is for healthier schools, everyone is for keeping us from becoming a tourist town, so just being for the “good guy” is not enough.

Rule #9: You don’t start with running for council. You start by volunteering, work- ing on a charity, getting actively involved in your homeowners association, school involvement or many of a dozen ways to get engaged. Then you get appointed to a city commission or an advisory group. It’s all time-consuming, often tedious, and you will often be dealing with people you don’t agree with. But that’s politics in a democracy. If you don’t have the personality for handling discord, you certainly don’t want to be in politics.

Rule #10: Be persistent, don’t give up and, if you fail the first time, well, then just go back, figure out what you did wrong and start again.