When we last left off, we were discussing how the impending 2021 consolidated election nominating paperwork, particularly those signature sheets, can reveal quite a bit about a candidate’s campaign dynamic. And if that paperwork discloses too much information, it can give an opponent a real leg up!
In that very vein, here are two of my favorite signature sheet intelligence stories!
When former Kane County Sheriff Don Kramer ran for reelection in 2018, his signature sheets where a thing of beauty. Not only did he use stellar walk lists, but he collected 75 percent of those 1,500 autographs himself! He also went “old school” by collecting those names exclusively from the heart of Kane County Republicandom.
You see, until the law was successfully challenged in court, for partisan races, Illinois candidates could only secure signatures from voters who fell within their respective party. But it became so difficult to determine party allegiance, particularly for those coveted swing voters, the only remaining Illinois caveat is a voter cannot sign for both a Republican AND a Democratic candidate in the same election cycle.
So, when I saw all those hardcore Republican signatures, it got me thinking. Sheriff Kramer had taken a lot of heat for completely blowing the Delnor Hospital hostage crisis, and since besieged incumbents tend to develop an early “second-term-itis” bunker mentality, I surmised that candidate Kramer was solely seeking out friendly voter faces.
Put more simply, I was convinced Kramer was “preaching to the choir,” or courting voters who were already in his camp. And if that propensity persisted throughout general election canvassing process, as I suspected it would, it made the perfect counterstrategy abundantly clear!
I pointed Democratic challenger Ron Hain to the critical voters Kramer was ignoring and the rest is history! Hain became just the second Democratic Kane County sheriff with 53 percent of the vote. Basically, Sheriff Kramer’s signatures sheets pointed us towards a fascinating opening and we drove right through it.
But as much as I like that story, here’s my favorite signature sheet tip off tale!
In light of a longstanding friendship, I took on a 2020 Kane County Board Democratic primary race that, by all electoral measures, I knew would prove to be a very difficult proposition. Our opponent was a highly motivated and proven campaign worker, he enjoyed a ton of support from the Aurora, Illinois, Democratic Party, he was the incumbent, and my candidate was black in a city that’s just 10 percent African American.
But we did have one large advantage! The incumbent’s grating personality inevitably rubbed people the wrong way while my candidate enjoyed a quiet charisma that drew people to him. And our opponent provided us with the perfect opportunity to exploit that edge!
Though he only needed 32 signatures to secure a ballot spot, the incumbent collected a whopping 400 in an effort to intimidate any potential challenger. But instead of cowering in a corner, my candidates’ wife entered those voters into a spreadsheet, and after the candidate knocked on all 400 doors, we won by a scant seven votes!
Simply turning over the names and addresses of 400 of his favorite supporters was the kind of fatal error that cost the incumbent the election.
So, before your start collecting those signature sheet autographs, please consider what they and your circulator names might be revealing about your impending campaign. Because if you give up too much information, a reasonable opposing campaign manager will beat you with it – literally and figuratively!
If you’re considering running for a local office, the professionals at Forward Communication can perform the most thorough political intelligence. We’ll tell you exactly what you’re up against. Please Contact Us for a free consultation.