Monday, September 12, 2005

It Makes Me Go Hmmmmm

I know it's an inconsequential thing, but this is the kind of connection that makes me go "hmmmm" and wonder about the newspapers and reporters that tell us about our world.

It began with this Commercial Appeal story from last Thursday about Terry Roland, the Republican candidate for the State Senate 29th District seat vacated by Democrat John Ford and being sought by sister Ophelia. The article included this passage:
He has campaigned frequently in predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Memphis, from Raines Road to Kerrville, he said.

"That's the difference between me and a lot of other people," Roland said. "I listen."

Warren Lewis, 72, owner of the 40-year-old Warren's Original Hair Style shop on Thomas near Chelsea, planted a Roland campaign sign out front after the candidate's visits.


"One of the main things, sir, nobody comes to talk to me," Lewis said. "That's what makes the difference."
Any white candidate running in District 29 starts with a disadvantage, in that he's the minority. Effective campaigning in the black community is a must.

But then comes Monday and I receive a press release (I didn't ask to get on this list, it just happened. More on that in a bit.) from the Roland campaign about a "whirlwind tour" of the 29th District by Roland. One of his stops? Warren's Original Hair Style salon.

So I ask myself, which came first? Did the reporter dig up Warren's on his own? Did he drive around the district, see the sign and just go in to talk with Mr Warren? Did he find the guy on his own?

Did the Roland campaign then read about the guy, go talk with him, find him willing to campaign and then set up the visit for today?


Did the reporter ask the Roland campaign if he could talk with some Roland supporters? Was he given Warren's name? Did he then go talk with Mr Warren, but fail to mention in the article how he learned of the guy?

Did the Roland campaign, now armed with name recognition in the paper for a Roland campaigner and supporter, then work with Mr Warren to capitalise on this little bit of good pre-planned fortune?

Color me suspicious, but I suspect it was the latter and not the former. I may have to call this reporter (Kevin McKenzie) to find out.

As to why I'm receiving Roland PR, you've got me. I don't recall ever signing up, though I am on the Shelby County Republican Party mailing list. (I signed up for the Democrat's list, but have never received a single thing from them.) But the email I get from the SCRP goes to the Half-Bakered mailbox and the Roland material goes to my personal email box. All political stuff I sign up for goes to the Half-Bakered box, for obvious reasons.

In the initial PR thing, the sender didn't use the Blank Carbon Copy feature (or a generic list name) and I got the entire list of recipients. It covered the CA, some smaller papers, lots of television news reporters... and two bloggers. Me and Alpha Patriot. Maybe he was the source? Doesn't matter.

Anyway, I bring this up because that first piece of campaign PR was so... odd that I initially suspected it had been sent out by Ford operatives as a dirty tactic. I cursorily tried to contact the Roland campaign, but got an answering machine and let it go.

Read this:

*It's Possible Unregistered People and Convicted Felons Have Voted.*

*(Memphis, TN) *– Candidate Terry Roland strongly urges the Tennessee and Shelby County Election Commissions to closely monitor voter ballots for the District 29 State Senate special election. Voting irregularities may *already* be a serious problem according to voting records obtained by the Terry Roland for State Senate campaign.

Early voting for the special election began August 26th at the Election Commission office. In the first 200 votes cast in Shelby County, five people voted with no record of ever having registered to vote. Additionally, some voted that public records list as convicted felons.

"While this may not be conclusive proof of illegal voting, it certainly warrants investigation. If this is any indication of a trend in the overall voting, it is very serious indeed," said Darrin Kirkus, campaign coordinator for Terry Roland.

In a letter to the commission, the Terry Roland campaign has asked the Shelby County Election Commission to closely monitor the ballots in what is expected to be a close race.
It may all be true and it is a crime that deserves investigation, but does the Roland campaign want to trumpet this when the black community is especially sensitive to issues of disenfranchisement, real or perceived. It's certainly an attack the Ford campaign would pounce on, privately by word of mouth, as proof of which "master" Roland serves. As I said, it may be true and bad, but it's plain old bad PR in a majority black district. That's why I suspected dirty tricks.

Roland presented himself initially as an straight-shooting, think for himself Republican. The kind of guy who doesn't do what the party wants but what's right. Only thing is, as I noted then on Thaddeus Matthews' blog, how is such an independent the Number Four guy in the SCRP? You don't rise that high if you can't play ball and serve the needs of the party. The two are mutually incompatible.

Which is why I stayed out of this race. Yes, it's better that a Republican serve than another Ford, especially someone who is a businessman than a family-hanger on. Roland is, seen in isolation, just the kind of citizen-politician I should like. But I've disliked the opportunistic way the Republicans have pushed Roland since the day John Ford resigned. (Remember how they shot out that PR announcement requesting that someone be appointed to finish out Fords's term and how Roland was the best candidate for appointment? Oooooh....) The real man and the image aren't consonant, which bugs me enough to be leery. The SCRP aren't the slickest dildoes in the dungeon, if you know what I mean, and so it's easy to assume a degree of manipulation going on.

I don't like manipulation. I like straight-forwardness and honesty. Give me that and you'll get my vote.

No comments: