Defending, sort of, Bruce Danielson’s non-campaignAugust 3rd, 2012 by Steven Gardner
Having just returned this week from vacation, when I ignored this place and any issues it might discuss, I just Thursday read Josh Farley’s story about how some people are complaining because Bruce Danielson, candidate for state Supreme Court, doesn’t seem to be campaigning.
I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here, in a way. I’m not saying this move by Danielson is good or right. (Nor am I saying he’s the devil.) I am saying he just might benefit from this strategy, and that in itself might make it good or right. I’ll also argue that maybe there is more than winning the election at issue.
I understand the complaint. The 20 or so of you who might want to go to a debate between the judge candidates and the hundreds more of you who would like to read something before voting could benefit from knowing Danielson’s positions on judicial matters, assuming you’re undecided.
My answer to that is Danielson did post a one-page website and put his info in the voter’s guide. He’s telling you something. It’s not nothing. Whether there is enough there for you to get a sense of how he would perform as a judge is another question.
That, perhaps, gets answered in the Sun story itself. Farley followed the advice of bob12345 before bob12345 gave it, suggesting to me that maybe bob12345 didn’t read the entire story. bob12345 wrote, “i have no problem with him not posting his info, campaigning, or participation in debates. his info is out there, the sun should have filled in his info for him.. ‘reporting’.” Well, bob12345, I assume you’re talking about the questionnaire we gave each candidate first. No, we’re not going to fill in the answers to our questions for him. Would you expect the county auditor to do that? The questionnaire is a place for candidates to make their arguments without any filtering by us. Farley did, however, go back to some of Danielson’s old public statements and put them in the story. You know, reporting.
On the question of whether Danielson’s strategy will make him the winner, well I’d say it probably won’t, based on history of other candidates who choose not to show up to public events, answer questions from inquiring news organizations, or doorbell.
It doesn’t mean it won’t ever work. Danielson, I suspect, may be employing this technique to illustrate his point on his website that “Judges should be elected without influence from a political party or special interest group.”
For the record, I think the term “special interest group” is thrown around way too much, the all-encompassing bogeyman used by politicians to scare voters into not voting for the opponent.
For those who might think Danielson is arguing against electing judges, the very next sentence on his site should dispel that notion. “Voters should not settle for a judge who has been appointed by the most partisan office of the State.”
Another reason it could work one day, if not now, is because it makes the candidate look like a maverick, bucking the system and delivering a middle finger to establishment politicians and the mainstream media. Some respond favorably to that.
It also generated a story (free advertising) because some in the legal community are put off by Danielson’s decision to run this way. The story does not, contrary to some of the commenters, say the Kitsap Sun is upset about it. The Kitsap Sun, as far as I am aware, has not taken a position on Danielson’s tactic. We also don’t have a practice of editorially slamming people who don’t buy ads from us, by the way. In fact, I only know who buys ads when I see them the way you do, on my computer screen or in the paper. Those of you who want to believe otherwise are probably not going to believe that, but I’ll go through the useless exercise of telling you anyway.
Finally, let’s not discount the idea that maybe winning the election is not the candidate’s first priority. I don’t know Danielson’s motivation for running. We assume all candidates actually want to win. The large majority probably do and would take the job if they did win, but you’d be surprised how many know very well they’re not going to. So they run for other reasons.
Danielson could win, and if he does I’m sure he’d relish the job. But if he doesn’t win, he has made a statement by running the way he has. And if you’re more cynical, he’s paid a filing fee and paid for a website, which if nothing else ends up creating advertising for his legal services. How many clients would it take for him to make up whatever price he paid?
As a P.S. to this, Danielson is not alone this election in applying this kind of technique. In the 6th Congressional District race Eric Arentz filed as an independent and as far as I know hasn’t campaigned other than providing information for the official election guides.
Stephan Brodhead, a Republican, has done a little more. He answered our questionnaire, has a pretty comprehensive website and I see his ads on Facebook. He won’t, however, talk to me or other reporters.
In fact, when I wrote that the primary ballots were in the mail and described him as “2010 Oregon Congressional candidate Stephan Brodhead,” he took particular exception to that, writing as a story comment, “Well Gardner, for your information, when I ran in Oregon in 2010, I did it for experience. I ended up endorsing one of your fellow Mormons that attended BYU, hence your qualifiying me as an Oregon candidate is quite self serving… In fact it is prickish and somewhat BYUish…..Sorta Council of 50 type of deal…”
Later that day I wrote an e-mail to him saying, “I was hoping we could set up a time to chat on the phone for an election story for the weekend,” making no reference to his online comment.
He responded: “Go ahead and talk to Brigham Young, I mean, Jesse
Young. Given how you worded your blog, I am certain that your
interpretation and journalistic intent will not fall in my favor;
hence, I am not interested in talking with you at all….
I responded, “What are you talking about?”
His answer: “You called me the ‘Oregon candidate’ in your blog….You chose this as a qualifier, and did not have to. This shows your intent….I am not interested in any type of interview at this juncture. I think we are done…Please quit with the emails….”
My final response: “I’m not done. I don’t understand what the
problem is with what I wrote.
“I’m giving you an opportunity to make your case as a candidate. To be clear, you’re going to decline an opportunity to make that case because I mentioned the fact that you ran for Congress in Oregon?
“If that’s what you want, for me to write that you refused to be interviewed for the story, I’ll grant your wish.”
He didn’t respond to me again until after I wrote the story I had asked him to comment for. In that story I described him as “a real estate owner and manager, small business owner and veteran.” He took issue with that description.
Brodhead’s message to me: “Collectively, all of the news organizations have censored my service in Iraq while playing up Driscoll. Your latest article simply calls me a veteran while you explain in detail Eichner and Driscoll’s military service. This is just another blatant example of your media bias and manipulation. Your credibility as a journalist is suspect. Thanks for devaluing my contributions as a veteran while playing up others….”
My response: “Amazing that someone who refuses to talk to anyone in the media complains that he’s being censored.”
In the story I referred to Eichner’s military service by calling him a “former Navy submarine captain.” Of Driscoll I said he was “a veteran who in 2006 volunteered to rejoin the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
So perhaps Brodhead has a point, though I don’t feel all that guilty for using “veteran” to describe him. Most people do still consider being a veteran a good thing, right? Given the chance to do the story again I might say he was a flight engineer in Iraq. I wasn’t trying to discount his service. But again, if want to believe otherwise, what I say here isn’t going to change your mind. If you go to the bio page on Brodhead’s site you’ll see his military experience.
And if you’re looking for a candidate who won’t talk to the media or debate his opponents, you’ve got your man. In a primary race with five candidates from the same party, I can see a day when that strategy might work.