The nightmare of all candidates
and consultants is to get basic
facts wrong in an election mail-
ing, especially if it criticizes
the principal opponent.
But what if the mailer is not
just wrong, but Spectacularly
It happened here in 2000 when
Howard Wayne (now running
for SD city council) and John
Steel (R) competed for the 78th
state assembly district. Six days
before the November runoff this
mailer, blasting Steel, was sent
by the California Democratic
Party to aid Howard Wayne
(please see accompanying
It accused Dr. Steel, a widely-
respected local Surgeon and
community leader, of being a
deadbeat, failing to pay ordered
child support, and a major
Just one problem…the charges
related to another John Steel,
not the Republican candidate
John Steel. Dr. John Steel was
Fall-out from this amazing total
Brain Lock was considerable:
(1) After first denying any error,
the state Democratic Party
later admitted their mistakes.
They sent a SECOND mailing
to voters apologizing. The
Estimated cost: $25,000.
(2) John Steel rightly got free
time on local TV news shows,
brandishing the mailer and in-
dignantly demanding Howard
Wayne be accountable for it.
For the uninitiated, local political
candidates NEVER get time
on TV news….but this story was weird enough to break through that barrier.
(3) The Union-Tribune twice reported Howard Wayne refused to take their reporters’ phone calls about the story, instead issuing a written statement saying he had forwarded the complaints to the Democratic Party!
As the incumbent in a heavily-Democratic district, Howard Wayne managed to win a 3rd-and-final Assembly term in 2000 anyway.
……………………SOME QUOTES OF NOTE
John Steel: “It’s wrong,” an angry Steel said.”It’s devastating. I have family and a ton of friends living in this community. And to have this stuff out there .. It’s an unbelievable way to run a campaign.”
“He also finds it hard to swallow that Wayne had no knowledge of the mailings. “He’s passing the buck,” Steel said.
The mailings have bold print that scream: “Steel didn’t pay his bills” and “How Republican politician John Steel got rich on America.”
Howard Wayne: “Wayne, as before, would not return phone calls. He did issue a statement again, saying the Democratic Party’s actions “are entirely appropriate.” [to do a follow-up mailing].
Credit: San Diego Union-Tribune, November 2nd and 3rd, 2000.
…………………….Looking Ahead to 2010
But a decade later, for Mr. Wayne, and other candidates, now is a good time to take preventative steps to avoid a similar meltdown in the 2010 runoffs. Here are some suggestions:
(1) Be sure your mailings are fully documented.
(2) If something goes wrong, stand up and take responsibility. Failure to do so in the case cited above turned a One-day story into a 3-Day event. It lingered through the Weekend leading to Election Day.
(3) Urge any supporters who may do Independent Expenditures to exercise great care in being fully accurate.
For Howard Wayne, in particular, the margin of “error” in 2010 may be smaller with San Diego reporters, owing to this jarring 2000 factual disaster by his “allies”.