As of late I’ve been talking with a lot of local political hopefuls and observing how they conduct themselves in public.
Soundbytes, press releases and speeches simply aren’t accurate in conveying a candidate’s personality. After a while they all start to sound the same. There simply is no substitute for meeting a candidate in person.
But even in these days of low voter turnout it would be impossible for politicos to meet every person casting a ballot. And most voters wouldn’t waste the effort.
Sadly, in local elections social media is simply another platform to churn out the same tired content for political candidates in the metro area. The only exception in this regard is the very few candidates who have experimented with online video beyond a TV 30 sec. ad mimic.
Still, there’s no substitute for personal persuasion and endorsement. And while there is big money at stake and special interests to satisfy, local politics is based on longstanding friendships. Accordingly, some of the best politicians are people with a lot of friends and the ability to effortlessly build those relationships into political capital.
Again, Mayor Funkhouser is probably the only exception to this rule.
While so many might now question the quality of his City Hall audits, there is no doubt that he was every bit the City Hall technocrat who remains far more comfortable in dull budget meetings than cocktail parties.
Contrastingly, thinking about the Kansas City Mayor’s race it’s obvious that Mike Burke, Sly James and even Jim Rowland are people who navigate the local social circuit far more easily. In turn, these are folks with the largest social circle who have other friends that go out and speak to real, live people and push their candidate’s cause. So many speculate about the power of social media and the Internet when it comes to connecting with the voting public but at the local level the efficacy of this technology has simply never been demonstrated.
In the final analysis and for better or worse, winning an election in Kansas City is still very much a popularity contest.