C(API)TOL CORRESPONDENT: Why I hate API candidates

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Editor’s Note: The following was originally posted on Bill Wong’s blog, http://thesunfire.blogspot.com.

After over 20 years of working in politics, I have come to hate my own people when it comes to campaigns. With a few notable exceptions, here are five of the reasons why we suck at politics and why I hate most Asian Pacific Islander (API) candidates.

1) They don’t understand relationships. It’s ironic that if you take any East Asian business class, they will hammer into you that the biggest factor in the success of an Asian business venture is cultivating relationships. In fact, the Chinese have a term for it: Guanxi. Maybe the APIs who are in politics are there because they would never make it in business. Many of the API candidates I meet with have utterly horrible people skills and they do absolutely nothing to build relationships. I met with one candidate that asked me to help him get support from other API electeds. I asked him why they should support him and he replied, “because I’m Asian.” I’m all for Asian pride, but then I asked the candidate, “well, you’re a rich Asian guy … did you support any of the APIs that are in office now when they were running?” He said unashamedly that “No, it wasn’t a priority for me then.” Well, no surprise — his race was not a priority for most of the APIs already in elected office.

2) They think everyone loves a good resume. Campaigns are not like getting into grad school. Just because you went to Harvard, Cal, USC, or Stanford doesn’t mean you’re going to win. Your resume has nearly next to nothing to do with winning a race.

Campaigns are a popularity contest, not a spelling bee. You could have the cure for cancer, but if a voter doesn’t want to have a beer with you, you’re not going to win on Election Day.

3) They think too much. Stop thinking. It isn’t your job. It’s the job of your campaign team. Go out there and shake hands, kiss babies, and save your neighbor from a burning building. If you wanted to do campaign strategy, then be a campaign consultant — not a candidate. I don’t care if you can build the space shuttle Enterprise from scratch, you’re best served by letting campaign professionals do their job.

4) They think one election success is scalable. Just because you got to where you are doesn’t mean you have what it takes to get you to where you want to go. A lot of API local electeds get it in their head that winning a local race is as simple as winning a legislative or congressional race. Perhaps if you won in Los Angeles or San Francisco, but not in Suburbanville, USA. Not to say local elected officials don’t matriculate up, but the smart ones run professional campaigns suited for the office they’re running for.

5) They believe in strategy by committee. It’s better to go with one imperfect strategy than pursue numerous allegedly perfect strategies. Most API candidates that I meet believe there is some magic formula for winning. Either they waste costly amounts of time trying to ask every professional they know how to run a campaign or they decide that they will put their own personal genius to work and come up with a campaign strategy. Neither is a good idea. There are infinite strategies that could get you to the finish line. Pick one and go for it. Besides, it’s not rocket science. You win if you reach voters. You reach voters by raising money for mail/radio/TV, targeting your mail/radio/TV, canvassing and phone banking — period.

Bill Wong is a political and strategic consultant with more than 20 years of legislative and campaign experience. He advises candidates, political action committees and major corporations. He can be reached at Bill@billwong.net. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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