It is one week from election day in the Municipality of Anchorage and what I know is Terre Gales is going to lose and lose badly to Forrest Dunbar.
Frankly that is a shame. It shouldn’t have been, and didn’t need to be that way.
One Republican insider told me Gales is the “best upstart political talent I have ever seen.” I believe it. Just look at some of these clips and ads from both traditional and social media:
Gales is a natural. He appears self assured, confident, humble, articulate, and the camera loves him. He has an incredible personal narrative having grown up in and overcome poverty. He even has the photogenic young family. Let’s just call out the Republican elephant in the room: he is a person of color and that is something the Alaska GOP is sorely lacking. Yes, Terre Gales really does seem like the real deal.
So why is he such a lock to lose big next Tuesday? For one thing Mr. Gales has the misfortune of running in the wrong race. His opponent Forrest Dunbar can easily lay claim to many of the same attributes that many might find attractive about Gales: youth, energy, and intelligence. Dunbar also has the name recognition and fundraising ability that comes from a previous substantial run for statewide office in 2014.
Mr. Gales has a formidable opponent. Regardless of how well Mr. Gales’ runs his campaign there is a good chance he’d lose.
That is a problem, but it isn’t his biggest one. His biggest problem, both now and going forward, is his own lack of effort.
He has been running since at least the beginning of December and yet his financial reports show that through February 1st he only raised $600. His more recent financial report showed that by March 4th he had only raised an additional $5,500, but spent $9,000. He was $3,200 in debt and hadn’t spent all that much.
These numbers are usually viewed in the context of campaign strategy. They tell how many signs, radio ads, and mailers a campaign can you buy and which special interests are backing the campaign..
In this case however they are more relevant in revealing what kind of a candidate Gales is when nobody’s watching. You see small local campaigns aren’t won or lost on the radio and they SURE AS HELL AREN’T WON WITH SIGN WAVING!!!!! STOP THINKING THAT PEOPLE!!!!
Ok, I’m back. Small local campaigns are won by the million small things that are done when no one is looking: writing thank you cards to those who donated or helped, stuffing envelopes, knocking on door after door to meet neighbors and ask for their votes.
Most notable and important among these unseen tasks is fundraising. Fundraising is like defense in basketball, it’s mostly about effort. Just putting in the effort to get on the phone and call known donors and ask for money will yield a certain level of success, just ask Gabrielle LeDoux. I know of no one who loves to give her money, but she always rakes in the campaign cash, because she puts in the effort to ask literally everyone for a donation.
That is why Mr. Gales’ fundraising numbers are so troubling. $600? That doesn’t tell me people don’t want to donate to him, the number is far too low for that conclusion. It tells me he hasn’t even been asking. And that is a problem.
After seeing Mr. Gales’ financial report, I asked around his East Anchorage district. I asked folks if they had seen Mr. Gales at their door or in their community council meetings. Of the dozen people I asked not one had Mr. Gales knock on their door. I only received one report of him attending a community council meeting he wasn’t attending as part of a candidate debate.
So Mr. Gales apparently hasn’t spent the last few months door knocking, getting out in the community, or fundraising. Mr. Dunbar has. There is your election folks.
Many of the folks I spoke to in the district did say that they’ve seen a lot of signs for Gales and that they’ve seen his facebook ad.
That is exactly the problem. Signs and ads are things people see and you can contract others to do for you. Because of that they are the easiest things for candidates to get motivated to do. They don’t impress me and I don’t believe they are what win local elections.
What this all comes down to is a campaign that appears to be getting drug across the finish line by party insiders desperate to create at least the impression of a real campaign taking place. It won’t work. Mr. Gales is going to lose and lose big.
The question coming out of this campaign then isn’t who will win, but what is the takeaway from Gales’ loss. Is it that he isn’t the real deal he appears to be in ads and interviews? Or is it that he is that raw political talent, but just lacked the campaign know how only the school of hard knocks can teach?
If its the former, what a shame. So much potential wasted.
If it’s the latter, I hope Mr. Gales takes the right lessons from his loss. I hope he doesn’t listen to the jaded voices around him who will undoubtedly try to soothe his wounds with tired cries of “it was the union’s, it was the Mayor, it was media who did you in.” That may make him feel better, but they aren’t the truth. They are the kinds of self serving lies that don’t make anyone a better candidate.
The truth someone needs to tell Mr. Gales, for his own good, is that this race was a tough one to win from the get go, but it was winnable. However what made it unwinnable was his own lack of early effort and seeming unwillingness to do the little things. If he learns and adjusts accordingly he could be real trouble for Pete Peterson next year and many opponents for years to come. IF.