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How to Keep Your Credibility and Win a Local Election

Challenger Bob McQuillan is approaching the mayoral race in textbook fashion.

Last time we discussed how Jay Moffatt’s odd choice to simultaneously run for school, library and park board can and will be used against him at the polling place. Though he has since dropped out of the District 304 contest, giving voters the impression that you can’t make up your mind is never a good thing.

As I pointed out in that previous column, if you’re going to expend the energy necessary to make the leap from couch to cause, then you may as well act like you’ve been there. Because if you don’t, you’ll discover you’re dead in the water before you make it out of the harbor.

Ah! But there is one Geneva candidate who appears to be taking that sage advice to heart: Bob McQuillan. Don’t worry! I’ll pause while your significant other gets the smelling salts …

Granted, it’s only a mere month and a half since he threw his hat in the mayoral ring, but so far, our mercurial TaxFACTS head honcho has provided a textbook example of how you’re supposed to set that campaign table.

And it starts with, as I like to call it, appearing presidential.

That means you don’t come out of the gate wildly swinging at your esteemed opponent. Going for blood may occasionally work on the national stage, but it’s really starting to wear thin on the local level. I firmly believe giving folks a good reason to vote for you works way better than trying to con them into voting against the other guy.

Just ask GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady how well that worked out for him.

So, when office seekers seek my counsel, the first thing I tell them is, “The candidate does nothing negative.” That doesn’t mean you don’t take on your opponent’s record, but it does mean that you do omit the over-the-top attacks and focus on what it is you have to offer.

Though this isn’t a direct correlation, McQuillan and his merry band of taxpayer advocates have managed to tone down their anti-school board rhetoric which is a welcome shift. Politics is all about the art of compromise, and the last thing you want to do is scare the bleep out of the very people you may well have to work with.

It should also be noted that McQuillan can generally been seen quietly observing the city council proceedings. Remember! Board meetings are neither the time nor the place to campaign. Appearing presidential means you don’t want to come off like a wacky sitcom mother-in-law.

Perennial Geneva candidate Esther Barclay has previously provided a perfect example of how speaking at a council meeting can completely undermine your cause.

Potential politicians would be so much better off if they more frequently paid heed to Mark Twain’s famous advice; “It’s better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you’re a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Even more encouraging, McQuillan is seeking advice from people who are worth seeking advice from. Though often brusquely brushed aside, those savvy folks who’ve seen it all are often willing to help.

Remember our contention that when the average citizen decides to run for office, they summarily lose 30 to 50 percent of their working brain cells?

The first symptom is a suicidal self-perceived infallibility. As a result the candidate either insists upon a slew of ill advised and self serving soliloquies or he surrounds himself with advisers who insist he can do no wrong.

Taking either one of those tacks almost always means certain defeat.

But the most hopeful sign, and the reason I wrote this column, is McQuillan’s muted response to political consultant Jon Zahm’s attempt to insert himself into the race.

When the Chronicle quoted Zahm’s semi-disparaging thoughts on our mayoral contender and reported he was encouraging Alderman Dean Kilburg and/or Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Williams to enter the fray, my first thought was, “Katie bar the door! We’re about to see some vintage Bob.”

But no! He held his tongue and simply let it go.

I realize there are three long months before the consolidated election and when we’re talking Kevin Burns versus Bob McQuillan, anything can happen. But, so far, I’m impressed with the challenger.

Moving forward, as a wise political activist likes to say, “All good candidates need their MOM.” And MOM stands for message, organization and money, though you can substitute time for money in municipal races.

So if McQuillan can stay the presidential bearing course, redirect his consistent fiscally conservative message toward the city budget, rally the TaxFACTS troops to knock on doors, and use his time wisely, we’re gonna have a real race on our hands.

And that’s exactly the way it should be.

Elmer Elmer January 07, 2013 at 01:22 PM
Wow, Bob as mayor, have we stooped that low in this community? Bob is someone that needs lots of attention, so because he feels that someone has something he does not he goes after them, like the school board and the teachers. Bob doesn't care about this community he only cares about himself. Bob is an over bearing individual that if he is not getting the attention he craves he will do something to take the spotlight off the other person so it can shine on him, kind of like a little child craving attention. As a community we can do better and we deserve better, let's not allow the childish antics of an individual ruin what is left of a nice community.
Angela Kane January 07, 2013 at 02:17 PM
Elmer Elmer? Perhaps this is someone in the Burns' family attempting to disparage Bob in an attempt to support Kevin Burns. Come on folks--let's be grownups here and use REAL names rather than engage in this petty BS.
Robert Jr. January 07, 2013 at 02:30 PM
Bob has earned credibility with me with regards to protecting tax payer return on money taxed. Elmer...your comments, while an expression of your freedom of speech, is also an expression of someone who doesnt seem to care about managing resources of tax payers...was your salary spiked 6% in order to defraud tax payers for your pension benefits?
Larry Griffith January 08, 2013 at 10:08 PM
Ask Bob how much his tax facts investigations have cost the tax payers of Geneva with all of his fredom of information requests? He has his own agenda. Me me me and more me.

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