Editor's Note: This is Part 2 of John Webb's series about his run for Congress. Part 1 is "An Average Joe Runs For Congress."
This is not the story I wanted to tell. It is hard to write about my campaign. I lost and lost big in the primary. John Campbell got 50% of the vote, Sukhee Kang got 31% of the vote and I got 16%. My 16% was more than 17,000 votes. Here are a few comments about the campaign.
Meeting the Public: I was out five to six times a week meeting with different groups. The Republican Women of Orange County and the Tea Party groups were very nice. If you want to get into understanding politics in Orange County I would find one of their meetings and attend. You will be warmly welcomed by each group. These are people who care about the political process and are willing to work for their beliefs. The members of these groups do not sit and complain,
or ignore the process; they step up and work to make a difference. These are the doers who are a joy to meet.
Professional Politicians: This is a club of people who have worked together for years and they are not receptive to going against their own. They are however, friendly and approachable. You owe it to yourself to find these people. It will change your thoughts on many aspects of politics. Attend the Central Committee meetings of your party; they are the grassroots of politics. I had thought these
people were above average, they are not. Politicians are just average people.
The Press and Radio: I never figured this out. If you have money you can buy your way onto most shows and into the press. Without money there is a way, but I can’t explain it.
Money: Money first and money last. You are familiar with the story of the tree falling in the forest. The question, if nobody is around to hear it, does a tree make a sound when it falls? I was often reminded of this. After hundreds of meetings where people would tell me how much they appreciated the run, expressed concern about how little their Congressman was available, and applauded my ideas, I had reached only a few thousand people. The incumbents were able to send one mailing (cost over $100,000) and reach every mailing address in the District. They could make general comments, paint themselves in a positive image, avoid specifics and ask for votes. Without money and the ability to question their mailers, I was a tree falling in the forest. Nobody could hear me.
People who helped: I’m not going to mention names for fear of forgetting someone. I was amazed how people were willing to help. I had several very small females on sign duty for hours at a time, holding a six-foot long sign with my name on it. I don’t know how they did it. But they did and then returned again and again to help. I had a guy and his family spending their weekends, planting signs on streets in South Orange County because he believed in the message. An attorney from Tustin offered to help with the campaign, and then come to Washington with me. Why? I had expressed concern I might vote for something not authorized in the Constitution. He offered to make sure it didn’t happen. He was willing to give up his business for two years to make sure I had help. The most amazing thing was one evening I was approached by an elderly man, who was obviously having a hard time making ends meet. He stuck something in my jacket pocket, while I was talking to someone else. I turned to him and said “thank you.” He apologized for interrupting me and turned to walk away. I stopped him and thanked him again. He said, “I don’t have much money, but I believe in what you are saying.” He then walked away. After the meeting I reached into my pocket and pulled out a single, worn dollar bill. I felt like a fool, sitting in a dark car after that meeting, crying because someone cared that much. Politics will make you humble. To truly represent the people, you must meet the people. I will forever have a warm feeling for the people I met at these meetings. Not everyone was receptive, but they were all serious about this country.
Fundraising: I was a failure at fundraising. It is critical for a campaign, unless you have millions of your own money. Once elected, groups will raise money for you, and you have the name recognition. I believe money was the reason for my loss. I found that fundraising is the same whether it is for charity or politics. People want change, but don’t understand it cannot happen until people band together in spirit, in thought and in donating to their cause. During the campaign I wrote a check for a charity and made the wistful comment, “I wish I was a charity." The charity volunteer said it didn’t make much difference: There are so many calls on people to give, people tune it all out after a while. Fundraising was my biggest failure.
Citizens: I met so many amazing people during the campaign. Some I hope to keep in contact with in the future. There was an ex-Communist PhD who found God and became a Conservative. His story is amazing, including attending school with Barack Obama. There were many people who would approach me after a meeting to offer advice. Some of it was so insightful, and it was offered without strings. One of the best things about this country is the people. Of course I knew this, but the experience of being a candidate renewed my admiration for the American People. Rich, poor, working class, retired and families all shared the same basic thoughts. People want to provide for their families, take part in their communities and worship their God. All they ask is for their candidates to share the same goals.
My campaign for Congress was a lesson in life, a lesson in politics and a lesson in money.
It was above all else a reaffirmation of the greatness of this country and of our people.
I strongly recommend each of you to run for an office at some point in your life. If you start when you are younger, you can make up for a lack of money, by working yourself up the political ladder. From the school boards, to the water districts to city government, each is an experience in government.
More diversity, a larger the number of candidates and more thought processes will give us better government.
I am against term limits, but suggest we vote people out after they have been in office for a while, and make room for a different thought process.
We grow stronger when constantly reviewing our priorities.