Another local election season is behind us. Here are some take-aways this writer thinks worthy of pondering and remembering, particularly if you are ever tempted to run for office:

Election campaigns are humbling

Do you think that you are well-known? Think again. I have lived in Ward 5 for most of my 81 years. I had a 37-year career in the Salem Public Schools followed by 12 years of service on the Salem School Committee. I have written many letters to the editor and opinion pieces that this newspaper chose to publish.

In assisting a candidate with his campaign, I utilized the list of voters to create a call list of families and friends. Of the approximately 4,600 voters in Ward 5, I personally knew fewer than 5% of the names. If another 5% know or know of me, that leaves 90% of voters who I don’t know and who don’t know me. Lesson? Don’t count on family and friends to elect you.

Running for office is hard work

Consider my earlier comments regarding how many people might actually know a candidate. Considering that, if you really want to win in a local election, you must do the physical work. Despite our love affair with the internet, knocking on doors remains hugely important. Tom Furey was an outstanding example of this. Tom took pride in hitting every door in his many successful campaigns. Jeff Cohen emulated Tom and then some. Jeff knocked on every accessible door in Ward 5 at least twice and spoke to as many residents as possible.

Signs don’t vote

The number of signs displayed for a candidate can be misleading. In the mayoral race, for instance, the number of signs touting the candidates at single-family residences was about equal while one candidate had many more signs at multi-unit buildings. When asked why a particular sign was there, residents responded that the owner (or manager) put them there. This begs a question: “Does the owner live in Salem?” If the answer is no, a second question arises: “What’s in it for them?”

This election cycle saw more signs adorning businesses. Displaying political signs is generally not good for business. Their display opens questions for the business owner: Was the owner pressured to put the signs up or was there a quid pro quo whereby a sign supporting a successful candidate might help business through the successful candidate’s discouraging competitors or other business reasons?

This election cycle saw many signs indiscriminately placed on public property. These are illegal. I’m not referring to a homeowner utilizing the strip between sidewalk and street in front of their home, but rather those strewn about randomly in public places. This tactic is not only illegal, it is counter-productive. More voters are aggravated than are attracted by such tactics.

A candidate’s reasons for running often predict results

Thinking of running? Ask yourself: Am I running because I’m carrying a grudge? This is never a good idea. In all my years of observing and participating in elections, I have never seen it work.

Are you prepared to defend your positions? Blathering is very seldom successful in local elections. This year’s results bore that fact out.

Are you running to impose your religious beliefs on the populace? That might fly in some Deep Red culvert, but not here.

Are you running as the “NO” candidate? Negative campaigns seldom win.

Several candidates would have been better advised to run as individuals. When candidates resort to “tribalism” (via sign placements, etc. and the “tribe” loses its usually curtains for the candidate

Along the same line, if you are committed to an issue, you should not let that issue get tied to a candidacy. In the recent election there appeared to be a tight connection between the “Not For Salem” movement and several candidates. Nearly all those candidates lost and lost badly. Thus, It would appear that this election was, as noted above, a very clear voter rejection of the “Not For Salem” position despite it not being on the ballot.

Brendan Walsh of Salem is a former longtime Salem School Committee member.

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