Thomas (Tip) O'Neill, beloved former speaker of the US House, one of my heroes, shared some good advice with candidates who are looking to run for office. I have spoken before about this issue in a previous blog entry. In America,the candidate "has to ask for the vote and the support." It's like going to the Valentine's dance, you have to ask. I don't think any of us like to be taken for granted. Simple political courtesy and etiquette surely still lists "asking for the vote" in the list of things candidates should do to run for office. This is the season for asking for support. At the recent District 4 spaghetti dinner at North High School, a candidate recently asked for support to which I said "Yes." And then she asked if she could use my name on a support list she was publishing. I told her, "Yes." A few with plates of spaghetti passed by nodding approval.
A few times candidates have put names down on support lists, and they had never even asked. To me this is a big mistake in politics. Luckily one of the candidates who once took me for granted and listed me on his list, I really was supporting so the mistake was not that much of an issue. I let it go, but I did give him hell for doing it. I gave him the lecture you are now reading. I marked it down to the innocence, enthusiasm and inexperience of the candidate, the one who put my name on his list without asking. Not asking showed a sort of charming part of his personality, a simple naievete, which actually became a plus in the campaign. He reminded me of Bill Ritter, you know, charming. It smarts when one is trying to stay out of a particular race and then you are listed after saying to both candidates you are staying out. And if you have told one person you intend to stay out and the other candidate puts you down for support, it makes you look like you are playing both sides, And then you feel obliged in fairness to say something good publically about the agrieved candidate, the one who did not put you down as a supporter as promised.
I always really admired Mike Pomponio, the long time North Denver Democratic Captain, for a Denver district inclusive of what is now House District 5. When I was first getting involved, I showed considerable innocence by not dropping by his headquarters to alert him that I was hoping to run for the House. Since he was the captain for the next district over, I did not think it important to alert him of my intentions. I had already discussed my candidacy with Dolores Dickman, our beloved Northwest Corner of Denver captain. And Dolores supported me.
As I look back on it, I made a mistake. I should have told Mr. Pomponio I was running. It would have been the courteous and respectful thing to do. I would be upset with myself if I had shown that lack of civility to myself. And Mike pulled out all the stops to defeat me. He told people I was leading students at Regis in campus riots. But there was not doubt where he stood. He was against you. I remember some folks tell you they will be with you. And you drive by their house and you see your opponent's sign in the yard. And they did not even tell you they had switched sides and hoping you would not drive by the house. If you change sides, you have to tell.
So let us hope this season of asking is blessed with lots of direct and clear lines of communication as to who is supporting candidates or not. Do ask, do tell.