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Commentary: Fame and Fortune Don't Win Elections
BY Ben Davol

With the conclusion of the 2010 campaign we can, once and for all, declare that winning political campaigns is not as simple as having great name recognition or a big wallet. As John Housman stated so clearly years ago, "you have to earn it".

This election is full of green candidates. Not the environmental green the legal tender green. Ned Lamont, Linda McMahon, and Tom Foley. In addition you have other candidates who thought either their bank account, name id or both would propel them to the victory circle.

Litchfield developer Mark Greenberg declared his candidacy in the 5th congressional district with his fortune. Mr. Greenberg never made it out of the primary.

Peter Schiff came in with both money and relatively high name identification only to be kicked off the political stage with the bronze medal in the Republican senatorial primary. (There really isn’t any bronze medal in politics. That’s only in the Olympics. In politics, you either win, or no one ever calls you again.)

Former news anchor Janet Peckinpaugh came to the dance in the 2nd congressional district with high name recognition and won the primary. Peckinpaugh is hoping her 20 years on television will take her over the top on November 2. Polls don’t look good.

Ann Brickley, in the first congressional, infused $200,000 dollars of her own money, probably at the recommendation of a consultant that just a few bucks "strategically" placed will bring victory. Brickely needs 200,000 votes not dollars.

Brickley and Peckinpagh are both earnest candidates who honestly want to make a difference. There is a big canyon between wanting and doing.

As of September 30, Brickley and Peckinpaugh, respectively, had only raised $55,000 and $140,000 from individual donors. Not enough money or votes. The ability to raise money also shows an ability to garner votes.

Ned Lamont once again strapped on the campaign gear and dove head long into the race for governor. With money and more money Lamont was thought by many to be able to trounce his main opponent, Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy. Malloy won by double digits. Malloy earned it.

The Connecticut Republican Party told former Congressman Rob Simmons, a decorated Vietnam veteran with a long record of defeating entrenched Democrats that his services were not required. The party of Lincoln chose to go with the money and picked Linda McMahon and her $50 million commitment. In a recent Suffolk University poll, McMahon is down by 18 points.

McMahon’s opponent Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is being outspent by $20 million. The key number is that 85% of Blumenthal’s donations are from individuals. McMahon has less than 1% from individuals. Individual donors are votes.

Jesse Unruh, former Speaker of the California legislature coined the phrase, "money is the mother’s milk of politics." No question. Without money there is no way to win a campaign. In addition having high name identification is an asset that can’t be discounted.

In the end though to win you need to be willing to work incredibly hard, do your homework and have something to say. All the glitter of fame and fortune can’t separate a candidate from the basics; tell the voters who you are, what you have done and what you will do.

Both the Republican and Democratic parties in Connecticut need to go back to basics and develop candidates from the ground up. Yes, they need, insiders.

As November 2nd inches ever closer, it is interesting to note that the biggest potential wins for either party will be accomplished by rank-and-file "politicians".

The "career politician" Malloy defeated Lamont and his fortune and leads money and Tom Foley for governor in the closing weeks. Mr. "Status Quo" Richard Blumenthal, or some may say Chris Dodd by another name, leads "something different" Linda McMahon and her $50 million by 18 points.

The closest congressional campaigns are between long time pols State Senator Dan Dibecella and incumbent congressman Jim Hims in the 4th congressional district and State Senator Sam Caliguiri and congressman Chris Murphy in the 5th congressional. Nothing-new there.

In politics, experience has a currency all its own.

Ben Davol is a veteran of numerous local, state and federal campaigns for both Republican and Democratic candidates. He is now a freelance writer and a registered independent. He will be writing for NBCConnecticut.com during the campaign season.