Thursday, March 29, 2018

Jim Crary: Campaign Update

"When May 15 comes I will have left nothing on the table."

On the road, one on one.

Jim Crary:  Male--age 65-- Democrat--retired lawyer--rural homeowner who heats with wood--candidate wants to change our corrupt system of campaign finance--candidate who walks the talk by taking no money from PACs or special interest groups.

Those are the seven things he said he wanted people to know about him.  Gender, age, party, and former occupation were locked in for him.  

What he chooses to communicate is that he is a genuine rural guy, a lifelong hunter who lives at high altitude in a forested area in a home that uses ten cords of wood a year to heat. He is on the board of a rural volunteer fire department. 

He chooses to communicate that the overarching reason for disfunction in American politics is the fact that politicians' campaigns are financed by special interest money.  Politicians don't represent the interests of regular individual people. Special interests, primarily corporate, make cold, hard investments in politicians who will vote to make laws that benefit them.  

He wants people to know that he is a person with integrity and consistency strong enough that he himself takes no campaign money from anyone but individual donors. He says he has raised about $80,000 so far.  He currently has about $15,000 in the bank.  He says he can afford a small paid staff, lawn signs, Facebook ads, and maybe some radio ads.  He says his campaign has one other asset: he is tireless and is campaigning hard.

Jim Crary is one of seven Democratic candidates for Congress in Oregon's 2nd Congressional District. He considers his current campaign a continuation of the campaign he started when he filed for the position back in 2016.  He lost with 28% of the vote to Greg Walden's 72%.  

He says this time is different. The previous run was a test to see what was possible. This time is for real, meeting people, talking to groups, doing candidate forums, and being taken seriously as a candidate. His campaign has a thorough web page.  He updates his campaign Facebook page nearly daily.
Click Here: Short website video

He says the differentiator in this race is emphasis and focus.  He says his centerpiece position is one people already believe: American politics doesn't work because special interest money dominates campaigns.  His positions are in the presumed sweet-spot in Democratic politics--the Bernie-progressive left. That is where the activists are. Crary wants a single payer health care system and says the recently passed tax bill is trickle down that favors the very wealthy. He favors net neutrality, renewable energy, a higher minimum wage, pay equity for women, equal treatment of the LGBTQ community, and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have stayed out of trouble.  He opposes the Jordan Cove pipeline project. 

But for Crary, all roads lead back to the corrupting influence of special interest money.

Crary made contracts for BP, and is now making one with the people of the District.  I observe a repositioning of his depiction of his years as a lawyer in Alaska, where he wrote and negotiated contracts for BP.  That history was a political problem for him. To the environmental left, fossil fuel companies are the enemy.  Crary glided over that in forums, eager to avoid being characterized as the "retired BP lawyer." 
Backwoods Jim--from his campaign website

That was smart and necessary.  "Retired BP lawyer" is a bad label for a candidate this year.

But now, in a long interview, he made frequent reference to his former lawyering, describing it as valuable preparation for honest communication with the public.  "I probably should have been talking about my experience in contracting from the very beginning."  He said candidates should put "policy . . . with a degree of specificity" out there. Crary pointed me to his website and his detailed policy positions on seventeen issues.  

He said he was making a deal with the voters of the District.  His Alaska oil experience wasn't about BP.  It was about how to be accountable to voters. "Broad platitudes drive me crazy."  His work writing contracts are part and parcel of his bigger campaign theme: honest government.

Could Jim Crary win?  He has been developing a niche and brand, as have been the other candidates.

Tim White is projecting his own different emphasis--the fighter taking it to Walden. Jamie McLeod-Skinner is the woman in blue jeans and a Jeep, emphasizing rural ranching identity and roots. Jenni Neahring is Doctor Neahring with specialized knowledge.  Eric Burnett is the union-oriented plain talker.  Michael Byrne is the working man who understands working people.  Raz Mason communicates that change comes from within.  

Click for details.   Wipeout in rural counties.
Crary presents more credibly as a retired lawyer than he does as a backwoods homeowner. His signature policy is about government process and accountability, not  Lincolnesque hardiness in a log cabin.  He appears to be trying to share a rural niche with McLeod-Skinner, and the vote two years ago shows the necessity of it.  Crary lost 2-1 in the two counties with mid-size cities, Jackson (with Medford and Ashland) and Deschutes (with Bend) but he lost 4 to 1 in nearly all the smaller, rural counties.  Four to one!  

Jamie McLeod-Skinner is the one who reads at first glance like she knows something about farming and ranching and dusty roads and sagebrush. She is working hard to present herself as a at one with the district. Like Crary, she has a law degree, but she doesn't lead with it.

Rural counties have lawyers.  (Doctors, too.)  Being a lawyer should not be a deal-killer for Crary, and he seems to be starting to make that history a qualifier, not a disqualifier.  After all, some of the leading citizens and office holders in rural counties are the lawyers. Still, the results from the election of 2016 show that Crary had a problem appealing to those voters.  Maybe they didn't vote against him because he was a lawyer or because of where he lived.  Maybe they simply knew noting about him, other that his party and gender, which they inferred from his name. That wasn't enough.  

By May, 2018 Democrats will know perhaps 7 things about him. He is clean shaven now.  Shaven, he looks more like a retired lawyer than he does Daniel Boone. It may be that enough voters will connect with him because they will have seen him, or at least heard that he was in Burns, Pendleton, Lagrand, and Madras or wherever they happen to live, and they agree with his basic premise, that politics has been corrupted by special interest money.

He needs to do something to connect with rural voters.  Possibly the campaign issue is exactly enough.

[Note:  This is the first of other profiles like this one.  I expect to do at least one on each candidate.  Likely more than one.]

1 comment:

  1. That Eastern Oregon leans Republican/Regressive is probably more about cultural issues than any actual governing policies. So a Democratic candidate probably will have to try to co-op topics they would rather avoid. No Walden NDAs we know of...

    Which candidate could do this?


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