Thursday, June 30, 2005

Jason Almire, The First Interview

The first interview has run. Next comes the first bad review. It is offered as constructive remarks so he and others get a better launch. Running for political office opens a parade of hurdles to trip upon. Here is a look at some of them below.

Jason just quit his job at UPMC (gov relations) and is entering the race for US Congress and may run against M. Hart, R, if Jason could win the Dem's primary.

The Qs are bold. Jason A's answer start with "A" are are italic. My reply is regular text. The next link only show the interview from the Politics PA site. By the way, hat tip to Politics PA for getting out good local and state news. If you are a political junkie or otherwise, you need to sign-up for the email blast from the operators of that site.
Jason Almire, The First Interview: "An Interview with Jason Altmire

Q: How does the future look for UPMC? What are the biggest challenges facing it as you depart?

A: UPMC is the largest driver of economic development and employment in the region. I expect that they will continue to diversify and lead the way on cutting-edge biotechnology initiatives. I enjoyed my time at UPMC but have given up my job to explore this race because I feel strongly that Congress is out of touch with the concerns of everyday Americans and leading the country down entirely the wrong path. It is obviously a huge personal and financial risk for me and my family, but I simply cannot stay on the sidelines when I believe I have something to offer the national debate.
MR's reply: Jason didn't come close to putting together an answer to either of the questions. For that, he might be well suited. But, we don't need to know about the HUGE risk when asked about UPMC. Going to UPMC is a huge personal and financial risk for any individual and his or her family. Perhaps the biggest challenge is to sound like one is NOT out of touch, to stay on the wrong path, to be a driver of employment. Mumbo jumbo.

UPMC is much more than an economic development. UPMC is a hospital and research institution. UPMC is about education, fighting illness for patients and solving health care situations -- and as a sideline, it is about employment.

Tell us about your time at FSU, playing football.

I treasure my memories from my time at FSU. As the years go by I realize more and more what a special opportunity I had to be a part of the football tradition there. I've had six knee surgeries and my playing career certainly didn't turn out as I had hoped, but I got to play for a true legend in Bobby Bowden, which by itself makes it all worthwhile. I learned the value of hard work and perseverance, and even what its like to be totally overmatched. As a wide receiver of relatively marginal ability I worked everyday for an entire season against Deion Sanders, which makes a mere congressional race seem like child's play!

MR's reply: Jason has it backwards. It is football that is child's play. A congressional race should not seem like child's play.

Q: We understand that until now, based on your current job situation you could not speak directly about your personal position on political issues, or your possible candidacy for congress. That said, if someone like, say... you, were to run for Congress how much would he or she need to raise to defeat Congresswoman Melissa Hart?

A: The opposing candidate will need adequate financial resources to get the message out, but I don't think that necessarily means matching Hart dollar for dollar. I'm sure she is going to have all the money she needs given her vulnerability and the growing high-profile of this race. Clearly the minimum needed to mount a credible challenge is $1 million, but it will probably take closer to $2 million when all is said and done. If, as I expect, the race stays close after the primary and late into the cycle, the national money will pour in from both sides and you may be looking a one of the most expensive races in the country.

MR's reply: Jason, don't refer to yourself as "the opposing candidate." It is weird to use the third person to talk about yourself too. Say, 'I will need....' Or say, 'Our campaign team hopes to..."

The cause and effect of Hart having all the money she needs because of the vulnerability doesn't wash for me. If she is vulnerable, she'll not have all the money she needs. And if she is vulnerable, the money won't flow to her as easily and some will sit on the sidelines.

I think it is bad form to predict national money will pour into the race. That is a huge assumption.

Frankly, I have to wonder why it would take $2-million to get my message out to the voters of a congressional district. Is that message that hard to deliver? And, I wonder why anyone would want to burn $2-million for a chance at a job that pays $100K per year.

In the PA State Senate race, a big district sorta close to the size of the US Congressional district -- both the D and R candidates out spent me 250-to-one. In total, I was out-spent about 500-to-one. But the R candidate only out-voted me 5-to-1 and the D candidate who won out-voted me 7-to-1.

In would have good feelings for supporting a challenger candidate who understood that the campiagn would hope to be out-spent by a margin of 50-to-1 or even 100-to-1. However, you'd still have a plan to win.

When I talked with Michael Lamb, months before the campaign really started, he told me that he had a plan to raise the $1-million that was necessary to race in the campaign. He was confident that he'd do it. He was well on the way to doing so. All signals were good. I just rolled my eyes. Michael Lamb's campaign did a great job at raising money. But, there was not $1-M that flowed into the kitty. To telegraph the amounts, and have them so out-of-touch with everyday citizens is self-destruction.

Q: Georgia Berner says she would be the best candidate to take on Congresswoman Melissa Hart. Thoughts?

A: Georgia and I are very different people with very different backgrounds and experiences. The primary will provide a real choice for democratic voters and we'll let the people decide who's better for the district and has the best chance to challenge Melissa Hart. Since the story of my interest in the race became public a couple weeks ago, I've been gratified by the overwhelming positive response and many offers of assistance. I'm confident that it will become clear very early who the democratic frontrunner is by the public endorsements and active support from elected officials from within the district.

MR's reply: The reply is fine. However, I'd go a bit more to a point-counter-point type of answer at this moment and begin to raise some issues. Georgia is for X-Y-and Z while I'm even better a Y-and Z, I also stand for A-B-C and that devotion is clearly hard to match, even by the incumbant. So, your race is not going to discount the opposition D, but you can frame the challenger and yourself on issues and contrast that against what Hart has done. Give a couple props to the loyal party opponent and then dive into the race against HART, the real target.

Q: How come Democrats can't come up with decent candidates to take on Tim Murphy, Don Sherwood, and before possibly you, Melissa Hart?

A: Sherwood's challenge would have to come from a primary because his new district is more heavily Republican. Murphy's district is majority democrat in registration and I'm surprised that a big name challenger has yet to materialize. With two strong Democrats on top of the ticket, 2006 is going to be a different year than we've seen in the past in Pennsylvania.

MR's reply: Who are the two strong Dems on the top of the ticket in 2006? Are you talking about Rendell and Catherine Baker Knoll? I'm left wondering. Is this the challenger to Santorum? The point of the mention is to say that your answer wasn't that clear to non-political people. Why even comment on Tim Murphy's challengers? Say that you are aware of various happenings in the greater political landscape but only comment on things that are near and dear to yourself.

Q: You live across the street from Melissa Hart's brother. Do you lock your doors at night?

A: Obviously this is an awkward situation, which I regret. They have been great neighbors and we hope to remain friends through what promises to be an eventful year and a half. We could have moved away before this race and in fact strongly considered it to relieve the tension. But we like the community and our neighbors, including them. We'll just do the best we can. I view our street as a sort of de-militarized zone -- I've told the Harts that I won't involve the neighborhood and we'll just keep our street completely out of the race. We're going to try to keep it as normal as possible under the circumstances for the sake of our friendship and especially our young children, who play together everyday. For me, this situation is the most difficult part of the campaign.

MR's reply. The awkward situation and point to regret is the question. The best way to keep it normal isn't to talk about it with the media. Nor do I want to hear about a "de-militarized zone" in a political campaign.

How about, "I have a great neighborhood and treasure my community." Nuff said.

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