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Scott Thomas Wilk: Joe Messina’s chances on the Hart board

SCV Voices

Posted: July 25, 2009 6:06 p.m.
Updated: July 26, 2009 4:55 a.m.
I'm Las Vegas' worst nightmare. I always leave a winner.

The reason? I know the rules of the game are designed so ultimately the house wins. I play long enough to make some cash, and then walk.

It is all about knowing the system.

And that is why Joe Messina, a three-time losing candidate for the William S. Hart Union High School District Governing Board, will be declared a winner this November.

The rules of the game finally favor him.

Campaigns are about issues and candidates' credentials (Messina has strengths in both); but they are also about name identification, money, organization or random events - such as the alphabet drawing to determine in what order candidates' names appear on the ballot.

Cameron Smyth didn't walk into an open Assembly seat in 2006; he earned it through 10 years of dedicated civic involvement and public service.

Machiavelli wrote: "I think it may be true that fortune is the ruler of half our actions, but that she allows the other half or thereabouts to be governed by us."

I think that means, "The harder you work, the luckier you get." And no one has worked harder than Messina.

Fate and determination will bring Messina to victory this fall.

Let's look at the reasons.

Two open seats: Incumbency is a powerful advantage, and in Messina's previous efforts he squared off against incumbents. This year three seats are up for the Hart board with only one incumbent running for re-election: Paul Strickland.

Strickland will win for two reasons: first, he is an incumbent; and second, he is a class act who is thoughtful, honest and treats everyone with respect.

That leaves all other candidates vying for the two remaining seats.

Messina will best the rest of the field for the following reasons.

Higher name ID: Studies show that seven out of 10 voters base their votes upon name identification and/or image. After Strickland, the person who probably has the highest name ID is Messina (although I have no polling to confirm).

As anecdotal evidence I submit the campaign for Republican Central Committee in June 2008. This race was the last item on the ballot. In a down-ticket race, the order in which a candidate's name is placed on the ballot is the difference between victory or defeat.

Messina had the absolute worst ballot position and finished second. More impressively, he beat out two local elected officials.

And just so you know ... the top seven finishers are elected - so Joe is on his own win streak!

Cash is king: Arnold Schwarzenegger jump-started his gubernatorial campaign in 2003 with 98 percent name identification. If you are an "average Joe" you have to earn name ID by being involved in the community and/or buying it.

Messina's resume of civic involvement is extensive, including the SCV Youth Project and the SCV Education Foundation.

Additionally, his fundraising has increased every election. In 2007, Messina raised $22,000. As of this year's June 30 reporting period, he raised nearly $15,000. He most likely will raise more than $30,000, which will help get his message out.

Establishment support: The campaign for Hart board is a non-partisan race, but the fact is there are 11,200 more Republican voters in the Hart district than there are Democrats.

In the past, Republican leaders haven't always embraced Messina because "It wasn't his turn." Well, now it is.

Messina has already received endorsements from state Sen. Tony Strickland, state Sen. George Runner, Assemblyman Cameron Smyth and City Council members Bob Kellar and Laurene Weste.

In September, he will receive the endorsement of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County.

Best organization: Ultimately, campaigns are about who actually casts ballots. On Election Day 2004, Sen. John Kerry thought he was America's next president because, according to his campaign's voter-turnout model, he generated more than enough votes to win.

Unfortunately for Kerry, Karl Rove's operation turned out 4 million new voters for George W. Bush. And the rest, as they say, is history.

A lot has been written about Councilwoman Laurie Ender's stellar voter turnout effort in her 2008 race for City Council.

However, the first local candidate who "manufactured" votes for an election victory was Peter Warren for Hart board in 1993. Warren defeated incumbent Dennis King.

Messina has developed a similar voter-turnout model and, with the leadership of his veteran campaign manager, Patty Kelly, is fully capable of producing additional turnout.

While other candidates in this race may have networks, Messina has a team of experienced, dedicated people to drive his effort.

So let's see ... highest-name ID, the most money, support from the establishment and the best organization in the field.

I'm not a CPA, but I think that adds up to victory in November.

Not only will I be voting for Joe Messina, but you also will find me at the Bellagio Sports Book laying down my mark for him and extending my Vegas winning streak.

Shhh! Just don't tell Vegas I'm coming.

Scott Thomas Wilk is president of Liaison Communications, a strategic communications firm. He has consulted in campaigns from school board to a U.S. Senate race. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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