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Tim Myers: Ed Colley, Frank Ferry and lessons of a political nature

Myers' Musings

Posted: October 23, 2010 12:27 a.m.
Updated: October 24, 2010 4:30 a.m.

CSU-Channel Islands’ Family Weekend 2010 started Friday with the opportunity to sit in on Dr. Sean Kelly’s American Political Institutions political-science class and a lecture on information economy, party identification and standing decisions for voting.

Whenever I sit in on a college class, three things strike me. First, I regret not paying more attention in my own college days to the fascinating lectures of professors. Second, the concepts I learned 30-plus years ago in university seem positively elementary next to the concepts the modern universities expect these young folks to master. 

Finally, I wonder at the dominance of women in the halls of the university and what it holds for the future. In this class, I saw the future writ large: Out of 50 earnest students, I counted only eight male faces.

Kelly spoke of the theory of information economy. In this instance, the voter in a democracy finds it too difficult and expensive, primarily through the cost of time, to completely absorb and analyze all the information concerning the
candidates vying for any public office.

This immutable truth renders many unwilling to vote at all, and the substantial majority of the remainder basing their vote on some “standing decision” unless they hear otherwise.

So for instance, life-long party members, though they do not admit it, possess a standing decision to always vote for the candidates of their party — unless they hear information, probably venal, that forces them to change their vote. 

This is why Diana Shaw will lose the Assembly race to Cameron Smyth. Republican voter registrations hold a significant edge in the Assembly district, and those Republicans heard nothing thus far in the election to cause any significant number to vote for Shaw.

This theory of standing decisions also explains the power of incumbency for nonpartisan elective office in the Santa Clarita Valley. A significant majority of voters hold a standing decision to vote for incumbents unless they heard something negative about them.

This explains the somewhat invulnerable nature of incumbents in local races. It also explains the narrow victory of incumbent Frank Ferry over David Gauny. Gauny came painfully close to letting a sufficient amount of voters hear something negative about Ferry, but not quite enough.

And Councilman Ferry figures once again in the latest local kerfuffle concerning the CLWA water-board race between incumbent Ed Colley, a fellow traveler of Ferry, and insurgent tea party-backed candidate Kevin Korenthal.

Councilman Ferry wrote a letter on city stationery to Korenthal’s employer, an organization that represents and advocates for builders’ interests, saying he made critical comments about local elected officials in the course of the campaign.

The implication stood crystal clear: Get your employee in line or you may lose friends you thought you had in elected (and development-approving) slots. The message to Korenthal also stood crystal clear: Dare to oppose us, and we can hurt you.

Now, where I come from, when one writes a check with their mouth or pen putting an individual’s livelihood and the ability to put food on the table and a roof over his or her family’s head at risk due to a particular political viewpoint, they better make sure their behind can cash it.  In any case, I would not vote for a candidate whose supporters use these tactics, and I don’t think anyone else should either.

But the question then remains: Will enough voters “hear” of this tactic to overcome their standing decision to cast their vote for the incumbent?

And therein lies the problem. Korenthal possesses rather limited resources to put this message out, and usage patterns of local print and electronic media suggest that many who cast ballots for the CLWA will hear nothing about this matter. 

One blog commentator even asserted The Signal buried the story of Ferry’s venal act, leading one frustrated Signal reporter to post links to not one, not two, but three stories regarding the incident.

Unfortunately, the sad fact remains that a significant number of the limited folks who will cast ballots for that CLWA seat remain extremely deaf to local occurrences and news, so one can establish with certainty that they will not revoke their standing decision to vote for the incumbent, and Colley will easily retain his seat.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Myers’ Musings” appears Sundays in The Signal.


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