Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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February 19, 2012

Local candidates affected by shifting election day

Corsicana — It’s been a political season full of surprises for candidates seeking county and state offices. A primary date which has moved twice already is now tentatively set at May 29, and that could change, also.

Candidates in Navarro County have to buy yard and display signs, advertising on radio and in the newspaper, and hold and attend functions. For many of these politicians, it’s a second job that takes up all of their free time as they try to meet as many people as possible.

For candidates for state representative, it’s a wider-ranging problem, because the district spans several counties.

Bobby Vickery, challenger for the state rep position, said it’s hard to chase a moving target, both from a financial and from a strategic point of view.

“Everything is about strategy, how early do you get your message out there, and are the voters getting disenfranchised, and not turning out?” Vickery said. “There’s a lot of activities and things going on, and you’re trying to get to every one of them, so you wear yourself out. You go and go and go. You make your personal sacrifices by not going to your kid’s games and things like that, but there’s a duty and you want to fulfill that duty when you’re a candidate. It’s like running a sprint that turns into a marathon, and those are two different training exercises.”

Byron Cook, the incumbent state representative, said he’s continuing to work at the job, but trying to campaign at the same time.

“All I can do is keep working hard, prepare, and be ready for whenever they finally decide when it’s going to be,” Cook said. “Some of us have been through so many campaigns, so I don’t know if it makes it any more nerve-wracking, but it’s harder to plan when you don’t have a certain day to work against.”

“I think it’s very difficult on these local candidates. I think that’s where you’re seeing the real struggles.”

The candidates for sheriff would agree with that assessment.

“I thought it was a sprint, from January to March, and that’s how I planned,” said Mike Cox, a candidate for Navarro County sheriff. “Turned out, it’s a marathon with a moving finish line, and you can’t even see when it’s going to be. Logistically and financially, it’s a strain, especially for those of us with other jobs we have to work.

“It’s physically and emotionally trying because it’s something at least four nights a week and every weekend, and it cuts into your family time,” Cox said. “At least in our race here in Navarro County we have good people and it’s not like we see in other races where there’s viciousness. It’s all been very gentlemanly and professional, and that’s how we intend for it to end.”

Elmer Tanner, candidate for Navarro County sheriff, said the moving target affects every aspect of a campaign —financial, logistical and personal.

“I’d think everybody’s affected,” Tanner said. “Not only the candidates, but the supporters of the candidates and the citizens are all affected by this.”

Like many of the local candidates, Tanner announced his campaign last June, but the extension of the election day now into May has turned it into a long-term project he hadn’t anticipated.

“You can’t make the business decisions you need to make to run a campaign when you can’t get a date for the primary,” Tanner said. “The longer they push it, the harder and more expensive it is.”

Factors that have to be taken into account include the time and energy to campaign, the money for advertising and yard signs, and buying more signs as the weather and time deteriorate the older ones, and the expense of criss-crossing the county for nightly functions when the price of gas has gone to nearly $3.50 a gallon, Tanner said.

“And the citizens are also affected. They’re eager to have their say, but with the date moving people become confused and the worst is when citizens lose interest,” Tanner said.

Jason Grant began campaigning for Navarro County Commissioner, precinct 1, in August of 2011, but he said he’s not going to slow down no matter how far out the primary is pushed.

“I’ve been real fortunate as far as donations to my campaign, but it’s hard to know how to budget your money when you don’t know when the primary date’s going to be,” Grant said.

Grant said he did start running ads earlier than he might have if he’d known the election wouldn’t be for four more months.

“And of course, we all put our signs out earlier, thinking it was going to be in March, and now those are going to be up an additional three months,” Grant pointed out. “The biggest issue is budgeting your money. Of course, it requires more money. Every time they back it up you have to keep going for another month, and that means more advertising.”

It’s also wearing on a candidate, and those who support him or her, Grant said.

“It’s exhausting on me, but I’d say more so on my family,” he said.

Darrell Shelton, who announced his intention to run in the fall, said there are good and bad aspects of having an extended campaign season.

“You get set for a certain day and it gets pushed back and that’s disappointing, and you think ‘now I’ve got to do more and more, and it costs a lot more,” Shelton said. “But on the other hand, especially for me, it’s good because that give me more time to go out and meet people in the county and lets me explain my qualifications. Some people have been campaigning a lot longer than I have and this gives me more time to talk to people. So there’s good and bad sides to it to me.”

—————

Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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