Like many people who are involved in the political process, I get tons of emails everyday and many of them are simply emails sent out to their lists either asking for money or some sort of other action. A candidate that has a good communications team in place will send out emails every now and then that simply provide updates on the campaign. Some campaigns even try to use their lists to send out information to their supporters before it makes the info available to the general public (a prime example of this is how the Obama campaign had people sign up to receive a text message announcing who his VP pick would be prior to it being announced). Although the finance shop in some campaigns would like the list to be utilized almost like an ATM and constantly send out requests for donations, I strongly believe that in the early stages of a campaign the list can be more valuable in getting information out about a candidate and including bits and pieces about how people can also get more information.
It appears as though someone on Jeff Barnett’s campaign didn’t think of this concept as he sent out an email with the subject line “Please allow me to introduce myself.” When I saw this, I was expecting a good email that included some of his positions on the key issues facing the 10th and perhaps some information about his own background. Now he did point out that he was a 26 year veteran and that he’d lived in Northern Virginia with his wife for a number of years, but what struck me as odd was that while he didn’t lay out how his background qualified him to work on these topics while trying “to introduce” himself, he did manage to ask for money three times. That’s not sticking with the spirit of trying to use an email list to truly interact with grassroots supporters.
I have enough commonsense to know that email lists are designed to spur people into action. Heck, I’ve even advised campaigns on how to use their email lists more efficiently in the heat of campaign season. The email the Barnett campaign sent out suggests that they are placing more emphasis on trying to get money out of the people on the list rather than actually giving them information and trying to engage them on the grassroots level. This doesn’t rule out the possibility that the campaign might change it’s focus later in the campaign, but it definitely isn’t a great way to make an introduction.
As someone who has knocked on thousands of doors and made thousands of phone calls into the 10th Congressional District in support of various candidates, I know first hand that it will take a large grassroots effort to defeat Frank Wolf in November. While I’ve seen Rich Anthony spending the time reaching out to the grassroots and expressing an interest in getting more people involved in the political process, I haven’t see the same enthusiasm so far from Barnett. Although I haven’t made an endorsement in this race, this has raised some concerns for me about Barnett’s chances of winning and the style of leadership he would show if elected to Congress. So while people might try to dismiss this as one email, I think it really represents a much bigger picture that I’m seeing from his campaign.