Saturday, October 29, 2005

Another Country Heard From

So in keeping with the Rashomon-like recounting of Steve Filson’s appearance Thursday evening before the San Ramon Valley Democratic Club, I’ll offer my version of what happened:

Filson gave a pretty typical speech – outlined his personal, professional and political background, talked a little bit about why he felt compelled to run, discussed his positions on a variety of issues, then took questions. VPO called it “generic.” Well… yeah.

It was in the question-and-answer format that I thought he stumbled badly. Like the other candidates, both declared and not, Filson is a political novice. Now, all of these fledgling candidates are going to make mistakes; we can only hope that their lapses won’t be too damaging and that their lessons will be well-learned.

But here’s the deal: when you’re in a public forum, don’t gratuitously insult the membership of a large and notoriously powerful lobbying organization which represents a significant number of the moderate and conservative voters in your district.

Taking questions from a group of wealthy Democratic supporters, Filson was comfortable and jocular –- maybe a little too comfortable. In such an insular setting it was easy to respond with a glib answer and then spice it up with a really snide little aside. Problem is, this was a public event; Filson may have believed he was among like-minded friends, but that is an incredibly naïve and dangerous assumption to make in the political realm. Just ask Trent Lott.

Now, I hate to do this because, God knows, I love to dish as much as anyone else. But I’m not going to repeat what Steve Filson said. I’m not going to repeat it because the internet has made the world incredibly small and wonderfully accessible. And the first rule of Democratic politics is (or should be) don’t give your Republican opponent a sharp stick. So you’ll just have to trust me that he said something really thoughtless and mean-spirited, a quote that could oh-so-easily be used to effectively scuttle his chances in a District 11 general election.

And this is important. When you’re running for Congress, you shouldn’t have to rely on the goodwill of strangers to keep your indiscreet comments out of public view.

Steve Filson has promoted his candidacy in the past by saying, “We need a fresh face with the credentials that can really attract voters from a wide spectrum.” Maybe. Or maybe we need to develop an experienced hand that won’t drive them away.

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