As per my usual, I was checking out the local news sites’ political stories. The St. Pete Times has a story today about the race for Florida House District 52. In general it was an merely intersting article – until I read the following:
“Door-knocking is more important than money,” said Ed Armstrong, a lawyer from Clearwater long active in local politics.
He pointed to the House District 54 race four years ago in which John Carassas, then a 34-year-old assistant city attorney for Clearwater, beat Dave Miller, a retired Florida Power Corp. executive who had the support of state Rep. Dennis Jones, simply by blanketing the district door to door.
Hey! That was me! Or rather, I managed that campaign.
The John Carassas campaign was the most fun I had as a campaign manager, especially because we really were the underdog. We knew that Jones and Miller were long-time friends, and that they would raise more money — especially from the Tallahassee “establishment”. Jones also had Senator Jim King working for Miller (King grew up in St. Pete).
There was no way Carassas could go toe-to-toe with Miller in an air-war. So we played an agressive ground game. From April to August, John and his volunteers knocked on doors in every precinct in District 54 – from Clearwater Beach to Seminole to Gulfport to Tierra Verde. Do you know how hard it is to go door-to-door along the beaches in the summer time?
Obviously our hard work paid off, but it helped to have a great candidate. John had significant experience as an attorney for the City of Clearwater. He understood many of the issues — which helped him earn the endorsement from the Police Officers and Fire Fighters. He also had some of the Clearwater establishment (like Mr. Armstrong) on his side.
John also won the primary and runoff endorsements of the St. Petersburg Times. Now, one would assume that having such a liberal paper pick you would be a negative in a Republican Primary. Well, since there were no one in other parties — this race also featured an unknown pilot named Dan Curran and the current Pinellas County Republican Chairman Tony DiMatteo — Democrats could vote in this race!!
The result in the primary: Miller only won by 134 votes — despite having significantly more money and being the presumed heir apparent.
So John and Dave went to the run-off — the last run off election held in Florida. At that point, John’s “surprising” showing in the primary shifted the momentum in his favor. Many local politicos started reading the writing on the wall – and supported Carassas. John won 56.5% to 43.5%.
After the election, among the many congratulations letters John received, was one from Senator Jim King. I don’t recall the exact wording of the whole letter, but he was surprised and amazed at our success despite the interests arrayed against us.
But Ed Armstrong is right — John would not have been in that position had he not committed to an agressive ground game. We walked all of the precincts by early August, and focused on the top 10 precincts for the rest of the month.
It was just interesting to see THAT race used as an example of how hard work can beat money in an election.
Oh, and one more note. Dave Miller’s campaign consultant firm was the Mallard Group. They are great professionals – and I am sorry to have beaten them. However, the ironic thing here is that the consultant working with Miller was none other than Peter Schorsch the blogger at St. Petersblog!