November is shaping up to be very interesting. With national elections for every member of the House of Representatives on the ballot, a third of our Senators putting their records up for scrutiny and a discontented public grumbling loudly, challengers are coming out of the woodwork and oozing out of every crevasse. Names are appearing on ballots in districts where incumbents at all levels of government have run essentially unopposed by another major party for years. Even in the primaries over the past several months incumbent Republicans and Democrats were being challenged from within.
One thing though does bother me about all these names and citizens popping up to enter the fray of national politics. What is it that bothers me you ask? Well, specifically among Republicans putting their names on ballots there seems to be a lot of, what I will call, Phantom Republicans.
By the term Phantom Republicans I mean Republican candidates now on the ballot and challenging Democrats in the general election but who do not seem to be taking their run for office very seriously. They seem to be sitting back and just hoping and praying that they will win with some key words, hot button buzz phrases and a healthy dose of voter distrust for those currently in power.
Every day I am getting emails from people in around the country where there is a Republican nominee for a seat at some level of government currently held by a liberal Democrat. Every day these emails tell the same story. That story is of a candidate, who is virtually unknown, who won the Republican Party nomination and who has been just sitting there not doing much of anything in the run up to Election Day. Sure, the candidate has a website and that website hits all the red meat talking points of lower taxes and tax reform, paring back government, etc. But beyond that there is very little. And there is rarely a mention of anything that could be considered at all controversial for fear of giving a readymade attack ad to their liberal opponent to run against them. There are few, if any, television and radio ads. There are few, if any, public appearances. There are literally no interviews in the local papers, radio talk shows or television stations to get the message out. Basically there is no doing anything of importance to get substantive top of mind presence with the local electorate.
Now you see why I call these people Phantom Republicans.
Personally I cannot speak to any of these instances and sightings of Phantom Republicans except one. Here in Pennsylvania in PA-14, the district where I live, it seems that we have our very own Phantom Republican by the name of Melissa Haluszczak (R) challenging liberal incumbent Mike Doyle (D).
Now, most of you out there in America have not heard of Mr. Doyle. That is because he is very astute politically. He is not smart lest you think I am suggesting that. He is just a masterful politician.
Doyle is a raving leftist who will roll over for Nancy Pelosi, joyously ask, “How high?” when President Obama says jump, and sign on to almost anything that expands federal authority beyond its constitutional limits. But he does not run to the microphones and seek attention like so many in his party do. He knows for the most part how to keep his big and grossly ill informed mouth shut. Thus his obscene love affair with liberalism is virtually unknown outside of the district. Heck, even within the district it is pretty much unknown even though he sends out flyers every now and again boasting about how he is proud to violate the Constitution and seek to infringe upon our liberties. Most people locally however, based on my conversations, just throw those mailers in the trash and never read them. These are the same people that are shocked when I actually tell them what Mr. Doyle is up to. Go figure.
Now for a little history lesson. In 2006 Doyle’s only opposition was the ultra-liberal Green Party and he won re-election with 90% of the vote. In 2002, 2004 and 2008 Doyle ran unopposed. That is how bad it is here and how little the Republican Party cares to challenge for the seat Mr. Doyle currently holds. But this year there is actually a Republican Party candidate on the ballot this year as I already mentioned.
The problem with Ms. Haluszczak however is that few seem to know that much about her and even fewer still have not heard hide nor hair from her as to why people should vote for her. Sure, she has a website and every now and again she even makes an appearance here or there according to her site (melissaforcongress.com). But in conversation after conversation I have with voters in my home district I get the same blank stare when I bring up her name and the election. Heck if it were not for the random and rare Melissa Haluszczak for Congress signs out there in yards or along the road side there would be no indication that there was even an opponent to Mr. Doyle.
Sure, her website has all the right talking points on unconstitutional government bailouts for industry, outrageous deficits, family, immigration, socialized medicine, the economy, national security, the second amendment and taxes. But what good is that if few voters even know there is a choice this year? And what good is it if those that do know there is a choice are wary of a candidate who seems not all that interested in getting her message out to the public? She seems to just be content to ride the wave of anti-liberal sentiment that will be on display this November 2nd and see if it is powerful enough to wash her up onto the shores of the Potomac and into a term as our Representative.
What’s more is that her name barely gets mentioned in the media. And even when it does get mentioned it is often for obscure reasons such as being mentioned solely as the opponent to Mr. Doyle in the final line of any article. When local media has tried to reach Ms. Haluczszak for comment on issues she is not to be found. For example in one article titled, “Mosque issue reaches Pennsylvania campaign trail” (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) it was noted that Ms. Haluszczak could not be reached for comment.
Just after she won the nomination of the Republican Party in the primary I reached out to Ms. Haluszczak and offered to interview her. However I did warn her that any such interview would not be a puff ball piece and made it clear that tough questions would be asked. That offer was met with the sound of crickets chirping. Maybe she thinks that I have nothing to offer her by helping her get her message out despite being published on dozens of websites each week? Considering that she barely gets a mention in the news at all I would say confidently I could have at least doubled her name recognition in the news however.
On Tuesday of this week a Google News search for her name turned up just three hits. One is WPXI’s candidate profile on her which is a sum total of four paragraphs and bland. The second article talks about how Ms. Haluszczak got a judge to rule that she be allowed to use a school for a town hall event but has no discussion of her issues and stances. The third is only there because someone made a comment on a post at BigGovernment.com pleading for Sarah Palin to come to the district to stump for Ms. Haluszczak. Wow! Great press there huh? Way to inspire voters to vote for you eh?
After this article gets picked up and published there will be probably just one more article mentioning Ms. Haluszczak’s name. And in all honesty it will be the only one seriously discussing her candidacy ever published as best as I can tell.
Listen, I can understand the concept of not spending a lot of money during the summer when people have things other than politics on their mind. Especially for a candidate like Ms. Haluszczak who as of June 30th had raised just a whopping $ 22,654 (source: opensecrets.org). Mr. Doyle has over $ 429,000 on hand. So I can understand conserving resources until the end. Believe me, I understand that.
But don’t you think that it is getting to a point where a little serious campaigning might be in order Ms. Haluszczak? There are just three weeks and some change to go before Election Day and, call me crazy if you like, but convincing people to vote for you might be something that should be high on your priority list.
Yeah, I know you have been doing some town halls and meet and greets. But based on my sources these have been so sparsely attended that your name recognition within the district has not moved more than a whisker.
Back before the primary I received a flyer from the Haluszczak Campaign hitting all the bullet points. Ok, I got it. And you know what, I agree that even if she is not solidly conservative on every issue (there are so many she has not spoken on so we voters do not know where she stands on them) that Melissa is infinitely better to represent us than Mr. Doyle is. I agree! But it is getting close to H-Hour on D-Day here and nothing of any seriousness is being done to promote her campaign among general voters; voters she will need the support of to win. These voters need you, Ms. Haluszczak, to be more than just eye candy around here. See, I am a little different than your average voter. Politics is my life so I pay attention to candidates even when they are not out there actively promoting themselves. But most voters are not like this.
Time to come out of the shadows all you Phantom Republicans. Don’t just put your name out there and hope that voter discontent will sweep you into the Congress. Because I will tell you this much for certain; it will not! I, for example, want someone to represent me who I know can do more than spout talking points, shake hands and kiss some babies. And I want the person that I vote for to prove to me that she or he can at least think. This means moving outside of the controlled and focus group list of red meat items and showing me that you can reason and come up with answers to serious questions posed to you on the spot and that at least make me understand that you know how to use your brain when confronted on an issue.
J.J. Jackson is the owner of American Conservative Daily Blog. He is also the lead designer for The Right Things – Conservative Political T-shirts and his weekly articles and exclusive content can be found at Liberty Reborn.