Some years ago I devised a set of criteria to evaluate candidates, and then used that to evaluate some of the people running for office. It might be time to dust it off and use it again. Over the past year I’ve had several occasions to observe State Rep. Brendan Boyle, one of the four Democrats running to replace Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz in the 13th district (parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County). These include1 fundraiser, 1 organizational meeting, 3 debates, 1 public event, 1 fundraiser for another organization, and 3 meet and greets. I’ve looked at his campaign finance reports, both congressional and state house, not thoroughly but cursory. I did not identify myself as a blogger and to the best of my knowledge neither he nor his campaign staff know that I write this blog. If an event was a fundraiser I paid at least the minimum amount to attend.
Why Brendan Boyle?
As with other candidates I’ve written about in “meeting” posts, the reason I’ve been able to study Boyle this much is that his campaign has made it easy to do so. It frequently amazes me that campaigns I have contributed to don’t add me to their mail, email or phone lists. I only recently contributed to Boyle’s campaign but once I had showed up at one free event I regularly received phone messages and emails from them, inviting me to a number of events, some of which I was able to attend. I really have not been contacted by a campaign as much as I have the Boyle campaign, not annoying contacts badgering me about volunteering or repeated invitations to the same event, but invitations to a variety of things.
The Utility Test
This test refers to how the candidate reacts and responds to people who do not appear to have any current usefulness to the campaign. When I’ve introduced myself I purposefully did so in a manner that made it clear I would not be much help to him. In fact at times I’ve asked the kind of pointed questions that people don’t usually ask at candidate-specific events. If he thinks I’m wrong he’ll tell me, in a polite and respectful way. He seems to like talking with people. At events with more than one candidate, sometimes candidates will stay in one area and let people come to them. Boyle works the room and stops to have real conversations not just glad handing. He is patient answering the same question over and over at the same event or at a series of events. He’s good with people but not obsequious.
Boyle’s Campaign Staff
Campaign staff tend to reflect the candidate. Boyle’s campaign people are uniformly low-key and very polite and pleasant. While I’m on their press email list I haven’t had much individual contact with the campaign as a blogger, perhaps reflecting to general decrease in the influence of small political blogs. So I haven’t had a “handler” in my blogger guise, nor has anyone in the campaign been my primary contact when I’ve attended events. I’ve had short casual conversations with a handful of his staffers at various events. They were all well-informed, efficient, and easy to talk to. Having been around politics a few years now I keep waiting to see a hard edge come out but so far none has. His campaign manager (or at least I think that was his campaign manager) seems entirely too nice, efficient, but very nice. I've been impressed with the campaign's work to keep in touch. I get a lot of calls and messages at home, mostly recorded calls and, frankly, a little annoying. Boyle's campaign calls to let me know of events in the area. After I signed an interest form at an early debate I've received fairly frequent messages about other events, low or no cost, that I might want to attend. While I did contribute to his campaign it was late in the campaign season. I contributed to another candidate in the 13th district primary race much earlier in the election season, but seldom heard from them about other events.
I’ve spoken to some of Boyle’s supports before and, to be honest, started paying closer attention to him because someone I know suggested it. But the people I’ve met at his events are easy to talk with. Very low drama factor, and a lot of friendly laughter.
The Motivation Test
This refers to a candidate or official’s ability to get people involved in things they might not otherwise consider, or inspire people who disagree to work together. Since he was the first Democrat ever elected to represent the 170th state house district, he can clearly work with Republicans. And he seems to have brought his primary opponents together, or at least given them a combined purpose in attacking him.
General Impressions of Boyle
Boyle is a wonk – he talks policy quite a bit, but in a charmingly stiff way. He has a good personal story; he father still works as a custodian at SEPTA. Boyle is a first generation college student and still has student debt. I don’t agree with him on everything but he takes questions well and explains why he supports the positions he does. He has run a positive campaign and has remained positive at the debates I’ve attended. Boyle is a good communicator and seems to genuinely enjoy talking with people. He and his team have run a good campaign.