As we continue through the beginning phases of the 2014 campaign, symbols count for a lot. Symbols help provide a window into campaign tone, if not campaign strategy. And so far in this cycle, the symbols I have noticed have been based in the announcements of some of our local candidates.
Some of our local candidates this year have chosen to do their announcement at their "annual fundraiser". Having an annual fundraiser is a negative symbol in that opponents could label one a career politician (which, BTW, isn't a bad thing to be), but these events are good in that they're both family based. Recent cases are Guy Guzzone's and Janet Siddiqui's recent events, which also served as their announcement for their 2014 campaigns for District 13 Senate and Delegate, respectively.
Then there is the "destination" event. This is the event where the location has some significance. Some recent examples? I have three. First, the Brown/Ulman announcement at the lakefront. Obviously important for the purpose of the Howard County Executive being named to a statewide ticket, but also important due to the fact that Columbia is Maryland's second largest city (well, would be if it were incorporated). Another example: last week's "Wine, Women and Watson" event that Courtney Watson had in Ellicott City. Courtney Watson has this as an annual, women-focused event, but given what Courtney is thinking about running for (which, word has it, is County Executive) you can't ignore the fact that it's on Main Street. Which is an important commerical district for the county and a key part of her current County Council District.
The winner though, in the symbolic announcement category, is Allan Kittleman's announcement for County Executive, held a couple weeks ago on the Columbia Lakefront. Certainly the location was important for the reason of Columbia being Howard County's downtown. But there was also a clear message sent. Columbia is not Republican voting central. The message sent by an announcement by a Republican candidate in downtown Columbia, as opposed to say, at the Kittleman home or at Western Regional Park, is that the election for County Executive will be contested everywhere in the county-- in the blue and purple parts as well as the red parts. It was a strong move by Kittleman's campaign.
The third type of the announcement is a hybrid of the first two. It's one that is utility-oriented, but which also sends a message. Two examples of these announcements. One, Clarence Lam's announceent waaaaaaaay back in February. Held at Hawthorn Center, it certainly was in District 12, but also, indicative of Lam's campaign focus on family issues. Two, Tom Coale's announcement last week, held at the Rumor Mill on Main Street. Certainly part of District 9B, but also, having an announcement on Main Street fit with one of Tom's campaign themes of bringing a different type of government to the people. Where best to talk to the people about government than on Main Street?
With every state and local office up for election in 2014, candidates are going to be turning more and more to symbols in order to catch voters' attention. It's part of the ever-continuing quest to be noticed.