By Greg Jackson, Esq.
Ask any political candidate, past or current, what they dislike most about campaigning, aside from losing of course, and I can almost guarantee that you will be surprised by the response. Many folks believe it is the many hours candidates spend away from their families and work attending events, debates or hob-nobs that cause a great deal of angst. Others believe it is the miles candidates spend every week walking door-to-door to meet voters that results in the greatest heartache. While others feel it is the effort candidates expend learning about the various issues a community faces in order to develop their platforms that do them in. While all of these things are deﬁnite challenges to new and seasoned candidates alike, none weigh on candidates' minds more heavily than the task of fundraising.
When asked why that is, a candidate will probably give you a blank stare and shrug his or her shoulders, because it is truly hard to verbalize. But to give you some insight, they are probably thinking about the hours and days they spent behind closed doors in a smoke-ﬁlled room with no windows calling potential donors and asking for money, which is the proverbial lifeblood of any campaign. They are probably also recalling the many "no's" they heard and false commitments of support that never materialized in the mail in the form of a check. For me personally, as a political candidate I disliked making fundraising calls because I always felt people's money could be put to better use in the community; especially when I put in to perspective exactly how much money goes into just local political campaigns.
For example, let's take a look at some recent campaigns that directly affect the Apopka-area. In the 2014 Orange County Commission District 2 race, there were six individuals who raised over $300,000.00. In the 2016 Florida House District 31, House District 45 and State Senate District 11 races, candidates brought in approximately $150,000.00, $175,000.00 and $330,000.00, respectively. In sum total, what that means is that in just two years or so nearly $1 million have been raised for political races that directly affect the Apopka community. What is even more interesting is that if you asked this same collective group of candidates to raise funds for a community project, I doubt if they would be able to raise $15,000.00 total in the same period of time.
Having an idea of the money raised by political candidates and how it is put to use, when I was making calls to donors, I could not help but think to myself: what better good could be done if the money that goes into political campaigns went instead to the community for projects and programs. What good could be done if instead of giving tens of thousands of dollars to consultants, campaign managers, and strategist, most of whom are useless, these funds were given to the Hope Community Center, John Bridges Community Center, the VFW and others for community programs to support multi-cultural, youth and veteran programs.
Now, because I am not quite certain if my political career is done, my sincere hope is that this is not my Jerry McGuire (Tom Cruise) moment when he, as a super sports agent, wrote a manifesto calling for fewer clients and ended up having to rely on a single client, Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), to show him the money. But instead, my hope is that those who decide to run for political ofﬁce truly understand and remain mindful of the fact that for each dollar raised for their campaign, that is potentially one less dollar taken away from a worthwhile community based program or event.
Greg Jackson is a past Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, military veteran, current Orange County District 2 Representative on the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and General Counsel for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He has been as an active member of the Central Florida community for nearly 20 years. He was most recently a candidate for the Florida House District 45 seat.
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