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OC’s Best Ballot Designations

Posted by Chris Nguyen on April 5, 2012

Ballot

Ballot designations are the only piece of information that appear directly on the ballot other than a candidate's name (and party in some - but not all - races).

Last week, I wrote about OC’s worst ballot designations. In this post, I’ll be looking at OC’s best ballot designations.

As I said last week, “The most important thing a candidate does in a campaign may well be selecting a ballot designation.  That little phrase underneath a candidate’s name are the last piece of information that voters see before casting their ballots.  In low-profile races (like Central Committee, where you can’t even get a candidate’s statement in the sample ballot), that little phrase may well be the only piece of information that voters see before casting their ballots.”

Elected officials’ ballot designations are an inherent advantage, so I’m excluding the designations of elected officials.

OC’s Ten Best Ballot Designations (for Non-Incumbents/Non-Elected Officials)

  1. Retired Navy Captain (Emily Sanford in the 74th District Republican Central Committee)
    Retired Naval Officer (Norm Dickinson in the 73rd District Republican Central Committee)
    Who could possibly vote against the military?  People have a deep respect for career military officers, as these people have served their country, have substantial leadership experience, understand complex government bodies, and are educated.
  2. Deputy Attorney General (Peggy Huang in the 55th District Republican Central Committee)
    Voters love prosecutors.  Prosecutors put criminals in prison.  Deputy District Attorneys rarely lose elections.  Deputy Attorney General is higher on the food chain, so it should be even more impressive to voters.
  3. Deputy District Attorney (Cyril Yu in the 74th District Democratic Central Committee)
    See above.
  4. Retired Police Commander (Albert Ayala in AD-72)
    Voters love law enforcement because the police catch criminals.  A retired police commander has served his community, has leadership experience, and understands dealing with government.
  5. Law Enforcement Officer (Jorge Robles in CD-38)
    As above, voters love law enforcement because they catch criminals and have served the community.
  6. Businessman/Victims Advocate (Todd Spitzer in the 3rd Supervisorial District)
    How on earth do you vote against a victims advocate?  That’d be like voting against victims.
  7. Businesswoman/Childrens Advocate (Brenda McCune in the 55th District Republican Central Committee)
    How on earth do you vote against a childrens advocate?  That’d be like voting against the children.  (Of course, we’d expect all OC Political bloggers to have great ballot designations when running for office, and she’s done just that.)
  8. Retired Constitutional Litigator (Jonathan Adler in the 74th District Democratic Central Committee)
    Voters hate most lawyers as ambulance chasers and corporate raiders.  However, there are two types of lawyers people like: the prosecutors who put criminals away and the constitutional lawyers who battle for constitutional causes and rights (note that Spitzer and McCune went with “Advocate” instead of “Lawyer” – it’s the same job but “Advocate” sounds friendlier than “Lawyer”).
  9. Emergency Physician (Bill Honigman in the 73rd District Democratic Central Committee)
    Doctors improve health.  Emergency room doctors save lives.  People vote for lifesavers.
  10. Charitable Organization President (Usha Shah in CD-47)
    Too many people who work for non-profit organizations run with “Non-Profit Organization” or “Non-Profit Group” in their ballot designation.  “Charitable Organization” brings happy thoughts that make voters feel warm and fuzzy.  “Charitable” just sounds better than “Non-Profit” even though 90% of the time they’re the same thing.

Interestingly, half of the above are lawyers.  Note that none of these lawyers used “lawyer” in their designation.  None used “Attorney” except when it had key modifiers to become “Deputy Attorney General” or “Deputy District Attorney” instead.  These candidates realize voters don’t like lawyers, but they’re smart enough to realize people like prosecutors and advocates.

Lessons from the group above:

  • Non-prosecutor lawyers should generally run as advocates.
  • People like the military, law enforcement, and doctors.
  • When possible, “Charitable” should be used instead of “Non-Profit” to attract voters.

Best Pair of Ballot Designations in a Two-Person Race: 3rd Supervisorial District

  • Businessman/Victims Advocate (Todd Spitzer)
  • Councilwoman, City of Villa Park (Deborah Pauly)

Spitzer’s designation was #6 on my list of the ten best ballot designations in OC.  Pauly’s designation was ineligible to be on the list due to my “elected officials’ ballot designations are an inherent advantage” rule.  Therefore, this race inherently has the best pair of ballot designations in any two-person race.

Best Set of Ballot Designations in One Race Featuring 3+ Candidates: AD-72

  • Small Business Owner (Travis Allen – Republican)
  • Retired Police Commander (Albert Ayala – Democrat)
  • City Commissioner/Businessman (Joe Dovinh – Democrat)
  • Member, Orange County Board of Education (Long Pham – Republican)
  • Businessman/Mayor (Troy Edgar – Republican)

I noted last week that the five candidates in CD-46 has the worst set of ballot designations in any one race.  Well, another set of five candidates, this time in AD-72, has the best set of ballot designations in any one race with three or more candidates.

Every single one of these candidates maximized their occupations and political positions in their descriptions of themselves.

  • Allen runs a wealth management firm.  “Wealth Management Businessowner” could be offputting to some voters.  He wisely (and accurately) chose to describe himself as a “Small Business Owner” because his wealth management firm is a small business, and he does own it.  Plus people on both sides of the aisle respect people who own small businesses; indeed, the majority of Americans work for small businesses.
  • Ayala’s “Retired Police Commander” came in at #4 on my list of best ballot designations.  When the most hopeless candidate makes the best ballot designations list, you know you’ve got a fun race.
  • Dovinh’s “City Commissioner/Businessman” maximizes his appointed political role and takes advantage of his job as a general contractor.  The “City Commissioner” part wisely leaves off a specific city making it possible he could be a city commissioner in any of the cities in AD-72: Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Seal Beach, Westminster, Garden Grove, Los Alamitos, or Santa Ana.  (He’s a Garden Grove Planning Commissioner for the record.)  Additionally, there are cities out there (though not in California) that call their city elected officials commissioners instead of councilmembers.  For voters looking for candidates with private sector experience, Dovinh’s “Businessman” designation appeals to them.
  • Pham’s “Member, Orange County Board of Education” takes advantage of my “elected officials’ ballot designations are an inherent advantage” rule.  Not only that, he takes advantage of the Elections Code regulation that allows sitting elected officials to exceed three words in a ballot designation if they use their elected title as their sole ballot designation (this counts as a five-word designation; remember, “Orange County” is legally one word for purposes of the Elections Code).  Further, Pham is one of a small group of elected officials whose elected position includes “Orange County” in the title.  Since the entirety of AD-72 is in Orange County, his title sounds like he could represent all the people of AD-72 (for the record, he represents Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and Tustin).
  • Edgar’s “Businessman/Mayor” takes advantage of his status owning two businesses and the fact that he is currently Mayor of Los Alamitos.  Edgar is the only candidate in AD-72 who didn’t maximize the word limit, and he also failed to use the stronger “Businessowner” over “Businessman” in his designation: I would have tweaked this to be “Orange County Businessowner/Mayor” or “Small Businessowner/Mayor” though this is still a strong ballot designation.  Everything I said about Dovinh’s ballot designation applies to Edgar, with the added advantage that the mayor is leader of a city while a commissioner is just one of several officials.  Edgar’s not a directly-elected mayor; he’s mayor in one of those cities (specifically, Los Alamitos) where mayor is rotated on an annual basis among the councilmembers.  However, for ballot designation purposes, it doesn’t matter if you’re directly-elected or rotated into the position, as long as you’re the mayor when you’re running.

So last week, I wrote about OC’s worst ballot designations. In this post, these are Orange County’s best ballot designations.

One Response to “OC’s Best Ballot Designations”

  1. I realize you are running Robert Hammond’s campaign for the OC Board of Education, Area One, but I thought my ballot designation, “Community College Teacher,” was the best of the four candidates in that race, from a purely objective point of view. At least Hammond was able to use “teacher” as part of his ballot designation. Eleazar Elizondo’s attempt to do so was soundly rejected by the OC Voter Registrar.

    At any rate, great post. These designations do matter.

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