How Republicans Can Win in Montgomery County
By Ed Amatetti, Republican Candidate for County Council, District 2
email Ed Amatetti or call 301.728.6505
I am running as a Republican candidate for County Council in Montgomery County, Maryland. It is no secret that Montgomery County is a tough nut to crack for Republican candidates, from the presidential to the most local of elections.
It has been nearly 20 years since a candidate with an “R” next to their name has won an election here.
We have a preponderance of voters for whom the conservative message doesn’t resonate easily.
My campaign strategy for overcoming these disadvantages is, first, to work harder than my opponents – much harder. Second, it is to simultaneously run a campaign targeted to likely Republican voters and broad-based engagement with others, including Democrats. The broad-based part of my campaign is extremely time-intensive, but the early returns have been encouraging. I’ve raised money from hundreds of donors. About 40% of my donations have been from Democrats – some who I first thought were Republicans. Name recognition is growing at a strong pace -- at least it feels that way. Handing out literature at a Damascus school event unrelated to my campaign, I found about 1 in 8 people already knew who as I was; at another Clarksburg community event nearly 1 in 6.
[I interrupt my commentary to urge readers to go to www.edamatetti.com and donate to my campaign. I apologize for the advertisement, but money is a key to the targeted portion of my campaign – making sure Republicans get out and vote. I am ever thankful that the popular Governor Hogan will be getting a lot of Republicans “off their couches” on Election Day.]
Now, back to the subject of this article – how to engage those not accustomed to voting Republican or conservative, so critical to winning in Montgomery County.
Gaining Credibility by Non-Partisan Involvement in the Community
I began my campaign with an advantage most Republicans in our county don’t have. For a long time, I have already been working closely with Democrats and other “non-Republicans” on a non-political civics level -- as a board member of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League and MD Taxpayers Association, along with the county’s Civics Federation and other groups. Since we were on the same team, fighting for a common cause as advocates for accountable and responsible government, we developed mutually respectful relationships. This experience has also provided a level of campaign legitimacy to Democrats, who understand my commitment to, and knowledge of, county operations.
A highlight of these interactions occurred when a member of the Democratic leadership introduced me to a fellow Democratic colleague by saying, “I’d like you to meet Ed Amatetti – He’s a conservative, but I’m supporting him.” This person had become aware of me when I successfully challenged the OMB Director over the budget at a public meeting.
Engaging With “Non-Republicans” Has Proven to be a Rewarding Experience
This, of course, isn’t nearly enough to get elected. I need to talk to voters who don’t normally vote Republican -- a lot of them. That means seeking out and approaching Democrats as much as possible. I have had hours-long, personal meetings with pastors of two of the leading African American churches, the Black Ministers Council, leaders of the NAACP Parents’ Council, and even a former county organizer for the Maryland Progressives – always about issues of mutual concern. I’ve attended Women’s Democratic Club meetings and Meet & Greets for a Democratic candidate I know I’ll be able to work with on the Council. I have also held three Education Town Hall Forums.
The Good News. Democrats in Montgomery County want change as much as Republicans do. Some are even as tired of “one-party rule” as Republicans. But in order to support a Republican like me, they need a window into my heart. They need to know that Republicans care about the people and issues that they care about. In local politics, they are looking for someone who is fair, honest, competent and familiar with their county. They are not getting enough of this from their elected Democrats.
How I Talk to Democrats and Those for Whom the Conservative Message Doesn’t Resonate
You’ll be pleased and surprised to know that when I talk to Democrats, my message and my priorities are exactly the same– to make our county more affordable through lower taxes and reduced spending; to make our county more business friendly; transportation solutions are based on objective analysis, not political agendas; policies that promote public safety, not gangs; and schools that are improving, instead of falling behind, with real education reform that includes school choice.
In my conversations, I am: 1) ALWAYS honest and never skirt an issue or question; 2) NEVER apologetic about my views or party affiliation; and 3) always careful to listen to and respect their views and responses. These are not rules; they come naturally to me.
Lastly, I never, ever seek to win an argument. In fact, I make it crystal clear in all my conversations that I’m not trying to change their minds about an issue, nor suggest that I’m right or they are misguided. My goal is to express my position unapologetically and make them understand that my heart is in the right place, just like theirs; that I’ve just come to a different conclusion and I can really understand how they have come to their conclusions.
This has been an effective approach for me.
My campaign still has a long way to go. I need to engage with “non-Republicans” much more to overcome the deficit in Republican voters. Most of all, I need Republicans like you to support me as much as you can, especially with money, volunteering (I need lots of help), and spreading the word about my candidacy.