16 July 2015

Arse Foremost #nlpoli

Politicians help out with each other’s election campaigns all the time.

There’s nothing unusual for a municipal politician to work on a provincial or federal campaign or for a federal politician to help a provincial colleague.  Sometimes  the one politician will work as the campaign manager for another.

Usually,  the politicians don;t broadcast the fact. There are many reason s for this. Not the least of the reasons is that the campaign is about the person seeking election, not the staffer, regardless of the fact that the staffer might be well-known publicly in his or her own right.

That’s one reason  why it is so odd for Conservative Jonathan Galgay to be so vocal and public about the fact that Liberal candidate Paul Antle has taken Galgay on as his campaign manager.

Galgay took to Twitter last week to announce the fact he would be running Antle’s campaign. And this week, Galgay called the morning open line talk show to discuss his new job and address questions about why he – a Conservative – was helping a Liberal.

Galgay didn't actually acknowledge his Conservative affiliations.  Rather he played up the idea that as a municipal councillor in St. John’s he doesn’t belong to any political party.

Well, that’s more than a bit of a nosepuller. .

There are no political party organizations in municipal politics.  But as the former Conservative political staffer well knows,  plenty of municipal politicians have been active in one or another of the province’s political parties.  Keith Coombs, for example,  served for many years on St. John’s city council. He was also a provincial Conservative organizer. No one batted an eye about it because there was nothing to be concerned about.

What’s been raising eyebrows in political circles about the Antle-Galgay arrangement is that it is nothing like what Keith Coombs or any other politicians have ever gotten up to.

Galgay was a Tory political staffer.  Last year, he was planning to run for the Conservatives in St. John’s Centre.   Now he is working either as a volunteer or as a paid staffer for a Liberal candidate.  Galgay has  - in effect - changed parties but he’s talking as though he hasn’t.  It looks more than a bit disingenuous.

Galgay announced his own appointment.  Antle saw that as a good thing or saw nothing wrong with it.  Either way, it says a lot about their judgment.  It’s never, ever a good thing when the staffer has a higher public profile than the candidate. 

Make no mistake about it, Galgay has a much higher public profile than Antle.  One of the reasons the city councillor got elected is that he is a relentless self-promoter. He’s remained so ever since he got elected. Galgay’s announcement looked like it was done more for his benefit than Antle’s.  The same is true of Galgay’s call to  open line about the appointment.

Galgay may be an effective self-promoter.  Beyond that, it’s hard to know what Galgay brings to the table. When it comes to the current Liberal campaign method, though, Galgay hasn’t worked with anything like it.  He has no relationship with any of the Liberal volunteers in the district and he has a limited relationship with most of the people who normally work on Liberal campaigns.

The guy is an outsider who comes to the job with exactly zero cred within the party.  He doesn’t stand much hope of earning some credibility by claiming he has no party or hasn’t left the party everyone knows he has been supporting for years.  Those who change teams and do the work, get the credit for it.  Those who want to play cute,  don’t.  Galgay looks very much like someone in the second pile.

Antle’s decision to put the unlikely Galgay in such an important position points to two possibilities.  The most likely one is that Antle is having trouble getting experienced campaign help.  Some of the people previously associated with him appear to have left or been dumped only to be replaced by others. 

Galgay is just so far outside the scope of what you would expect to see in a provincial Liberal campaign that it suggests Antle is having to look farther and farther afield for help.  Cast the net farther.  Scrape the barrel.  The image is the same.

The other possibility is that Antle, the Captain of Industry has decided to subcontract the work of getting elected to someone else.  While he is preoccupied with his business interests or his LEAP stunt,  Antle has hired a stand-in to handle the work Antle can’t be arsed to do.

That may work in the business world where people just want a job done at a set price. Sub-contracting doesn’t matter.  It might even work when people want to hire the celebrity expert but can be happy with the brand name even though their job is prepared by a nameless staffer.

That sort of thing may not work so well in elections.  People usually expect to deal directly with the person they will hire to represent them.  If they are going to vote, they expect the candidate to show up on the doorstep and personally ask for it.  Even the most publicity-hungry celebrity politicians like Danny Williams actually made the effort to win over individual voters.  Has Antle done the same thing?  It sure doesn’t look like it.

Now there might be a third possibility.  Antle might be hoping that the Ward Two councillor can pull his municipal voters over to the Liberal team. Antle’s prospective district overlaps with Galgay’s municipal seat. The problem with that theory is that the voters themselves are not likely to play along. They often vote differently in municipal, provincial, and federal politics for very different reasons.

The Liberals and New Democrats are a lot closer in the metro St. John’s seats than many seem to realise.  Anything that plays into the NDP narrative of the ties between Liberals and Conservatives won’t help Antle one bit among voters looking for a change. Galgay doesn’t really bring any Conservative voters with him and he might just turn off the Tories in the district by playing for the other team without admitting it.

Galgay the Antle sub-contractor is definitely not an image that will help Antle in his tough fight against former NDP leader Lorraine Michael.  Antle will have to work hard to win.   With Galgay along for the ride,  Antle he will likely have to work harder.