Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Challenges Await Returning Hopefuls

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune/Associated Press
Former Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan's November outlook is precarious. He's challenging freshman GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack in Minnesota's 8th district, which is evenly split territory. But Nolan's backers remain undeterred in his ability to withstand the rigors and dangers of a modern campaign.

Matt Salmon spent about $135,000 in the lead-up to winning a 1994 GOP primary for an Arizona House seat. Last month, Salmon, who is seeking a return to Congress 12 years after he left, reported spending almost $800,000 so far this cycle.

Salmon's financial advantage helped him win a Republican primary in Arizona's 5th district, and he is heavily favored to join the next Congress.

The cost of campaigns - along with the increased time devoted to fundraising - is among the biggest changes politicians who have been away from the trail for more than a decade encounter. Salmon called it "sticker shock."

Although ex-Sen. Bob Kerrey's (D) comeback Senate bid in Nebraska has garnered the most press, he and Salmon are among a handful of former Members who are seeking a return to political life after an extended hiatus. The others include former Montana Rep. Rick Hill (R), former Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan (D) and former Texas Rep. Steve Stockman (R). Hill is running for governor in Montana, while the rest hope to return to Congress.  

They are encountering a lot of challenges as they discover just how much the terrain has changed.  

"My days are a lot longer this campaign," Salmon said in August about his bid to return to Congress. "I thought I was working hard last time. It's just relentless."

The transition has not been easy for everyone. The two most difficult challenges of the modern campaign are fundraising and adjusting to the fast pace and perils of technology.  

"Now it's click, send, and it's going to be news in a half hour," said one Republican strategist who has been involved in campaigns for almost two decades.

Video tracking of candidates has also become commonplace in recent cycles - since former Sen. George Allen's (R-Va.) "macaca" moment in 2006 - and is a big potential pitfall for politicians not accustomed to having their every word recorded.  

For most of the former Members, the 1990s seem like a sleepy era. Fax machines were the primary means of dispersing and receiving information, and mobile technology was in its infancy.  

"Everybody was carrying those stupid bricks around," Salmon said, referring to the cellphones that were prevalent during his first campaign in 1994.

Each of these candidates has also ventured into the world of social media, but none has exactly lit the Internet grass roots on fire.

Still, each embraces the new way of doing things, updating Twitter and Facebook with endorsement news, photos from the trail and the occasional barb.

comments powered by Disqus




Want Roll Call on your doorstep?