Newly elected supervisor reflects on campaign

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Newly elected supervisor reflects on campaignNewly elected Mick Gleason, who will take the Kern County 1st District Supervisor seat vacated by Jon McQuiston, shared with the Ridgecrest Republican Women and guests the steep learning curve of the campaign trail for a political newbie.

“I want to give you an insider’s perspective of campaigning,” said Gleason. “I can tell you what I saw, you can tell me what you saw and we can maybe make sense of it and talk about how things translate to us as a community. Because I gotta tell ya, a lot of times I was left scratching my head, wondering what just happened.”

The highlights he shared from that journey included the good (meeting the people of the 1st District), the bad (exhausting effects of running a year-long sprint) and the unavoidable (adhering to a system where success depends on name recognition and money – lots of money).

“This experience has been a total physical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional exercise.”

One of the the first steps was to approach Bakersfield-based Mark Abernathy to see if he would run the campaign. “This turned out to open up a whole new issue within an issue that we didn’t even know about,” said Gleason.

Abernathy is a Republican consultant for elected leaders who include Rep. Kevin McCarthy, state Sen. Jean Fuller, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove and other Kern County politicians.

After Gleason hired Abernathy, some of Gleason’s opponents in the primary, members of the Bakersfield Californian editorial staff and Bakersfield politicos unknown by Gleason began to attack him on the grounds of that relationship — accusing him for being a puppet in a “political machine.”

Gleason said that despite those bewildering attacks, he is proud of his relationship with Abernathy. “He is a man totally invested in Republican values, which is the reason for that fight within a fight. Our campaign manager stands for something. If you are a conservative and a Christian, you need to be thankful this man is involved. He is the strong person we have standing up to those who oppose the values we believe in.”

Gleason pointed out that, ironically, some of the very candidates who protested against that relationship were those who had tried and failed to get Abernathy’s endorsement.

He did not spend much time during the campaign defending, or even acknowledging, those claims. “A campaign is a bunch of battles within the larger war,” he said. “It’s easy to get pulled off trying to win those battles and spending so much time and resources on them that you lose ground in the war.”

He said he learned to trust his supporters in a steady march to the end zone, where such groundless battles fizzle out and die so long as you are marching toward a worthy goal. He said that many members of the Ridgecrest community were among those loyal supporters.

One of his first surprises was that campaigns are won based on two principals: name recognition and money. “I wish there was a way to make campaigning easier on everyone involved. I just don’t know if there is a better way of doing it.”

Gleason said that he liked to believe that votes could be earned by sharing information and ideas and goals with the electorate. And while he spent a lot of time making phone calls and walking neighborhoods, “The fact of the matter is you can’t knock on that many doors. You could spend 10 years doing that and still not reach everyone.”

Which is why candidates put out signs. “You learn that you have to get your name out there for people who are not engaged in politics. Though I think part of the answer there may be reaching those people and educating them on the value of being an informed part of the political process. I think we should start by reaching out to young people and nurturing their interest.”

The necessity for signage leads to the other campaign necessity — money.

“Oddly enough, my campaign actually started with a conversation with Roy Ashburn.” Since Ashburn had not yet announced his candidacy, Gleason called the former supervisor and state legislator to get his ideas. “I remember he told me, ‘If you can’t walk up to someone and out of the cold introduce yourself, ask their support and ask for money, don’t run.’ At the time, I thought, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’”

But Gleason noted that he later found how true that would be. Although the final numbers are still being tabulated, he said he ended up raising nearly $150,000 during the campaign.

“And just to follow that thread, Roy also called me on election night, and we had a really nice discussion. So my campaign actually began and ended with gracious phone calls with Roy. But in between — ai yai yai.”

Although Gleason acknowledged that fundraising seemed to detract from the interaction with voters, he said that he was able to identify at least one advantage.

“The evil in it is the money. But the good part is that often the people who are working hardest to get their name out are the people who want it the most — and the people who are going to work hardest to represent their constituents.”

While there were probably ways to improve that process, “There is an incredible value in vetting your leader, in knowing that you have put him or her through a rigorous examination to earn your vote.

“Sometimes it goes too far. And I don’t know how to regulate that beyond exercising common decency to the people concerned.”

And meeting the people of the 1st District gave him hope for that. “I have learned that there are a lot more good people out there than there are bad.” He said that meeting the residents of the diverse communities in the region was both enlightening and encouraging. “The common thread is that these are all people committed to and invested in their communities.”

He said his primary job is to unify those people and all their interests — a challenge given the geographical and economic boundaries of the region.

Gleason noted that now that the election is over, the real work begins. As a county supervisor, his role as the local extension of state government is to provide services to the district. He said he was not sure how the shrinking representation of conservatives at the state level would impact his job.

“Overall, for Robynn and me, this has been a thrilling year. Despite the sleepless nights and the ups and downs, someone said it’s like having a baby. When you finally have your baby, you forget the pain of the delivery.”

Gleason will be inducted into office Jan. 7. “I can’t tell you how eager I am to start digging into the issues.”

Story First Published: 2012-11-21