Will Mike Hope learn from campaign mistakes?
In November 2010, the Lake Stevens Republican won re-election as a state representative in a walk when his Democrat opponent folded long before ballots were counted.
During that same election, Hope journeyed to different corners of Washington to help pass a statewide tough-on-criminals measure drafted following the killing of four Lakewood police officers.
Those successes pumped Hope full of confidence and Republican leaders viewed him as a rising star in the party. At that time, of the Republicans thinking about challenging Snohomish County's Democrat executive Aaron Reardon, Hope appeared to have the best shot of beating him.
Now, after the drubbing suffered in the epic throwdown with Reardon, Hope faces a dimmer future with fewer rungs to climb on the ladder of county and state politics.
While he'll be favored to win re-election in 2012, victory is no certainty because next year's opponent -- whoever that may be -- paid nothing and gained valuable knowledge of Hope's vulnerabilities.
He made three critical decisions which likely cost him the election long before the final weekend of the election. Failing to learn from them will prove costly again at some point.
First, he overspent early and wound up lacking enough money at the end when it might have made a difference.
Nearly every dollar collected before the August primary was spent. Hope gambled on the notion that if the investment pushed his primary vote total high enough, it would enhance his credibility and attract new check-writing supporters. His 48-percent finish didn't reap any such rewards.
Second, he relied too heavily on cable television, making his campaign too one-dimensional.
It's difficult to communicate a message to voters in 30 seconds, even harder if the message often sounded like an incomplete thought as was the case with Hope. And, if the voters don't see the ads, well, it's a waste of money.
Third, he didn't respond fully to the incident in Mill Creek a decade ago.
Hope's belligerence toward Mill Creek police and the punishment he served as a result got inked quickly into his biography in this campaign. He tried to brush it off and it cost him.
Reardon hammered him, sending voters mailers with headlines screaming, "Suspended" and "Busted." Hope didn't answer the charge in mailers and stuck to the strategy of cable television commercials.
He realizes he lost votes, saying this week, "We probably should have addressed it instead of doing what we did."
But around that time Democrats-in-the-know were telling him they sensed his campaign on an upward surge, Hope said. And the Washington State Republican Party did a poll for him and those numbers further buoyed his confidence, he said.
It's all over now. Vote results get certified this week and his attention will turn to next November.
Hope expects none of the froth stirred up this year will put his re-election at risk.
Redistricting will give him a safer district to run in and future foes won't get as much mileage out of the Mill Creek incident, he said. Also, he said, the media won't train its spotlight on his legislative race as it did the county executive contest.
A little less illumination may be the right tonic for Hope's political career right now.
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield's blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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