Countdown to Election Day
By truly understanding the positions of various candidates and taking action to help put the right people in office, pet retailers can help make sure their best interests are represented in government.
In the world of political campaigning, Labor Day marks the unofficial start to the “home stretch.” With family vacations behind them and few major holidays to distract them before Election Day, candidates believe voters are more receptive to the advertisements, mail pieces and public appearances that will help them decide who to vote for—or against, as is frequently the case.
Whatever your pet business, the men and women elected to represent you at the local, state and federal levels could spell the difference between a tax break and a ton of new red tape. Now is the time to figure out which candidates will have your back once Election Day has come and gone. But don’t rely on slick television ads and glossy campaign mailers to make up your mind; a little bit of effort now could save you years of buyer’s remorse down the road.
Here are a few dos and don’ts to help the process along:
• DO your homework. Learn who is on your ballot and what offices they are running for. This information can be obtained from the officials who oversee elections in your town, county and state via their websites or a quick phone call. Be prepared to provide your complete mailing address, so you can correctly identify your legislative district.
In the case of an incumbent, find out how long they’ve been in office, and call his or her legislative office to ask about any historical positions the official has taken on issues of interest to your business. In the case of a challenger, read up on their background and find out what is motivating their challenge. Visit both candidates’ campaign websites to see if your priorities are highlighted.
• DO reach out for more information. After reviewing the talking points the candidates volunteer, make up a list of four or five questions you would like answered. Try to focus on broad, thematic items like a candidate’s approach to zoning regulations, as opposed to specific scenarios that might be up for consideration. Questions about how a candidate would have voted on historical legislation are also useful.
Then contact both campaigns, but don’t be offended if you are directed to a staffer to discuss these issues or asked to submit your questions in writing. A well-run campaign is tightly scheduled during the final 60 days of an election, and the candidate’s time is the most precious commodity they have.
• DO look for public appearances like town halls, debates, fairs and parades. These are often the best chance to interact with a candidate directly in the waning days of a campaign.
• DON’T overlook other sources that may be doing your homework for you. Many organizations and interest groups across the country reach out to candidates with questionnaires and surveys on a broad range of issues. Some use these responses to simply issue their own endorsements, but others publish voter guides and ratings that can offer valuable insight. It can be especially helpful to see what candidates say to activists on both sides of the issues you care about—they are likely to be more responsive to groups whose ideologies align with theirs.
With this information in hand, you’ll be better able to determine which candidate is more likely to represent your interests. But what do you do with that information once you have it? Sure, you could just wait until Election Day and then show up and vote, but once you’ve figured out who the best woman or man for the job is, why not take action to try to ensure that outcome?
Whether you’re backing an incumbent or a challenger, there are a number of ways you can help spread the word about your candidate. You can contact the campaign headquarters and request a yard sign; this is one of the oldest methods of political advertising, and most campaigns are still happy to have you display your allegiance—especially if your home or business is in a particularly high-traffic area. You can offer to distribute campaign literature to friends, family and even customers (be sure to check applicable rules with your local board of elections). There’s always good, old-fashioned volunteering: making phone calls, knocking on doors and attending public events. And of course a candidate will always welcome a financial contribution to their campaign.
As a business owner, however, there are a few more valuable offers you can make. Offer to endorse the candidate publicly in a format of the campaign’s choosing; this could be as part of a coalition of business leaders or local entrepreneurs, for example. Volunteer your business as a backdrop for a campaign event: a retail store is a great place for a candidate to talk about economic issues, and a manufacturing facility provides a photo opportunity that few campaigns can pass up. Volunteer to gather colleagues, suppliers, and even competitors to meet with the candidate and discuss the issues facing your business in a formal setting. This can take the form of a roundtable or a fundraiser.
What happens on Election Day will impact your business for years. Don’t let others make the choice for you. Reach out to the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council for more information on ways you can get involved.
Mike Bober is vice president of government affairs for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. For more information on how to get involved, visit pijac.org/governmentaffairs.