Gerald Daugherty* is a Travis County, Texas Commissioner. He represents the people of the 3rd precinct, where my wife and I reside. Austin, the state’s capital city, is located in Travis County.
Thanks to an award-winning idea from Austin firm, KC Strategies, Daugherty was re-elected in 2016 and his campaign commercial was viewed by constituents and advertising observers from around the world.
KC Strategies received a silver Clio in the Public Relations/Public Affairs discipline—one of only a handful of firms in the nearly six-decade-long history of the show to receive a statue for a political campaign ad.
While the Commissioner with Rainman-like qualities goes to work to keep taxes low and to shape the future of transportation projects for the Travis County area, I sincerely hope that other local, state, and national candidates for office this November can learn from Daugherty and see that they must find ways to connect with people on a human level.
Likeability Is Always Factor
There are thousands of candidates running for office in 2018. Only a fraction will find their voice and be unafraid and vulnerable in public—the key ingredients in humor. Even fewer will properly invest in their own brand identity, so it pays off at the ballot box, even though elevating brand standards in political campaigns is a great way to raise the overall discourse, and help attract interest from sideline sitters.
Do you ever notice how all political signs blend into one red-white-and-blue blur? Here’s a field where it would be easy for a candidate to stand out; yet, it’s not a priority. Instead, rolling out the candidate’s stances on the issues is the focus, and while the activists in the party pay attention to these details, the voter who is distracted and overwhelmed doesn’t have time for all that.
In other words, I may not agree with Gerald Daugherty’s political leanings or his plans for Travis County, but I can imagine liking him, the person. That kind of likeability is critical in both politics and business.
Changing Minds and Votes
We, the People, can’t just move the scales from right to left every few cycles. All Americans deserve a higher standard and a better place for civic action and discourse. Which means putting an end to corruption, particularly gerrymandering.
During 2011 redistricting, Texas Republicans effectively diluted the voting power of Austin by splitting the county into five congressional districts and carving Austin into six districts. Today, only one of those districts is represented by a Democrat in Washington, DC.
I recognize that stacking the deck, or cheating isn’t funny. I’m saying that fighting corruption can be. Instead of debating the points, point by point, can we find a way to make light of it, and our current predicament as a nation? For an audience that is used to watching King of the Hill reruns, a candidate’s talking points ought to be more like punchlines.
*In the “keeping it weird” category: My grandpa and uncle are both named Gerald Daugherty. However, my relatives are not currently serving as my Travis County Commissioner. Gerald Daughtery of Austin, TX is. Also, it should go without saying that the practice of gerrymandering is not perpetrated by men named Gerald, at least not exclusively.