There's the old story about how Jimmy Carter got the attention of voters when he first ran for the White House. The little-known ex-governor walked up to strangers on the street, extended a hand and drawled, "Hi, I'm Jimmy Carter, and I'm going to be your next president."
Landon Fichtner, a first-time candidate for Huntington Beach City Council, has a similar approach to campaigning – although, in his case, it's closer to "Hi, I'm Landon Fichtner, and I recommend that movie."
The five-year Huntington Beach resident isn't among the candidates funneling tens of thousands of dollars into his campaign. In fact, he's running essentially on no money at all, which means that word of mouth and personal connections with voters are his main strategies. So while names like Boardman, Carchio and Shaw line street corners around town, Fichtner has opted for one-on-one interaction.
Often, that simply means striking up conversations with residents and then, after a minute or two, letting them know about his campaign. On a few occasions, Fichtner said, he's spotted strangers at the local minimart checking out a movie from the Redbox and moseyed over to offer rental recommendations. Then, once he's established a rapport, he'll note casually that he's running for office.
"There's so many names, people get lost in the rhetoric," Fichtner said Friday at a local Starbucks, looking like anything but a career politician in his sunglasses, hat and white tennis shoes with neon-orange laces. "So I'm trying to give people some personal experience with me, and I hope that personal experience will pay off when they come to the voting booth."
In addition to personal experience, Fichtner hopes his eclectic background will make him stand out among other candidates. A weather coverage producer at KTLA-5, he recently reduced his hours to teach science part time to inner-city middle-schoolers in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and he lists a stint in the Army and a banking job on his resume as well.
"I've tried to make sure I've had a diversified experience," said Fichtner, a Long Beach native. "So I'm bringing to the table not just an understanding of how one part of the world works, but an understanding of the full spectrum."
As a candidate, Fichtner counts development and tourism as his key issues. He favors finishing the Pacific City project and wants to see a new senior center, although he agrees with the recent court ruling to block it in Huntington Central Park. He wants to see the city improve its infrastructure, but opposes Measure O, the November ballot measure that would reserve 15% of the general fund for immediate infrastructure needs; Fichtner believes it would tie the city's hands too tightly in spending decisions.
He'd also like to see Surf City take a pair of bold steps to lure more tourists: implementing a trolley or other mass transit system and providing free citywide wireless service that would allow visitors to plug in laptops anywhere they went.
"The only vested interest I have is because I live in this city," Fichtner said. "I want to see the place where I live be as good as possible."