Venezia: Moorlach, Leece illustrate how tough it is to run

I always ask candidates what made them decide to throw their hat in the ring.

Nine times out of 10 they tell me so many people are urging them to run they can't ignore the pleas.

How many is "many"?

No one's ever given me a number, though I've been told it's not the quantity of the people, but how politically connected the folks are who are egging them on to do this.

Now I get that it's flattering to hear people think you can make a difference, but I'm amazed at how many candidates actually believe all the smoke being blown up their you-know-whats and don't have a clear understanding of the reality of the situation.

The more successful candidates take a cold, hard look at themselves, examine how much money they can raise, objectively assess their competition and understand the time management involved.

If you have a life and a job, running for office is not only time consuming, it's physically and mentally exhausting — no matter who you are.

Which is why, when I talk with some candidates, I just want to shout, "Stop now and manage your expectations!"

Like when I interviewed Costa Mesa Councilwoman Wendy Leece, who's contemplating a bid for the 48th Congressional District, hoping to unseat incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa).

I like Leece. We spoke at the end of January. I asked what her fundraising goal was. She said her campaign wasn't about money; it was about listening to the people.

She also discounted the physical demands of running for office, which I found strange because Leece had two hip replacement surgeries in three months.

"Why should I say, 'The mountain is too big, I can't climb it'? I think I have a skill set and experience," she told me. "So why not try?"

And try she is.

"Wrapping up my paperwork to run for US Representative for the 48th Congressional District," she posted on her campaign Facebook page March 7. "Filing documents and candidate statement all in order and paid for. Thank you everyone for your encouragement and support!"

Leece admitted that she knows she's a long shot here, and will not have her Republican Party's support.

Can her grass-roots campaign beat the odds and Rohrabacher?

Or will she too have to come to grips with managing her expectations as Supervisor John Moorlach did this week?

When I heard he had taken himself out of the 45th Congressional District race, I wasn't surprised at his decision or his reasoning.

In an email blast, Moorlach said that the rigors of fundraising were starting to interfere with his day job.

"I could not ignore the duties to which I volunteered to serve in the role of supervisor. It's just not in my DNA," he wrote. "When you join a poker game, it's nice to have a good stack of chips when you start. I didn't gather enough and I made a self-assessment to disengage and, therefore, I plan to return to the private sector after the end of this year."

We had talked about his run for Congress last year, and even then I felt he was underestimating the demands ahead of him.

As I've said in previous columns, this is going to be a tough year for fundraising no matter who you are, solely because there are so many races and so many candidates.

And everyone is tapping the same local donor pool.

So either a contributor will spread money around, giving less to each, or pick a few and concentrate funding.

Over the next few months the herd of candidates will thin as more are also forced to manage their expectations.

And don't think the donor pool isn't considering this too before they give.

No one wants to plunk down cold, hard cash on someone who won't at least make it to the finish line.

This factor alone will make fundraising difficult.

But in Moorlach's case, did he aim for the wrong higher office?

If he'd gone for the Assembly seat being vacated by Allan Mansoor and announced early, I'd venture to bet that the two current front runners — Newport Beach City Councilman Keith Curry and Huntington Beach Mayor Matt Harper — probably wouldn't have thrown their hats in the ring and it would've been Moorlach's race to lose.

Assembly may not have been the position that interested him, but at least it would have kept him in the game.

But speculation aside, I wouldn't count him out of political scene even after he returns to private life.

Who knows, maybe there's a Councilman Moorlach in Costa Mesa's future.

BARBARA VENEZIA, whose column appears Fridays, lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com.

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