Friday, April 19, 2013

South Dakota Political Fortune, Fundraising, And Facial Hair

Last evening Gordon Howie announced with less than definitive certainty that Bill Napoli "appears to be running" for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate:
Reliable sources confirmed that former state Senator Bill Napoli met this week with a group of supporters, (who are part of a fund-raising committee) to discuss the Senate race against former Governor Mike Rounds.  The group agreed on a targeted amount of money to be raised for a Napoli candidacy.  While the exact amount was not released, Napoli has been heard saying that a serious challenger to Rounds would need at least a million dollars.  An anonymous attendee confirmed that nearly half of the targeted amount had already been committed by late Thursday.
The post is accompanied by this photo that was used on Napoli's 2007 SDLRC page:

Former South Dakota Legislator Bill Napoli

I've already mused that Napoli will have an uphill fight, but it may even be more difficult than I had originally thought. The photo and a recent video reminded me of a Slate article subtitled "Why don't politicians today grow beards?" Justin Green, the article's author, points out few bearded politicians get elected and fewer still have a positive reputation:
A few politicians have managed to win elective office in spite of their hairy visages. Moderate, beard-having Ohio Republican Steve LaTourette has been a House stalwart since 1995. Who liked Rep. David Obey's beard? The voters of Wisconsin's seventh district did: They elected its wearer to 21 consecutive terms before Obey retired in 2011. Sen. Tom Coburn sometimes wears a beard, and its occasional appearance is eagerly awaited by Hill types. Coburn's beard even has its own tribute Twitter account, which boots up whenever the senator's whiskers begin to sprout. (Sample tweet: "i've asked tom to spend a few minutes combing me before tonight's #SOTU, i must maintain my supple virility.")
But mostly, a list of contemporary bearded politicos is a roster of the inept and inessential. There’s former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, who’s currently embroiled in a massive financial scandal. Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings was impeached and removed from office while serving as a federal judge in the 1980s. Ex-New York governor David Paterson’s three-year tenure did much to improve the fortunes of Saturday Night Live. Cantankerous Alaska congressman Don Young, known as “Mr. Pork,” has seemingly been ostracized from the beard community. ("Young is kind of a disgrace to beards around the world," wrote one member of a beard-centric message board). The oddly bearded jurist Robert Bork is the only person in the last 40 years to have his Supreme Court nomination rejected by the Senate. Ben Bernanke is the first beard-wearer to chair the Federal Reserve; he is currently one of the most-loathed men in America.
On the other hand, Napoli's facial hair may help him raise funds. There's a new PAC for hirsute politicians:
Led by Jonathan Sessions, a 30 year member of the Missouri Board of Education, the Bearded Entrepreneurs for the Advancement of a Responsible Democracy (BEARD for short) seeks to make Capitol Hill more facial hair friendly, regardless of political ideology. “With the resurgence of beards in popular culture and among today’s younger generation, we believe the time is now to bring facial hair back into politics,” Sessions has stated. Looking back, it's been well over a century since we had our last bearded president (Benjamin Harrison) and almost just as long since a major presidential candidate rocked the bearded look (Charles Evans Hughes, 1916, BOOM History!) It's nothing short of a national tragedy.
The PAC does not focus solely on presidential politics.
The BEARD PAC wants you to run for office, and reverse the trend of baby faced orators making all the big decisions. Currently there are only 13 members of Congress on the Hill who consistently have facial hair. It's time America had a real man leading. At least one with the confidence, swagger, and testosterone to rock a beard.
It's unclear if the group will take politics seriously:
"We're as serious as the opportunity to raise unlimited funds and spend them toward campaigning with little accountability," [Sessions] said with a laugh.
The group does take beards seriously, and Napoli meets their criteria:
As to how much facial hair constitutes a beard? Mustaches are out, but goatees count, Sessions said. A beard review committee is being formed to evaluate beards on a case-by-case basis, he said.
"If a candidate has the dedication to grow and maintain a quality beard, that shows a dedication to quality service," Sessions said. "Now, we're not endorsing every bearded candidate, but the right bearded candidates who can best serve the population they represent."
I have no idea if beards matter to most South Dakota voters or if Napoli will seek funding from the BEARD PAC. For that matter, no one knows if the BEARD PAC will actually raise or donate money. It is important, however, to remember that nothing in politics escapes notice.

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