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How I Lost the Election So Long and Thanks for the Fish

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To the 65% of the voters that did not turn up to vote or had no idea of what the last election was about,  I was running for City Commissioner of Coral Springs,  the city you live in, and I lost by 104 votes.

The morning after the election, I woke up with the realization that I am not the elected City Commissioner of Coral Springs, despite my best efforts. I outspent my opponent $40,000 to $7,500, sent out several mailers, won the debates, and made sure that everyone in this city understood the issues regarding the city hall, increased salaries and lack of SRO’s at the schools.

The fact that I am a Civil Engineer and business owner with experience only played marginally to the voters, since my opponent has neither. Popularity overcame common sense. Lou Cimagalia won, and he is the elected City Commissioner.

That is what voting is about.

I suppose the most asked question while campaigning was why I was running in the first place. It certainly wasn’t ego or the money. I really wanted to do something good for Coral Springs and I thought my ‘non-political’ way of doing business would make this city the best place for us all. I had some great ideas like free wi-fi for all businesses, getting people to vote on-line on issues before the city and and increasing the police force to lower the crime rate which would drive home values up. I was also going to look into wasteful spending in a way only a businessman with experience can do, including the single source bid awards to people friendly to commissioners and city staff. It was sort of my way of giving back to the community, since I did not need the job and could definitely find other things to do with my time. I really felt that the city would be getting the biggest bang for their buck. Obviously that is not what 50.2 percent of the voters that voted wanted.

Too bad. Life goes on.

To those that supported me and voted for me, the 49.8 percent, I can only tell you that I am writing this article for you, to tell you how disappointed I was that I lost and how much I appreciated your vote. The phone calls of well wishers and people concerned for me have flooded in to my cell phone to the point that I cannot answer every call. The day after the election, Mayor Roy Gold came by my office to give me a hug and tell me that it was my efforts that helped Joy and Skip get elected. I called Skip wished him the usual best of luck, and told him that he can count on me to be the best pain in the ass that I can be when it comes to city affairs.

Maybe I could have attacked my opponent with negative campaign ads, or discredited him, and I could have gone after him in the debates. However, Lou Cimaglia is a nice man, a great volunteer and someone that people look up to. He has children and grandchildren like I do. I refused to compromise my integrity.

So what went wrong with my campaign and why did I lose? Here are some ideas:

I actually had a decent campaign team. Some I paid, and others actually volunteered their advice. I really never thought that the election would have been this close. I certainly could have found another 105 votes, or better yet, tried to convince 58 people to vote for me instead of Lou. But then again, I should not have had to. If I were truly the person the people wanted, I should have won in the same fashion as Skip Campbell and Joy Carter did. We were after all running together, supporting each other on the same issues. Skip was a State Senator and Joy had a lot of friends; but so did their opponents. Tom Powers was an incumbent really, since he was a city commissioner. Skip came late into the game, but overwhelmingly defeated Tom. If you ask anyone, my race was supposed to be the shoe-in. Skip was going to have a hard time, and Joy was only to win by a few points. Skip and Joy knocked it out of the park. I came short of home plate.

What’s in a name? Stupid People Syndrome or SPS

Stupid People Syndrome or SPS for short, was the definition I came up with a few years ago and wrote an article about it in Coralsprings.com . It was about how some smart people end up as stupid people doing stupid things. When elections come along SPS seems prevalent and this one had its fair share.

For instance: Melamed is Hebrew meaning teacher, or a well-schooled person. Advisers to my campaign brought up the issue of my name several times. Their concerns were that it sounded too Muslim and not Jewish enough. I told them they were crazy. I spoke too soon.

I tried to point out that Barack Hussein Obama won the election twice, but to them the average Coral Springer would look at my name and not vote. (Remember I only needed 58 out of the 104 votes that I lost to have won). So I did my very best to make sure people with SPS knew I was Jewish. I added my middle name ‘Irwin’ to my campaign and Howard Irwin Melamed became the candidate for Commissioner. My handouts had the fact that I was a past president of a synagogue – which you need to be Jewish to be one. I met with the Rabbi of each synagogue in our area. I even re-joined Beth Am synagogue .

When at a commission meeting the city’s closed caption called me Mohammed instead of Melamed and the Sun Sentinel wrote an article ‘Jewish Candidate Called Mohammed by City Commissioners’ clearly indicating my religion as being Jewish. Can there be any other doubt that Howard Irwin Melamed is Jewish? That being said, everyone knew I was, good or bad. Except if they had SPS.

Certainly, I am sure a few hundred people voted for Lou Cimaglia because they knew I was Jewish or Muslim, and he wasn’t. Antisemitism exists in our city, as it does everywhere else in this world of ours and certainly a few hundred Jews thought I was Muslim and voted for Cimaglia. Antisemitism is not limited to people against Jews but against Muslims as well. SPS.

Then again several people actually told me that they heard that the reason why people voted for Cimaglia is because his name sounds Italian. It is. Melamed is not. That is obviously a good reason for people with SPS to put someone in charge of $105 million budget, the Police and Fire Departments, and of course your sewer and drinking water supply.

Several people said, “If only you had changed your name.” They actually thought I was a movie star. SPS. Actually quite funny when you think about it.

Maybe I should have toned down the Jewishness of my name and changed it to something more Christian? Perhaps instead of Melamed, I should have made the ‘e’ very tiny and I could have been McLamed. Actually, I was called this at a hotel in Scotland that misspelled my name on a reservation. When I got back to the U.S. I logged on to ancestry.com since I have been researching my family tree for years. How many McLamed’s could have been from central Poland where my family immigrated? 56!

Too bad they were not alive to have voted for me in this election.

I could have also taken off the last letter of my name and became Melame. (me LAMEE ). It may have confused 56 voters to vote for me or confused them and caused another 56 to vote against me. SPS takes on many forms and affect many people.

Ballot Placement

Several experts told me that just being first on the ballot would get you 3-5 percent of the vote since some voters with SPS simply pick the first position. Cimaglia was ahead of Melamed so I would have had to change my name to Amelamed, or Amway or Cantor. Then again it might have still sounded too Jewish.

Then there are the 65 percent of the voters that never voted. Elections are not important to them since they are affected with SPS. Let’s not forget about the voters that showed up unprepared with no knowledge of any of the candidates but felt the obligation to fill in the ‘multiple choice’ exam. They actually thought it was one of those word puzzles that they fill out while in the bathroom. These people with SPS felt compelled to give some sort of an answer. They were taught in school never leave anything incomplete, so that any guess is a good guess. So they chose the first position and voted for Cimaglia. SPS.

To be fair, there were 3,000 voters that filed in the blanks for the Mayor and 1000 more for the Seat 5 position but left out Seat 4. These people did not know who was running for Seat 4 and elected to do nothing instead of making a mistake. They could have made sure to inform themselves but they were really pre-SPS. Not completely suffering yet , but in the preliminary stages.

To the 49.8 percent who voted for me, we need to forgive the other 50.2 percent since they have SPS.

Church support

I have always held back in reporting the fact that ALL of the previous city commissioners were all Catholic and from the same church. This was made clear to me by the previous mayor now termed out Mayor Boccard   when he thought that I actually accused them of all being Catholic in an article that I wrote called “ The Gang of Coral Springs” (I’m not sure why he would not be proud of this).  He verbally launched an attack on me at Starbucks one morning and said that “if the entire commission were a bunch of Jews he would not complain so why should I. After all some of his best friends are Jewish, like Scott Brook, Stacy Ritter,” etc.

Actually I never ever considered them as being the same religion until he mentioned it. My story about them all being the same was referring to the Gang of  4 commissioners , as all being from the same political party. They were all Republicans. Tea Party variety. This Church thing was an interesting twist, but irrelevant at the time because certainly mentioning it would only get the Church vote out against me. That happened anyway.

I have always believed in the separation of religion from government. We need diversification in the city commission and there are, after all, other minority groups that have a substantial presence in our city that is 19 percent African American, 23 percent Hispanic and 23 percent Jewish. There are other Christian churches, and no doubt in a multicultural city like ours, we have should have equal community participation on the city commission. To do that, you need to come out and vote, and 65 percent stayed home. Maybe next time.

I give credit to Lou Cimaglia, a Knights of Columbus member active in his church who was able to effectively muster his fellow congregants and get them to vote for him in a big way. To be fair, I tried to do the same thing with fellow congregants at the synagogues, and as we see from the results, it is obvious Lou did a better job at it then me especially since some of my Jewish brethren thought I was Muslim, others stayed home and did not vote and others suffer from SPS ( it affects everyone).

I read that the newly elected Toronto Mayor, who is a member of the United Church in Canada, is really Jewish. In hindsight, what I should have done is joined the same church Lou is a member of instead of Beth Am synagogue, and maybe I would have won. That would have been the politically smart thing to do , but I also suffer from SPS.

The Sabbath

I go to synagogue every day, and especially on Saturday which is the Sabbath or Shabbat. I refused advice to campaign on the two largest early voting days, the Saturdays. Looking at the total votes, I was ahead by a large margin in early voting. More than 1,000 votes. So if I campaigned, shook hands, etc., I may have been able to find another 104 votes. However, I may have also invoked the wrath of Hashem ( the Lord, G_d) you know – the Super Voter. I have always said that if Hashem would want me to win, I would have. Come to think of it, losing by 104 votes, I can tell you that Hashem has a great sense of humor and has other plans for me that does not include being a city commissioner, obviously.

CS Police and Fire Union Support

It was amazing meeting the leaders of the CS Police and Fire Unions at early voting.  They all said that they felt bad they had to support the other guy, even though then knew that I am actually involved in supplying public safety signals in buildings to make it safe for Police and Fire Departments around the country. My company manufactures jamming equipment for bomb squads and I even made a presentation to the fire inspectors of the City of Coral Springs. I also supported a fully professional Fire Department back in the year 2000 when I first started Coralsprings.com. I called for increasing the police force for all during this election. I support and will continue to support our Police and Fire Department.

That is why I was upset at the fact that the Police and Fire unions endorsed Lou over me. I don’t think they gave me a fair shake, and the only reason they endorsed Lou was because the Gang told them in an implied way that if they support their Gang, then the Gang would make sure that they would get a great deal for their members. They supported Lou, Tom Powers, and Laurette, Homan and the CSFD got a great deal.

The excuse that they gave not to endorse me  was  that 10 years ago they supported me and I did not campaign the last few weeks before the election. I let them down. The fact that my focus was on my daughter who was in a severe car accident a few weeks before and almost lost her life, was not a good enough excuse for their senior leaders. They also hold a grudge…10 years worth, and suffer from SPS, or lack of sensitivity.

I believe that the Police and Fire Unions did not serve their membership well. Many police officers and fire department staff came over to me and told me how embarrassed they were in having to hand out the palm card supporting the other guy. Even one of the union leaders said it to me. I think that they need to do what is best for the city next time and ask their membership directly who to support and stop playing politics. They would have had no better support at the city commission than me. To think that I actually give money to the FOP or at least used to give. They supported Lou as well. Maybe I won’t hold a grudge…at least for no more than 10 years.

I think that they influenced the election enough to be one of the factors in the loss. What a shame. Or did I spell this wrong and should have said sham?

Broward Teachers Union

I do not think that this union has any relevancy in Coral Springs. I checked the last election and found out that very few teachers actually came out and voted.

However, what was incredible was the fact that the BTU supported three candidates, Tom, Lou and Laurette – who do not have college degrees. Both Skip Campbell and I have graduated from a University. Even one of the qualifications for joining the police department is a University Degree.

The very same union that says they are concerned about our children’s education and emphasizes to everyone why they need resources at schools to make sure our kids graduate college, endorsed nothing of the sort.

This is not to discredit people who have obtained experience equivalent to a university degree, including Tom Powers and Laurette Homan and Lou Cimaglia. However, if you are for University Education then at least endorse those candidates that have accomplished just that. You look stupid any other way.

Especially since the platform I supported included providing our schools with SRO’s , and spending some of the surplus to make the schools a better place for our kids and teachers.

Obviously the BTU was pushed to endorse the others by the AFL-CIO and the Police and Fire Unions. I know that if I were a teacher supporting the BTU and paying fees, I would be upset that they did not endorse candidates that believe in higher education, and at a minimum achieved it. They could have not endorsed anyone. That is an option, you know.

Campaign Mechanics

The people that were my campaign consultants (yes, unlike Lou I had campaign consultants) told me that I needed to do more. I needed to walk the neighborhoods and shake hands and meet the people. They were right about this, since early voting I spent a lot of time at the library and had obtained a huge 1,000 vote lead. Maybe I may have turned the election by 105 votes.

I was told that I needed to mail out at least three flyers to convince and tell the people who I am. Each flyer cost about $10-12 thousand dollars, so I sent out 2 at $24,000. There was the Bulldog and the other was the Rooster, which were well received. I never thought I would have to send out the Goat, which is how I feel at this moment since I spent $24k on mailers and Lou spent zero, and I lost.

I did not have enough funds left to do a third piece, since I spent the rest of the money on handouts, buttons, t-shirts, signs, Facebook, campaign consultants, and stickers to put on the Forum saying “vote for me” just above Laurette Homan’s continuous ad on the front page. It did her no good, and me neither. Lou had a few t-shirts, some signs, a handout and a sign in Wings Plus. Must have been the Wings Plus sign, come to think of it. Perhaps I should have eaten more there and made better friends with Brian Walsh, who was the candidate that was supposed to run against me instead of Lou. I probably would have lost against Brian as well, but at least he would have handed out a flyer or two and I would have felt better spending all that money.

Me

I wrote and published a book called “The Science of Opportunity.” In it, I describe that everything happens for a reason or at least most of the time. And that there is no such thing as luck. I do not believe for an instant that Lou Cimaglia was lucky in winning or I was unlucky. In the final analysis, the reason I lost was because of me and not because of outside factors, unions, churches, synagogues or how much money I put into a campaign.

Howard Melamed and Lou Cimaglia Holding Each other’s signs during early voting.  

All that a candidate that loses is left with is themselves, and the question “Did I do my best in trying to win this election?” It is the question I asked myself a day after the election when my head cleared from the disappointment and disbelief from the loss. I woke up that Wednesday, got dressed, took out the garbage, went to synagogue, had breakfast and went to work. The same thing I had always done before, during and after an election. Could I have done things different?

Maybe I could have attacked my opponent with negative campaign ads, or discredited him, and I could have gone after him in the debates. However, Lou Cimaglia is a nice man, a great volunteer and someone that people look up to. He has children and grandchildren like I do. I refused to compromise my integrity. I refused to walk around neighborhoods shaking hands with people I never knew or met in trying to convince them to vote for me simply because they met me. It felt silly even at the early voting to do so. In the end, I not only refused to change my name, but also refused to change who I am. Lou did the same thing.

In the end, that is how our elections work. The winner is the one that got the most votes. I begrudge no one and I hold nothing but the greatest respect for my campaign partner, my friend, winner, and new city commissioner Lou Cimaglia.

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