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  • Writer's pictureTommy Zurhellen

The Money vs. The Message

Monday, August 7th

Dear Friends:

We had a wonderful time in Beacon on Sunday celebrating Yvette Valdés Smith’s birthday! The place was packed, and I could certainly feel the positive energy all around. Westchester County Executive George Latimer joined us to deliver some profound words of encouragement, and today his words are still buzzing in my head as I write this letter to you. What a great event!

Last week didn’t start so great, unfortunately. You might have heard about the local news story declaring Sue Serino has already raised $250,000 in the race for Dutchess County Executive, while our campaign certainly has not. As a result, I’ve received plenty of nervous texts, disappointed emails, and confused phone calls wondering what we’re doing to “catch up” with our opponent before November.

While it’s true we’re currently being outraised by about a 5-1 margin, the article wasn’t entirely accurate because it doesn’t tell you where that $250,000 is coming from. About half of that haul comes from PACs, corporations, and transfers. In stark contrast, my campaign will never accept money from any corporations or corporate PACs. We rely on small donors like you!

Between you and me, I’m smiling when I see a big chunk of that $250,000 comes from “transfers.” That is money left over from my opponent’s unsuccessful Senate campaign last year. I’m smiling because I’m wondering, why does my opponent have so much money left over from an election she lost? For me, the answer is easy: it doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank if you don’t have a message in your heart.

I was especially glad to see George at Yvette’s event yesterday because he is the perfect example of the difference between having the money or having the message.

When George Latimer ran for Westchester County Executive for the first time in 2017, he was outspent 3-1 by the Republican incumbent. Even still, George won the election by a whopping fourteen points. Fourteen points! The lesson here is clear: in the end, the money didn’t matter. It was the message that mattered. George conducted his campaign the right way. He focused on the issues and engaged voters with his passion for bringing real change to the community. You can’t buy that message with a million dollars, or a billion. You have to earn it.

One thing I’ve learned about politics is, one candidate always seems to have the money, while the other candidate has the message. When you have the money, you’re going to need a lot of it because you have no message, so you must resort to plastering your candidate’s name and face everywhere because you can’t engage voters on the issues. But when you carry a true message, you can engage your fellow citizens without spending a dime. All it takes is elbow grease and old-fashioned American determination. It takes passion. And last I checked, my campaign has about ten zillion dollars’ worth of passion in the bank.

Try “catching up” to that.

Everyone knows the old Bible story of David and Goliath, where young David stands alone against an entire army led by the giant Goliath, who only laughs when David comes forward to challenge him. Okay, who would you choose to stand behind in this tale? What side would you support? Raise your hand if you would rather be Goliath in this age-old story.

Did you raise your hand? Yeah, me neither.

Another thing I have learned about Dutchess County politics is, we are definitely not New York City when it comes to media coverage. We’re not Albany or Buffalo, either. You can’t buy local TV ads because we don’t have any local TV stations. And you can’t buy local newspaper ads because we really don’t have much in the way of local newspapers. So where can you spend $250,000 when social media is free? I guess you could buy more billboards, or churn out more lawn signs. I guess you could pay people to knock on doors for you, instead of engaging volunteers. When your campaign doesn’t have a message, believe me, you’re going to have to pay people to do pretty much everything.

Hmm. No wonder my opponent has all that money left over from last year.

Do we need to raise more funds for this campaign? You bet. But we are going to do it the right way, by asking voters just like you to chip in and help share our message of hope and inclusion with every voter in Dutchess County! You can donate via the secure Act Blue link below, or you can also send a check made to “Tommy for Dutchess” to us at: Tommy for Dutchess, PO Box 644, Poughkeepsie NY 12602. If you are able, a $50 donation would be amazing! A $100 donation would be doubly amazing! But we are grateful for whatever you can afford to bring real change to Dutchess County.

Please consider a donation today!

Join me in wishing a very Happy Birthday and Feliz cumpleaños to our friend and champion Yvette Valdés Smith! If you’re not following her mission to bring fairness and decency to the Dutchess County Legislature, you simply must visit today!

Thank you to Westchester County Executive George Latimer for your much-needed words of wisdom yesterday. You are a Hudson Valley champion! Thanks also to my friends the Rhinebeck Democrats for their passion and diligence in helping to share the truth about campaign finance numbers last week.

And thank you, for listening! See you next week!

Respectfully, Tommy


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