This isn’t directly tax related but it might be critical to the planned local tax-free small business investment program. One of our angel investors wants me to run for local political office and might make his financial support dependent on it. With millions of public and private reinvestment on the line and local government facing the consequences of long-term strained relationships with some county and state officials, this is a logical request. So I need to seriously consider the possibility. On the surface, it makes sense for a small business accountant to be represented in local government. But that’s not the whole story. I used #NJCPA18 convention this week as an opportunity for self reflection and consideration. My conclusion: the reasons to not vote for Tony Novak are so compelling that they form the basis for this discussion and would ultimately need to be the basis of an initial campaign if attempted. I took time to float the idea with trusted local influentials and recorded their feedback.
The reasons to not vote for me include:
1) I’m not from ‘around here’. I’m a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Ocean City, New Jersey transplant. This is a big issue among rural local voters. My NJ bayshore house still isn’t repaired after Sandy so I don’t stay here in severe weather conditions. Someday I hope to return full time. Meanwhile I’m driving a lot. So legal residency vs time spent could be an issue.
2) I’m educated. That’s also a big negative around here. A significant portion of voters equate the concept of ‘white collar’ to outside people telling them how to run their farming/ fishing community. We have no white collar businesses here in this township (no offices, banks or gentrified service firms) or jobs that would require a college education. Some of the residents have college or advanced degrees but they tend to be viewed as the ‘troublemakers’. We have had no professionals serve in our elected local government in the past and only two CPAs serve in the entire New Jersey legislature today.
3) I’m Jewish. One objective neighbor said this is my biggest obstacle to being elected in this community. The political adviser to one of my advocacy groups weighed in on this. He had a tough time believing that this is true even in rural parts of New Jersey. I reminded him that only recently I evicted some customers because of especially egregious racial behavior that they refuse to abandon. Rebel flags are common here and news coverage of a regional KKK hotspot must be considered.
4) I’m socially liberal, especially on health care, income and wealth equality issues, and strongly outspoken on these issues. I left a Wall Street firm to help small businesses when I saw the effects of wealth and income inequality. I know the value of hard work demonstrated by immigrant families that are unable to get permanent work permits to continue to support our farms, construction sites and seafood companies. Meanwhile this is a community that overwhelmingly supports the Republican agenda.
5) I was active as the accountant in some of the NJ small business that sought prosecution of Donald Trump for fraud. The children of those people love him. Most of this community supports Trump. I can’t explain it.
6) I’ve had long periods of disability that led to bankruptcy, tax liens and financial struggles. By traditional standards this is enough to keep a candidate from being elected.
7) I’m an environmentalist. They already tried to kill me for this one. One conspirator was indicted and another, an elected local official, settled civil charges. Both escaped criminal prosecution the old fashioned way: local political influence.
8) My reputation for stubborn insistence on considering the needs of all stakeholders is not popular locally. My business serves government, educational and nonprofit organizations as well as local and regional individuals. A few of my former neighbors even blame me for the impact of sea level rise hotspot effects.
9) I was an outspoken supporter of a Philadelphia couples club many years ago. There is an old tape of a CBS TV interview out there somewhere. This could be offensive among local churchgoing residents.
10) I was charged with disorderly conduct for refusing to cooperate with NJSP on a social responsibility issue. (I was was ultimately found not guilty in appeals court and remain a strong voice against improper conduct by police). My business has a good relationship with law enforcement today and most people don’t remember my legal win over the police and the local prosecutor. But my reputation as a citizens’ right advocate will certainly be an issue raised in a political contest.
I conclude that I must consider all of these factors up front, candidly, in any discussion of solicitation of public vote.