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The School Board Campaign TV Commercials

It began as a joke on live television: “Chris Knight should run for school board.”  So I took that as a challenge… and then scared a lot of people by taking it seriously.

In 2006 the Rockingham County Board of Education added five new at-large seats.  Sixteen candidates filed to run for those seats, including Yours Truly.  From filing to create a campaign committee on through the very end when I closed out the paperwork, I was blogging about it the whole way.  You can find a listing of all of those posts here.

In the end I came in 8th place out of 16.  The final tally was 4,648 votes.  Within seven hundred of getting a seat.

‘Course, that’s not what most people remember my campaign for.

From the very beginning of it, I wanted to run as world-class campaign as I possibly could.  There were yard signs all over the county.  There were newspaper ads.  There were the public appearances.  There were the candidate forums…

…and there were the television commercials.  I self-produced three of them, and bought the airtime for their broadcast..  They ran on local television at one time or another during the month-long period leading up to the 2006 election.

The first commercial that was produced is the one that most people will recall: the “Star Wars”-themed ad.  Before the election was over with, this spot had made the pages of The New York Times, every major newspaper in the state as well as Fox News and a few other broadcast outlets.  In the years since it has been featured on a myriad of television shows around the globe.  What makes me chuckle especially about it is how this commercial has made it on a few lists involving things such as “Most Baffling Political Ads Ever” and even in the top five of most-infamous commercials (right up there with Lyndon Johnson’s “Daisy Girl” ad).  It was even screened at the American Film Institute in Hollywood.

I had the idea for it almost as soon as I filed to run and I knew instantly that if I did not make this commercial, that I would regret it for the rest of my life.  So here it is:

Not surprisingly, that commercial generated a lot of controversy.  I mean, let’s face it: how many candidates for board of education are blowing up little red schoolhouses with the Death Star?  Some people “got” it, some didn’t.  My goal was to touch on, what is to me anyway, a very serious subject: that education must be a local matter.  I just happened to choose humor and Star Wars in trying to get people to think about that.  In that regard, I think the ad worked.

The second commercial was the “serious” one of the lot, and no doubt was made to allay fears that “the boy is gone crazy”.  I really like this one.  It was filmed in the study of my pastor’s office (the books in the background really help to set the tone).  I like to think that it complements the first ad well, in that I elaborate on what my intentions were with that commercial.  But it also keeps discussing the theme of local education.  Anyway, I’m quite pleased with how it came out:

The third commercial in the set is the one that has received the least views on YouTube.  It’s not a flashy special-effects spectacle.  It’s not one heavy on exposition.  It's not any style of political ad that most people will have beheld.  Truth be told, sometimes I wonder if it was at most a half-hearted effort to persuade people to vote for me, in the week or so before election day.

And yet, this is my personal favorite commercial of the three.

Another candidate from the field of sixteen began a negative campaign that was much nastier than it should have been already.  Even the name of his campaign committee was disgustingly rude.  It doesn't seem possible to have negative campaigning in an election for a local board of education, but there was.

Although I was not a target, I felt led to respond all the same, without being particular about who or what was responsible for that uncalled-for tone in our collective efforts toward electing five new members of the board.  This third commercial is how I made that response.

It's a "happy" political ad.  It's upbeat.  How can it not be when it's using an Everly Brothers song?  This is for all intents and purpose a black-and-white silent campaign commercial.  It's about who I am as a person, nothing more or less, just running on my own merit.  Take it or leave it.

It never garnered anything close to the attention that the Star Wars-ish ad got.  But even so, it is still my favorite of the set.

Here it is:

As I noted earlier, I didn't win a seat on the board of education. But there has been not a single moment when I had any regret for the outcome. In the weeks leading up to the election I told my family and friends that I was going to be abundantly happy if only ten people voted for me. Instead I got nearly five thousand votes. I ran as myself, and didn't compromise on that. I had fun the entire time! And in these commercials, there will always be a fond memento of that time in my life.