Joel Sawyer recently started New Level Strategies, an SC-based GOP firm. Sawyer was most recently comm. dir. for SC Gov. Mark Sanford (R) before leaving in Aug. Before joining Sanford's staff in '03, Sawyer was a newspaper reporter. But today, he is our Consultant Candid.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a computer salesman at a major electronics retailer. I should've seen a future in spin coming when I was convincing people to buy four-year warranties on computers.
What is your proudest moment professionally?
Being a part of Governor Mark Sanford's administration during his fight against the stimulus legislation was incredibly challenging and rewarding. That said, the following months of the administration will almost certainly end up being the nadir of my professional career -- I hope!
If you could be in any other line of work, what would it be?
If money was an object, a sports agent; if money was no object, a pizza delivery restaurant owner; and if I had even a modicum of talent, a musician.
Of what campaign (past, present or future) would you most like to be a part?
It might seem kind of odd to pick a losing effort, but for me without question it would be Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign because of the impact it ultimately had in catalyzing the Conservative movement in this country. And who knows - maybe I could've helped him win a seventh state.
What individual who does your kind of work for the other party do you respect the most, and why?
I don't know that I'd say he does my "kind of work" because that would imply similar stature, but I've always had a soft spot for the Ragin' Cajun. Whether you agree or disagree with him, Carville is entertaining as hell and great at his job.
Negative campaigning -- good or bad?
"Negative" is such a negative word. It depends on how it's done. I think it's fair and appropriate for candidates to draw contrasts between themselves and opponents. But slamming your opponent without offering up anything positive of your own is going to be a losing battle.
What is your favorite restaurant to meet clients?
That really depends on who is paying.
What is the first section of the newspaper you read?
Actually, the first thing I do is debate a two-year old on whether she is going to eat a breakfast bar or yogurt, which puts me in a fairly appropriate state of mind for the rest of day. Back to the question at hand: A1, Opinion, Metro, Sports. Then I hit another dozen or so publications online, plus a few news aggregators and blogs.
If you could only watch one TV news show, what would it be?
I'm going to plead the 5th on this one, as it may affect my ability to book clients on all of the ones I don't name.
A question from last week's participant, Susan Markham of the Campaign Workshop: Do you think the Obama WH '08 campaign transformed the way voters want/need to be communicated with during electoral campaigns?
In short, yes. I think Obama set a new bar for political and advocacy campaigns. Having that kind of online presence and capability is now an absolute must-have.
Please pose a question for the next interviewee.
Do you have any issue you believe in so passionately that you couldn't make a convincing argument the other way on a client's behalf, and if so, what?
This article appears in the October 8, 2009, edition of Latest Edition.