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Wednesday, June 9,2010

The hokey pokey

Ngalamulume campaign ends, for kind of, almost, sort of the second time

by Neal McNamara

It has been a strange week for former 8th Congressional District Democratic candidate Kande Ngalamulume. He quit the race on Thursday, citing a lack of financial resources, and then on Monday told City Pulse that donations were being lined up to bring back the campaign. Then, he called back later on Monday to say that those resources were not coming, and the campaign is permanently dead.


Ngalamulume, 31, started the campaign several months ago, moving back to the Lansing area, where he graduated high school and college, from the Philadelphia area. He got the necessary signatures and registered as a candidate, hired a staff and rented a campaign headquarters in Lansing and mounted a quixotic campaign to unseat fifthterm Republican incumbent Mike Rogers.


Ngalamulume’s name will appear on the ballot, but since the registration deadline has passed, no one else can run. Ngalamulume blamed the failure of two key fundraising events on last week’s campaign cancellation. One was a fundraiser at the Eagle Eye Golf Club in East Lansing with U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, as a guest. Conyers could not make it, and only 30 of 176 invitees turned out, which included campaign staff and people who had already donated.


“We couldn’t meet all of our payroll,” Ngalamulume said. “The event didn’t turn out.”


He was supposed to go to Washington prior to that for a fundraiser but that also didn’t turn out.


But then on Monday, Ngalamulume said that there had “been some development” and influential union and Democratic Party officials had reached out to the campaign, offering support.


“We put things on pause for a little bit to see if there is genuine support, and, like I said, there was an overwhelming sort of outreach to us,” Ngalamulume said Monday. “People said, ‘Look we think you’re a good candidate, we want you to challenge Rogers, so we’re making commitment to do XYZ.’ That really reassures us that going forward we’ll have the sort of support that’ll see us through November.”


But, he said in a phone message that those resources did not pan out.


Ngalamulume’s sudden exit from the race upset many local Democrats. A flame war among Ngalamulume, his campaign manager, Erin Fox, political consultant Joe DiSano and Ingham County Young Democrats Vice Chairman Thomas Morgan broke out on Facebook.


Asked about Ngalamulume’s back and forth, DiSano said that the campaign now “has about as much credibility as a puppet show.”


“I was cheering this guy on, I felt betrayed,” DiSano said. “He had the honor of being the Democratic standard bearer. When things started not to go his way, for him to throw that honor away, he threw out his career in politics.”


DiSano questioned Ngalamulume’s expenditures. He said that June is too early to have a full campaign staff and to be sending out elaborate campaign literature.


“Having that heavy a payroll six months before the election was absurd,” he said. “All those resources should’ve been saved for end.”


For his part, Ngalamulume lamented the fact that there was not a rush to pour resources into his campaign. In his campaign cancellation last Thursday, he wrote, “it is now apparent to me that there is not enough interest amongst the political establishment and many constituents in this district to replace Mike Rogers in Congress.”


DiSano said Ngalamulume has it backward. In a year where there are multiple important races — including two congressional seats targeted by Republicans — the 8th is not the highest priority.


“In a campaign when you hit a rough spot, your character is revealed. Instead of folding his tent, he should’ve deferred payment and doubled down,” DiSano said. “In politics, no one gives you anything, you have to take it.

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