The Role of Public Relations in Politics is a monthly column written by WWPR member Margaret Mulvihill, examining the role of PR in politics.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Washington Women in Public Relations
There are many great women who live and breathe public relations in politics. This month, one of these great women takes us inside a recent state-level campaign from the PR side of the fence. By way of introduction, Anne Marie Principe is a veteran public relations specialist. A former President of the award-winning New York From the Ground Up, and deeply involved in the September 11 aftermath, she helped break through and redefine Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations. From the Ground Up (FTGU) was instrumental in re-shaping public policy to help deliver federal funds and grant monies to assist small business owners in rebuilding and retaining the Ground Zero Community.
LOBBYING IN THE POLITICAL ARENA
From there it was a natural progression into lobbying and politics. In an unusual twist, her family dentist provided the inspiration for her most recent political campaign. Her dentist is New Jersey State Senator Gerry Cardinale, (R) 39th District (straddling Bergen and parts of Passaic Counties). While discussing politics with him, she learned about his opponent, Jan Bidwell. As Cardinale has become best known for his anti-women, anti-minority public statements, Principe was intrigued. After some research, she decided to reach out to this long-time New Jersey resident, social worker and single mom, offering her public relations expertise to the campaign. Coming late to the party, her first involvement was in the fundraising arena, later expanding to encompass the traditional public relations role of arranging press appearances and keeping her candidate on message.
Principe’s strong sense of justice was kindled when she saw how poorly her candidate was being treated by the Democratic party bosses in Bergen County. She was present at meetings where Bidwell was promised matching funds, only to have the stakes raised each time she reached for the carrot. As the campaign progressed, it became clear that women are discriminated against when it comes to getting a seat at the table, not only by the party bosses, but also by the media. The Bergen Record said that Cardinale’s pay-to-play escapades, and his comments about same-sex relationships being akin to pet ownership, were inappropriate, yet in a bewildering move, the paper fully endorsed his candidacy. Other media outlets, in-state and nationally, were less supportive than they could have been. While Bidwell eventually lost the race by a narrow margin, Principe, rather than being discouraged, became energized by the challenge.
WELCOMING THE CHALLENGE
As 2014 unfolds, Principe and her business partner at Affinity Projects, Bari Zahn, are involved at the highest level in New York state politics on what promises to be ground-breaking legislation, and she looks forward to representing strong women candidates in the upcoming elections. She wants to use her considerable PR skills to encourage and assist women candidates for public office. Principe wants to see women take their rightful seats at the table, knowing that her PR skills have helped to put them there. Her mentor, the late Jack Kemp, would be proud of her.