Consultants are celebrating the legacy of a respected mail consultant whose passing is still reverberating from Los Angeles to D.C. where colleagues, friends, former mentees and his business partner of some 35 years mourned his passing.
Rich Neimand, who was the other half of BatesNeimand until 2006, called Ross G. Bates a math wiz who went from protesting the Vietnam War on UCLA’s campus to producing mail for campaigns across the country.
“Ross could immediately grasp what was important, tease out the human story in the numbers and construct meaning from contradiction,” Neimand said in an email. “That skill came from the fact that Ross was marvelously contradictory, deeply human and—despite all his claims to the contrary—steadfastly optimistic.
“He was a pioneer in electing African-Americans, Latinos, women and lesbian, gay and transgendered candidates. This master of targeting and specialized messaging did it by insisting on running these candidates not as types but as good neighbors and capable people.”
His humanization of candidates was a reflection of how he treated the people who worked for him. To wit, Bates taught Liz Chadderdon the ropes, including how to handle difficult clients. “Ross made me a mail consultant and I will be forever grateful," she said.
Chadderdon noted he would give young talent a shot, “regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity.”
Joe Fuld, another alumnus of BatesNeimand, remembered two of Bates’ passions outside of campaigns. “He loved dogs and wrestling,” Fuld wrote on his firm’s Facebook page. “Ross made a big impact on my life, he will be missed.”
Even rivals learned from Bates, who was famous for reciting lines from “Blazing Saddles.” Thomas Mills remembers a friendly competition fought in Democratic primaries. “In one race, my candidate defeated his by about 100 votes and a few years later, he had a candidate who beat mine by about the same margin. We rehashed those elections for years,” wrote Mills, a Carrboro, N.C.-based consultant.
Another timeless quality to Bates was his affection of what Denver-based consultant Rick Ridder called "campaign crapola."
"One day he waived a small potholder with a candidate’s name on it in front of my face. 'You know who receives these? ' he asked. Before I could hazard a guess, he answered his own question, 'Well do you know any male, 21-35 years old that actually has a potholder? Of course not. That’s why were are sending these to male, independents, age 21-30, that live in apartment buildings to build our name ID with the key group that needs a potholder.'The candidate won, and 30 years later I still have the potholder."
Meanwhile, Andy Spahn recalled how his fellow Angelino took his shop national. “Ross brought the computer-targeted mail system he developed in California with Michael Berman and Carl D'Agostino to the national stage,” said Spahn.
Bates’ friends and family recently gathered for a memorial in Glendale, Calif. He passed away Sept. 4 at the age of 65 and is survived by survived by his partner Jill Blakely, sister Julie Bates, daughter Lisa Decker, granddaughter Stella Church.