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January 3, 2011

Former Trader Earns Political Stripes

By Michael Scotti

Retired traders welcome days filled with leisure and golf after hectic days on the desk. But George Bodine--who retired from General Motors Asset Management in 2008--chose politics and was involved in one of the tightest races in the recent Congressional elections.

Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle and George Bodine

And a wild election it was, with Republicans gaining about 63 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, wresting control from the Democrats. Bodine's boss was among the winners who benefited from the Washington backlash, and dissatisfaction with the economic policies of President Barack Obama.

Bodine was a senior adviser to Ann Marie Buerkle, who won the 25th Congressional District in New York by just 561 votes--or three-tenths of 1 percent. The race was so close that it took three weeks for Buerkle, a conservative Republican, to be declared the winner. Her district encompasses Syracuse, N.Y., surrounding areas. The long-shot Buerkle defeated Democratic incumbent Dan Maffei, who had four times the campaign war chest.

You might ask Bodine why politics, and why this race? He had a rooting interest: Before he retired from the GM trading desk, Bodine began dating Buerkle, a former classmate he met at a reunion in 2008. Since then, Bodine split his time between working on the campaign and consulting to QSG, which offers analytical tools.

"It was really rewarding to go in as an underdog, and to see more and more people signing on and buying into her message as the campaign progressed," Bodine said.

Buerkle was unavailable for comment, but a spokesman in an email told Traders Magazine that Bodine was involved in fund-raising, signage and statistical analysis. "The countless hours he contributed were greatly appreciated," the spokesman wrote.

Mark Weiner, a reporter who covered the campaign for The Post-Standard of Syracuse, said he saw Bodine at a number of functions, particularly the final week before ballots were cast. "Every time I saw her in public, he was there," Weiner said. "Clearly, he held an important role."

From the start, political handicappers considered the seat "safe" for the one-term incumbent Maffei, Weiner said. And that appeared to be the case just before the election. A Post-Standard/Siena Research Institute poll had Buerkle down by 12 percentage points in mid-October.

But Bodine said his camp thought the poll was inaccurate, Its polling showed a closer race. That conclusion was correct. But it wasn't until the day after the election, when all districts reported, that Buerkle overcame a 2,200-vote deficit and passed Maffei by 684 votes. She was able to maintain the victory when 8,000 absentee ballots were counted during the next three weeks.

Bodine said his more than 30 years on the Street helped in many areas--from people skills to analysis of data. "A lot of unexpected things happened during the campaign that we had to react to very quickly and effectively--very similar to trading," said Bodine. Both campaigns and trading, he noted, have time constraints and deadline pressures.

Ultimately, he said, marketing a political candidate is similar to an IPO. "You're bringing a person to market and are making people aware ... it's very similar to a road show," Bodine said. "Her product was her--her beliefs and values, and they resonated with the electorate."

 

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