Apparently absentee ballots are going out in early May this year, for the Open Primary election on June 5. Candidates are being bombarded with offers to promote themselves on slate mailers. But are these slate mailers a good idea?
Remember, about a third of the voters are now Decline to State, for the most part, or belong to third parties. The slate mailers do target these voters, but think for a moment about what slate mailers are. They are combo advertising featuring a number of candidates, all heaped onto a mailer.
Sometimes the slate mailers purport to represent some organization, but if you look closely you will see that the candidates often buy their way onto these slate mailers. Discerning voters surely aren’t swayed by that. Just look at the slate mailer atop this post, purporting to be for Democratic voters, but it touts a Republican Supervisorial candidate, Audra Strickland.
Voters are targeted in elections not only by slate mailers but also by mailers sent by candidates, political action committees and political parties, as well as those who are either advocating for or opposing distinct ballot measure campaigns. That’s a lot of mail!
Does all of this mail really work? Perhaps it used to, but today many voters take all of that political mail and deposit it into their recycle bin along with stale newspapers that arrive in your driveway with yesterday’s news.
More and more voters are instead turning to the Internet for help in filling out their ballots. Candidates would be smart to spend their time filling out the League of Women Voters’ Smart Voter candidate pages instead of blowing hundreds if not thousands of dollars on mail that in many cases will never be read.
Candidates will also spend a fortune on political campaign signs, but do those work? No, not really. They help to increase name I.D., but that’s about it. Many times the signs annoy the voters more than anything else. And they end up littering our streets and businesses. If anything, humorous signs against candidates are more effective than regular signs printed by the candidates, as we have seen in Fullerton, where activist Tony Bushala has absolutely whacked the candidates he does not like by using signs that are at times hilarious. For example, when grocery store owner Roland Chi ran against Bushala’s ally, Bruce Whitacker, in 2010, Bushala posted signs emblazoned with “Bad Chi, Food Poisoner” next to Chi’s signs. The signs were accurate as Chi’s stores have had food safety issues. Chi spent a fortune on his campaign, but Whitaker trounced him.
I am amazed by how many candidates don’t have campaign websites, in this age of the Internet. These include candidates with lots of money, such as O.C. Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly, who is running for the 69th Assembly District, and elected officials, such as Assemblyman Chris Norby, who has a campaign website but it is essentially non-functional. This late in the game that is absolutely inexcusable! Norby’s opponent, Fullerton Mayor Sharon Quirk-Silva, has a campaign website that is a finished product. How much is Norby paying his campaign team for such lame results?
If candidates don’t launch their own websites, when voters search for their names all they will find is articles about them that may not be all that favorable.
Ballot statements are useful, but candidates often forget to list their campaign websites, their email addresses and their campaign phone numbers on them. That is incredibly lame.
Web marketing is useful even in cities populated by voters who are not particularly wealthy. Why? Simple. Many voters can access the Internet from their smart phones. And they do – often.
Phone calls are probably the cheapest, most effective way to reach voters, although robot calls can annoy some of the voters. Calls are certainly cheaper than mailers and your volunteers can help by making calls right from their cell phones or from their home phones.
What about walking precincts? That is helpful, but if you are running for a legislative or County seat you need a lot of help to do this.
Candidates can help themselves in a way by not running for legislative offices if they have not yet developed any name I.D. For example, liberal Democrat Julio Perez is coming in at 5%, in two polls, in his campaign for the 69th Assembly District. He is not going to win. But labor is going to pour thousands into his race. It won’t work. The voters have no clue who Perez is. He will have to spend a fortune to get the sort of I.D. that his Democratic opponents, Daly and Santa Ana Council Member Michele Martinez, already have.
If you are looking for further proof of all this consider my own campaign for the Santa Ana Unified School District’s School Board in 2010. I ran against two powerful incumbents, Democrats John Palacio and Audrey Yamagata-Noji. They endorsed each other and enjoyed the support of the liberal local teachers’ union. Both incumbents spent at least forty thousand dollars. I barely spent anything and I only lost by 1,400 votes.
Now I am running for the Orange County Board of Education’s Area One. I have three opponents and two of them have websites. I guarantee that all three of them will spend thousands on this race. I won’t and I expect to do quite well. Will I win? Who knows? But I surely won’t spend a fortune making the slate mailer publishers and sign-makers richer. And yes, I do have a campaign website. That went up before anyone else’s site did. Will I be buying any slate mailers? No way. I hope my opponents spend thousands on them…