Monday, January 23, 2006

Suldog For State Rep, Part V

If you haven't seen parts I through IV, start here and work your way up.

Our budget was (to the best of my recollection - no paperwork to refer to here) about $7,000. This is miniscule compared to the funds raised by major party candidates, even for a state rep race.

We considered a number of other advertising options, aside from the handout pamphlets. These included billboards, TV, radio and bumper stickers. The billboards were too expensive for our budget. TV and radio were considered too diffuse an audience for something as localized as a state rep race. In any case, TV was way beyond our means. Radio was doable - I could produce the ads myself, thus cutting the cost appreciably - but, again, it seemed as though we wouldn't be reaching our target audience very effectively. Finally, we considered the bumper stickers a decent option for reinforcing a message, but not a very efficient vehicle for a primary message. We could really only afford primary messages.

We narrowed our focus to two areas: public transit and local newspapers. These were both doable within the budget and would guarantee exposure to only those within the district.

We designed posters to be placed on the Mattapan-Ashmont trolley line. This trolley serviced a good portion of the periphery of the district. We felt that a message here might reach some voters who otherwise would be completely uncaring about a state rep race. We figured that reaching out to those voters who felt disenfranchised in some way would be a fair bet. The posters were printed at a decent cost and we got at least one placed on every trolley in service. MY WIFE did an interesting artistic service with these, hand-painting gold glitter onto the star which appeared above the "I" in Jim on every poster, making them that much more eye-catching. These were on the trolleys for about a three month period, or at least that was what was contracted. One or two of them remained in place well into the following year.

I took the trolley a good deal myself in those days, and it was oddly embarrassing to be sitting there with a poster advertising me. Thankfully, I never overheard anyone saying, "Jim Sullivan? What a jerk!" or "I wouldn't vote for that bum if he was handing out hundred-dollar-bills at the polling place!" Of course, I didn't hear anyone praising me, either, so...

In addition, we would use posters for the stand-outs at traffic lights, for supporters to place as lawn signs or in their windows, and for our poll-workers to hold on election day.

(I don't have a copy of the poster to scan for you. I wish I did.)

The newspaper ads were placed in the Dorchester Argus-Citizen and the Dorchester Reporter, and ran for the two weeks prior to the election. These were somewhat wordy ads, as I look back on them, with the only graphic being my logo and my signature. It probably would have been better to have placed a small photo within the text, or at least something to break it up a bit and make it easier on the eyes. These were in the form of an appeal to the voter to choose carefully and consider exactly what they wanted. If they liked what the incumbent was doing, OK, but please remember that you have a choice this time around, etc., and thank you very much for considering me. No hard sell.

The dual purpose of placing the newspaper ads - which were a quarter page - was to also keep the editors of those papers alert to the fact that there was opposition to the incumbent. More on what transpired regarding this later on.

I suppose I should finish this segment by telling you about the incumbent. He was a fellow by the name of Tommy Finneran. If you're from Massachusetts, you know the name and you know the formidable task which lay ahead of me.

At the time of my running, Finneran was a seven-term incumbent. He was also Chair of the Ways And Means committee, a powerful post. He had run completely unopposed the previous three or four elections. After this election, he would go on to become Speaker Of The House, probably the most powerful position in Massachusetts politics, at least for the past twenty years or so. This is because, while Republican governors have been elected every time since Michael Dukakis last held the post, the legislature has remained overwhelmingly Democratic. Therefore, the Speaker holds the power to trash anything the governor proposes and the ability to ram through any agenda he wishes, so long as he doesn't totally alienate his colleagues.

There was a wild card in the deck, as well. Anthony Benzevich was an independent candidate, although he had previously been a registered Republican. His entry into the race was something we hadn't counted upon at all. Since Finneran had run unopposed previously, and the Republicans showed no inclination to field any candidates in the district, we assumed it would be a two-way race. Benzevich's entry fouled up that dynamic.

I tried to get Benzevich to drop out. I didn't try very hard, as he had as much right to run as I did, obviously, but I tried to explain to him that, by splitting the vote against Finneran, neither one of us could possibly win. There is always a certain segment of the electorate who will automatically cast a vote for whomever is running against the incumbent. By halving this vote between us, we were effectively dead in the water. He remained in the race.

There was some speculation that perhaps Finneran had placed him on the ballot himself, in order to split the protest vote. I found this to be highly unlikely, as I wasn't a high-profile candidate with a large war chest. It was unlikely that he would find a challenge from a Libertarian candidate to be that much of a concern, especially considering his position of power within the house and his long incumbency. Anyway, Benzevich appeared to have some sort of personal grudge, from my brief conversations with him, and that was why he decided to run. No doubt, he was as sad to see me in the race as I was to see him.

So, there we are. It's a three-way race. You know my approximate budget and the ways we chose to spend it. Now it was a matter of doing the stand-outs, handing out the pamphlets, going to as many doors as I could and introducing myself, making a speech here and there, and whatever else came up in the meantime. I'll talk about some of these things tomorrow, and then probably wrap it up on Wednesday.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions concerning a specific area of the campaign, please feel free to ask. I'm likely to have left out some detail or other, so will be glad to have you jog my memory, if you wish.

Go to Part VI

1 comment:

Carol said...

I'm from Canada and we are having our Federal Election today.
Hope you are having fun in the Olympics.