Column by Loretta Redd
Candidates fill out questionnaires and appear before endorsement groups because that is where the money and support, and especially “boots on the ground” come from.
Building an ‘army’ of people willing to canvas a neighborhood and go door-to-door in promotion of your candidacy, leaving literature or having discussions about what you might stand for, is a difficult and exhausting task of enrollment, enthusiasm and efficient organization.
There are the “No Soliciting” signs to navigate, locked gates and snarling dogs, the embarrassing half-clothed person who answers the door, and an occasional high-decibel domestic squabble you can’t help but overhear as you approach the steps.
A good candidate should train volunteers about how to handle these type of moments, and what to say in their stead, offering ‘how and when’ the potential voter might speak with the candidate personally. So why, exactly, are some neighborhoods saturated with candidate literature, robo-calls and door-knocks, while others claim they never darken their doorstep?
Candidates will pull the voter rolls from prior elections. As a registered voter, your political party affiliation (Dem, Rep or Decline To State), your address and the voting history of everyone in your household, are all part of public records.
There are pockets of streets throughout Santa Barbara where voting turnout is very high, such as the Samarkand and San Roque neighborhoods. I personally think it’s a good thing to suffer from the intrusiveness of candidates blanketing your area. It not only demonstrates your interest in your city government, but because of high voter turnout among your neighbors, your collective influence may be greater in determining the future look, feel and livability of Santa Barbara.
Want to have the candidates interested in what you have to say? Then VOTE, and get your neighbors to vote as well, even if it isn’t for your preferred candidate.
There are various tricks of the trade in every election. In order to build credibility, some candidates purchase a place on a “slate” mailer. This is usually a flat, large postcard with candidates from different elections or even different viewpoints, who are deceivingly grouped with people who are dressed in public safety uniforms.
Those appearing probably aren’t really Santa Barbara fire, police, or emergency response employees; but they are dressed in dark blue, or in bright yellow firefighter outfits, or EMT type reflective vests, giving the ‘quick glance’ reader the illusion that the candidate has the endorsement of the public safety folks.
Like the issue of the Living Wage in 2005, the politics of running for office can sometimes twist on seemingly insignificant details, such as the “union bug.” near the bottom of all liberal and most conservative printed materials, you’ll find a very small insignia verifying that the printing company utilized by the candidate’s campaign was indeed a union shop.
Unfortunately when I ran and probably true today, there weren’t any union print shops in Santa Barbara, so most campaign flyers, door hangers and other print materials were produced in Los Angeles. How’s that for stimulating our local economy?
Ah, and then they’re the yard signs….
Back in 2005, a certain self-appointed political watchdog created a website dedicated to putting up photos of anyplace in Santa Barbara where a candidate’s yard sign was placed “illegally.” Yard signs are not to appear in the median divide or on the city-owned grass strip between the roadway and sidewalk, or any other public space. Yard signs are to be used exclusively to show the support for a candidate by an individual voter on his or her own property, or place of business.
Not only were photos posted on this website, but the candidates were ‘called out’ publically for such egregious behavior. It didn’t take long for some overzealous volunteers to go out in the wee hours and move competing candidates’ signs to ‘illegal’ settings.
The following election, the yard sign ‘police’ apparently got bored by it all and decided to take down the website. Nowadays, vandals or volunteers simply steal the signs or burn them in your yard, so maybe a photo or two wasn’t so bad. But I cannot tell you how much time we all wasted trying to chase down our re-located signage in its ‘illegal’ settings, when volunteer time was precious indeed.
Finally, there’s the media buys and market saturation. In our current digital age– with its Facebook pages, websites, Twitters, Yelps and Tweets– the cost has decreased while the possibility of getting a candidates’ message out with the push of a keystroke, has increased exponentially.
But those with sufficient funds, will certainly buy as much radio and cable time as they can afford. And though we complain mightily about their intrusiveness and repetition, media advertising produces results. When I was a candidate, Cox media solicited my interest, offering to product a “30 second quality commercial” which would run over a four- week period. The cost was $2500, and that was eight years ago.
So what does it take to get elected to council? Perhaps it’s an issue of money. Perhaps it is name recognition and affiliations. Perhaps it is the assumptions we make glancing at deceptively designed literature and commercials. By November , voters may feel they are inundated with candidate information; when in fact, most of the answers to the private interviews and questionnaires that determine how they might actually govern, will never be disclosed.
What will determine who will sit on Council, and ultimately decide the look, feel, security and future of Santa Barbara is your VOTE…and sadly, less than half of you will even bother.