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57th candidates pounding pavement

By Staff | May 7, 2010

Combined media spending by candidates for the 57th House of Delegates District during the pre-primary campaign finance reporting period. Illustration by Michael Theis/Chronicle

Tweet this. When it comes to local politics, the safe money is still largely spent on local print advertising.

An analysis of media related expenditures during April by the four primary candidates running for West Virginia’s 57th District Seat in the House of Delegates reveals a campaign anchored to the printed word. Between April 2 and April 26, during the pre-primary campaign finance reporting period, with the primary election nearly a month away, the candidates of the 57th spent $5,340 on print advertising in four local newspapers.

During the month of April, Delegate John Doyle spent $3,651 on print advertising while his Democratic primary opponent Lori Rea spent $1,107. Republican hopeful Elliot Simon has spent $5,87 on print advertising.

Spending on Internet advertising is but a blip on the radar, with a single candidate, Democratic hopeful Lori Rea, spending total of $34 on items explicitly designated as Web advertising. This is not entirely out of place. Internet advertising is still an infant market. Also, traditionally, advertising on the Internet can be bought change on a pay-per-click basis for pocket change. The reason? Well, simply, not a lot of people click on Web advertisements. The upside is that you know exactly how many people did, and did not, interact with your advertisements. Additionally, many Internet advertising costs may be hidden in media consulting fees. Local communication firms, such as Panhandle Public Affairs (County Commission candidate Paul Taylor, Democrat, uses them) and Studio 105 (Rea’s design team) are known to engage in “social marketing”, i.e. using Web-based social networks to build product buzz. Rea is also the only candidate to have spent money on media consulting in the month of April.

Candidates also spent over $2,500 combined on signage and campaign literature during the month of April. During this period, Doyle again outspent the field, spending a total of $1,800 on signage. Donny Jones spent over $500 on signage in April, while Rea spent over $250. Elliot Simon, whose large hand-stenciled signs can be seen in the area, did not spend money on signage in April.

Republican Elliot Simon, left, chats with Del. John Doyle (D-Jefferson) on a recent weekday afternoon. Simon, if he wins his Republican primary contest against Donny Jones, will go on to face either Del. Doyle or Lori Rea in the 2010 general election to represent the 57th Delegate District. Photo by Michael Theis/Chronicle

Candidates spent just under $2,000 on direct mail in April, with Rea outspending the field with $1,800 spent on mailings. In that same period, Doyle only spent $100 to purchase a mailing list. Neither Republican candidates, Simon or Jones spent money on expenditures explicitly designated or related to mailings during the month of April.

Rea is the only candidate to have spent money on both broadcast advertising and media consulting during the April campaign finance reporting period, spending $1,780 on a radio ad by Prettyman Broadcasting and $250 for graphic design from Studio 105.

Despite all the focus on where money is spent, many of the politicians in the area agree that the best publicity is as inexpensive as a walk around their district. Doyle says that the essense of his campaign is to go and knock on people’s door. It has served him well enough that he has held his office since 1992, seeking now a ninth term. Doyle, whose campaign centers on his experience at the statehouse, says that personal contact is critical for him. “It gives me personal contact with the voters, and they apperciate that, while also giving me a kind of composite view of what the district is thinking,” said Doyle.

Rea agrees, but where Doyle traditionally works alone as he pounds the pavement, Rea has been using teams of volunteers to canvass the area. Perhaps underscoring her campaign theme of effectiveness, she says it’s important to see that a candidate can coordinate with a group to accomplish a task. Rea’s canvassing events are highly structured. She reports employing up to 20 volunteers split between five or six teams to canvass an area. Before they depart from the day’s marshalling location, the volunteers are equipped with maps, voter lists and an armful of campaign literature. “We have quite a little army,” says Rea. “Nothing is as powerful as a face to face connection, when you can stand there and say ‘were here for Lori Rea.”

Simon says that politics in the 57th District boil down to name recognition and grass roots organization. He says that in this area, and in a heavily Democratic district, a Republican becomes both the chef, the cook and the bottlewasher. “The issues are all debated at the debates, so the signs become extremely important,” said Simon.

Democratic candidate for the 57th District candidate Lori Rea rides in the Shepherdstown Easter Parade. Photo by James P. Whipple

Jones admits his campaign has been struggling even to put up signs, which have recently been purchased. A Chronicle staffer witnessed Jones out and about on Wednesday placing signs in the vicinity of Shepherdstown.