What the big money in the Dayton “primary” meant

Since the campaign finance reports rolled out, I’ve held back from analyzing or discussing them, because, frankly, it’s poor form to talk poorly about someone right after the funeral. That someone is democracy, and if this is a harbinger of the future of Dayton politics, we may as well just stop having elections and auction off the public offices.

The May 7, 2013 “special election” did more damage to any hope of regionalism than anything I can think of. No suburban jurisdiction is ever going to feel that it can be represented in an election where a third of a million dollars buys 75% of the votes?

Mayor Leitzell spent a paltry $2K on his campaign, with probably 1/3 of it on literature printing with my firm, The Next Wave, and half of it on postage. He did a little analysis on Nan Whaley’s and A.J. Wagner’s spending in two posts, Nan first:

285 donations out of 730 total were from outside the region. That is 39%. Of the $169,384 that those 730 people or entities contributed, $89,181 was from outside the region. That is 52.6%. Her “in kind” donations totaled $43,032 and of that, $42,592 came from outside the region. Mostly from Columbus, for a total of 98.9%.

Much of her money came from outside Ohio. Some from Washington D.C. and some from New York. She held fundraising events in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and in Indiana. One should be asking why money for a nonpartisan local election needs to come from outside the region.

Now I think that it is great that she was able to bring over $89,000 to the local area from other places. It could be used to boost the local economy. However that was not the case. Of the $212,767 that she spent on her campaign, $196,843 or 92.5% of the total was spent OUTSIDE the region!

via Dayton Mayor: Nanonomics 101.

and then on AJ’s:

A.J. Wagner raised $9,520 of his $78,442 from outside the region. That is 12% of his total. However, like the other Democratic party candidate, he spent most of his campaign funds OUTSIDE the region. Of the $96,678 spent on his campaign in cash spending, $63,194 was spent with businesses outside the Dayton area. I consider Yellow Springs and Xenia to be inside the area but not Columbus or Washington, D.C. That is a total of 65%. His “in kind” donations totaled $5,100 and that was all derived from local contributors.

via Dayton Mayor: Wagnernomics 101.

As an award-winning advertising professional, what amazed me the most was that both campaigns bought TV- for a local race. Television is a broadcast medium- it covers a broad area, meaning most of people having to suffer through their horrible ads (they were both really bad) weren’t even able to vote for either candidate. Channel 7 reaches from Springfield to Eaton, Celina to Middletown. It’s called overspend and overreach and shows that neither candidate (or their campaign advisers) knows or cares about efficiency.

One of the most interesting articles I’ve seen lately about marketing and campaigns was a long piece in the N.Y. Times that showed how the Obama campaign spent about 35% less than the Romney campaign by using big data to find the most cost-effective buys. They figured out, using combinations of psychographics and new media’s social graph, that they’d get more bang for their buck by targeting marginally informed voters who watch things like Judge Judy than those who already are informed and watch the much more expensive national news. Not only that, going to Washington to buy media in Dayton is an insult to local media professionals who have more experience negotiating rates and schedules in Dayton than any outsider ever would.  But that was par for the course.

Both candidates used vendors outside our community for their sites, and paid exorbitantly for them. Nan spent a fortune on mailings, but was smart enough not to put Gary’s photo on half of them like her former best friend Rhine McLin did in her epic loss to Gary Leitzell four years ago where she outspent him 6-1.

The oddest thing was that A.J.’s ads trotted out Rhine McLin as a supporter. Considering he only beat Gary by a few hundred votes, it will be interesting to see if he continues this “strategy” in the general election in November.

The big question is will either candidate be able to continue to raise money in the same manner. Nan now has her “commanding win” in the primary and some donors may feel fleeced by her wild spending and ridiculous cost per vote of $52. A.J. may look like an underdog with no chance who still had to spend nearly as much per vote. Considering both are old school Montgomery County Democrats used to being handed elections in the back room deals that the party favors, the major rift is going to be within the local party and to see if the union membership is going to actually work hard for either candidate (some union members felt betrayed going with the young pup Whaley who has been on the scene for a minute compared to their old friend A.J., and have told me that the bosses may back Whaley because they are afraid of her money and friends like Sherrod Brown, but they will be voting for A.J.).

Neither Joey Williams or Jeff Mims did much but ride the coattails of the Whaley machine, counting on her GOTV (Get out the vote) machine and their inclusion on an early mailer and the Endorsed Democratic Party Slate card that she also sent out. Since both actually did better than Whaley in actual votes, it will be interesting to see how much more they campaign and what will happen when the Whaley and Wagner campaigns start trying to differentiate their positions.

I’d love to take the time to analyze some of Whaley’s donors and their motives, to see how much money is coming in from demolition contractors, landfill operators, health care networks- the people she likes to take care of with our public money, but, since there is no reporting of employers in local filings, it would take a long time- and I’ve got a campaign to run.

I spent about $3,500 in the primary, which was higher than I wanted to, partially because of postage and printing joint pieces with the Mayor and the other independent Democrat David K. Greer. I’m about $40 shy of the halfway mark of $5,000 in my campaign fund and after I hit $10K will start looking for charities to donate any overage to.

What is most critical is really knocking on doors and organizing volunteers right now. If you’d like to help either donate, or volunteer, please head over to electesrati.com and sign up.

We shouldn’t have auctions instead of elections, and we most certainly deserve better than the best politicians money can buy. It’s too bad the Mayor didn’t knock on a few hundred more doors, invest in a single robo-call reminder to his supporters or let me put the election date on the big signs we had (he wanted us to be able to use them in the fall), because now, he’s on the sidelines.

Just think, 300 more votes and Leitzell would have beat Wagner and the 300 to 1 spending  odds. That would have been close to historic and proof that politics doesn’t have to be decided by selling out to special interests and outsiders.

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