In my SPAM folder, an email sent Saturday afternoon from Dunn For Congress campaign consultant Doug Herman. His message was simple. The Dunn team chose not to file a candidate’s statement.
“Unlike ballot measure campaigns where it is used, research indicates that voters rarely read material in the sample ballot booklets for candidates. Additionally, we believe there is more strategic value to use communication dollars for specifically targeted efforts.”
We’ve asked Herman to provide links to research and spent an hour looking for links to support his claim without success. I did get an email from someone close to TheLiberalOC suggesting a candidate’s statement holds little value, citing a 2014 SCPR blog post on the high cost of a candidate’s statement in LA County. But LA County and Orange County are, well, Apples and Oranges. It’s our understanding a candidate’s statement in OC for CD-46 costs less than $3,000 and is pretty cheap in Cost-Per-Thousand when it comes to direct mail.
Political consultant Parke Skleton is quoted about the value of candidate’s statements in the middle of one paragraph of that post: Experienced campaign managers differ on the value of the candidate statements. Take the competitive campaign for L.A. County’s 3rd District Supervisor in an area that includes parts of the Westside and San Fernando Valley. Sheila Kuehl’s campaign consultant Parke Skelton said few voters read candidate statements and called the $37,600 cost of the 200-word statement “exhorbitant.” Bobby Shriver’s consultant Bill Carrick said running the candidate statement in both English and Spanish made sense to reach the maximum number of voters in a district with a significant number of Spanish speakers.
We’ll note, that Herman was the individual who convinced Assembly Speaker John Perez not to file a candidate’s statement when he ran statewide in June 2014 for Controller against Betty Yee. Perez lost by 481 votes statewide. Yee paid for and filed a candidate’s statement.
The Sacramento Bee, in a 2014 article specifically about the controller’s race, called a candidate’s statement “a rare bargain in California political campaigns.”
From the story:
Board of Equalization member Betty Yee was the only one of three Democrats in the six-person field to have a statement in the June 3 guide, which went out to 10.6 million voter households. She finished in second, 481 votes ahead of Assemblyman John A. Pérez, a former Assembly speaker who significantly outraised Yee but did not have a candidate statement. Pérez is seeking a full or partial hand recount in 15 counties.
The voter guide statements are meant to encourage candidates to comply with voluntary spending limits set by Proposition 34, a 2000 campaign-finance ballot measure. To be eligible to purchase a statement, controller’s candidates had to agree to spend no more than $5.44 million in the primary. Yee agreed to the limits but Pérez did not.
Pérez’s primary spending, though, seems likely to be well below $5.44 million. Through Tuesday, Pérez’s controller committee had raised more than $2.2 million since January 2013. It had spent about $1 million through May 17.
“Of course in a race this close you can look to any number of factors that could have made the difference. And a lot of things are beyond your control,” Skelton said in an e-mail. “But I definitely believe a candidate statement is worth 481 votes.
Asked if it was a mistake for Pérez to lack a candidate statement, campaign adviser Douglas Herman e-mailed, “No.”
We’ll note Skelton’s quote on the value of a candidate’s statement in the controller’s race seems to contradict his position on the value of candidate’s statement in the SCPR blog post.
Time will tell if deliberately omitting a candidate’s statement is a costly error for Dunn. There is a whole generation of new voters unaware of his record; a candidate’s statement — one taken by every other candidate for Congress in CD-46 — could have gone a long way towards communicating Dunn’s record.
We await the research that proves Herman’s claims that voters don’t read candidate’s statements.