Most approaches to D.C. voters tend to fall flat. The porch visit: fleeting. The Metro-stop handshake: forgotten. Candidate e-mail: straight to the spam folder. The time-honored wave along the parade route: useless.
Candidates can make a longer-lasting impression with a well-crafted political hand card, mailing, or glossy brochure. Generally consisting of a flattering candidate photo, several bullet points, a 10-point crime-reduction plan, and a brief bio, the cards have staying power: They languish on card tables at candidate forums, in mailboxes, and sometimes on locals’ windshields.
Unlike those contentious candidate forums, the cards enable the candidate to deliver a message free of interference from opponents. In this unmediated medium, candidates are sometimes tempted to embellish certain things and omit others. Herewith LL’s Best of 2006 D.C. campaign lit.
H Best Contradiction
D.C. Council at-large candidate A. Scott Bolden knows all about widespread voter antipathy toward longtime incumbents and all kinds of political insiders. Thus, Bolden proclaims in a recent mailing that “Scott is the political outsider we need to bring positive change to D.C.” The résumé that follows this statement lists Bolden as “Former Chairman, D.C. Democratic State Committee” and “Former President, D.C. Chamber of Commerce.” He’s also lobbied the council on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry—as an outsider, of course.
H Best Résumé Omission
A long list of a candidate’s important-sounding jobs and community activities always looks great on paper. But a couple of candidates conveniently forgot to list the details of their experience on their handbills.
D.C. Council chairman and mayoral candidate Linda Cropp’s upbeat “Keep D.C. Moving Forward” flier never mentions that she served as president of the D.C. Board of Education in the late ’80s. Surely she would want to tout her leadership in this critical position. Nope. LL figures this was a simple oversight and that omitting the info from the “About Linda Cropp” section was not intended to sidestep any tough questions about how the schools performed under her watch.
H Best Preemptive Strike
At a recent forum hosted by the Greater Washington Board of Trade, veteran WRC-TV reporter Tom Sherwood asked mayoral candidate Adrian Fenty about concerns that he might not be smart enough to be mayor. Fenty’s strategists are clearly aware of the long-simmering chatter about the candidate’s brainpower and have employed some clear countering language on his bright-green campaign lit. LL understands that repetition of key buzzwords is a common political sales method, but the word “bright” or “brighter” appears on the Fenty handout 11 times.
H Best Thinly Veiled Race-Baiting Theme
Ward 1 council candidate Chad Williams is looking to unseat incumbent Jim Graham by appealing to the popular “one community” theme. Who can argue with unity? But the money quote on Williams’ hand card delivers a more refined picture of his rallying cry: “I believe Ward 1, with the city’s most diverse neighborhoods, deserves a Councilmember that will represent every Constituent equally—Chad Williams.” A canvasser for Williams recently knocked on LL’s door and pointed out that Graham has shut down black-owned businesses like the notorious Club U and Kili’s nightclub. The Howard University student, who didn’t know he was talking to a reporter, also mentioned that Graham only represented a certain group of people in the ward. Message delivered, Mr. Williams.
H Best Overstatement
Shadow senators have no power whatsoever. But the hand card offered up by Ward 3 council candidate and Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss tells a different story: His service as a nonvoting advocate in the Senate “achieved incredible results in the face of a hostile Republican Congress.” Voters who pick up the Strauss card will learn that he “successfully fought Republican efforts to repeal DC’s gun safety laws.” Strauss may have been in the room during some meetings on the issue, but city leaders and parents of children slain by guns carried the day on this one. Just to top things off, Strauss points out that “[w]ith the introduction of landmark bipartisan legislation to provide DC with voting representation in Congress, DC is finally making progress in its fight for equal rights.” That might be true—thanks to Rep. Tom Davis and D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
H Best Appeal to the Pop-Culture Crowd
Former D.C. Council staffer Eric Goulet was a late entry in the crowded Ward 3 council race. He chose to print a sort of manifesto on his home computer before the slick handbills arrived. The homemade version laid out a list of 11 bills he would introduce to accomplish his vision for the ward. Items 1 through 10 are standard campaign stuff like cutting taxes and fixing the schools. But item No. 11 strikes LL as the kind of imaginative and memorable proposal that could vault an unknown candidate into contention. Goulet’s “Movie Theater Truth in Advertising Act of 2007” would prohibit theaters “from showing commercial advertisements after the scheduled start-time of the movie.” Previews are fine, but no epic ads for Coke or Toyota.
H Best Copycat
With 15 candidates in the wide-open Ward 5 council race, it figures someone would have to take up the incumbent’s torch. Ron Magnus’ walking card features a picture of the candidate sporting the “5” lapel pin made famous by the outgoing Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent Orange. Good thing both men are lawyers, because a trademark-infringement case seems certain.