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Davis, California

Friday, February 23, 2024

City Council campaign methods

With the June 3 Davis City Council election just around the corner, candidates are ratcheting up efforts to get their names and messages out to voters.

Taking the form of mailers, websites and lawn posters, campaign publicity deals primarily with increasing name recognition, even while the major candidates in the race assert their aim to engage in a more substantive discourse with voters.

Incumbent candidate Stephen Souza said he attempts to use several forms of ‘information dissemination’ techniques to reach voters. This includes sending out mailers, providing press releases to local media and creating and distributing lawn signs.

Souza said several of these mediums, particularly lawn signs, attempt to present the candidate name to the public in a “very brief format.”

Lawn signs are costly, which is of particular concern to candidates close to maxing out their campaign contributions.

“It sure would be nice if we had another way of [presenting our names],” Souza said.

Some candidates in the race are focusing less on raising public awareness of their campaigns through lawn signs, particularly if they have already built broad name recognition within the community.

Running for her third term on the council, Mayor Sue Greenwald said she considers herself a “grassroots candidate.”

Greenwald said she sends mailers out to frequent voters to raise public awareness about her campaign. She also visits the Memorial Union regularly to discuss issues with students and distribute a brochure filled with campaign literature, she said.

Greenwald said her campaign relies heavily on ideas.

“I think initially I got elected because I wrote op-ed pieces and so there’s many ways to get elected,” she said. “The way I’ve always done it is by focusing on ideas.”

This time around Greenwald said she is banking on the name recognition she’s gained through her years of public service.

“I haven’t ever run a third time before, but I’m hoping name recognition will be sufficient to not to have to spend more money,” she said. “I really don’t like to call people and hound them for their money. Fundraising for me is unpleasant.”

Candidates said what voters focus on will depend on how much they care about the election.

“It depends upon the citizens,” Souza said. “Some want really in-depth information on every candidate so they’ll go to a website and get this, but some folks just want the quick sound-byte. Each and every voter will decide how much they want in the form of information on a candidate.”

As the money slowly drains out of campaign coffers, the independent actions of citizens themselves on behalf of candidates may prove crucial in spreading the message.

An independent expenditure campaign titled Delta Breeze has raised $1,500 in support of candidates Don Saylor, Sydney Vergis, and Souza, according to the Davis Enterprise. The money has primarily gone toward banners and T-shirts.

Souza said these campaigns are typical in the politics of any community, adding that recent changes to the city’s municipal election law tightened up reporting of expenditures to any amount over $250 with the city clerk’s office. The campaign must also notify all candidates in the race prior to the independent activity taking place.

Souza said that while he cannot necessarily rely on these campaigns, “it’s nice to have their support.”

“Sometimes I might not like what [independent expenditure campaigns] do, but it’s part of a democracy, any person has the right to express their opinion before voters,” he said.

Greenwald said that while these campaigns are legal under the Constitution, she doesn’t think they’re a good idea. In recent elections powerful firefighter unions desiring considerable wage hikes have donated exorbitant amounts to firefighter-friendly candidates, she added.

Under the current scheme, only eight of 40 firefighters are making under $147,000, and 10 fire captains are making close to $200,000 per year including benefits, she said.

“It’s a huge problem and this kind of campaigning is where it begins,” she said. “Money still does talk.”


CHINTAN DESAI can be reached at city@californiaaggie.com.


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