Thursday, September 15, 2005

Local Politics: The Ground Game

Note: So after spending an evening coming up with every Dyvil pun I could think of (The Dyvil Inside, Dyvil in a Blue Dress, The Dyvil Went Down to Georgia), I decided to spare readers the onslaught (The Dyvil You Say?). Instead, if you’re interested in Dyvil: First Edition and seeing me give money to the Red Cross, go here.

We have crested triple digits already in four days. Hey, I’m impressed. In the meantime, let’s talk about Yard Signs!

At this stage of the campaign yard signs are rarely found on the yards. Instead they blossom, like strange multicolored weeds, in empty lots, and along highway railings and in the no-mans-land of public roadsides. They congregate at corners, each one pushing their own candidate in a flurry of strong primary colors. Red and blue are common, but greens and aquas and maroons have also shown up.

There seem to be two varieties of this politcal weed, evolving from different types of materials in to the same evolutionary niche. The two separate species are paper on a stick and plastic on wires. In this region, the old-fashioned paper on a stick version seems to still secure, as strong breezes (and passersby) tend to shred the plastic too easily. Of the current crop at the South End, only Ron Sims has gone the wire route. Everyone else is. . . um . . . wireless.

Of the stick variety, most of the signs tend to be one color – that is, one color on a white background. Some campaigns (Sims (yellow and black), Wells (red and blue), and Fuda (yellow and green) go for a two-color approach, which shows both deeper pockets but with it a tendency to spend money of frivolities. The Reagan Dunn campaign has rolled out a four-color version - the red and blue on white of an earlier edition of the signs plus a new yellow and black starburst asking you to “retain” Reagan Dunn. Nicely attractive, and creating two levels of collectability. Needless to say, these new editions have only showed up in the northern parts of the district (where Dunn could still be considered an incumbent).

There’s an advantage in the one-color approach, however, in that you can get more signs for the campaign dollar. In addition, if you’re an incumbent, you can use the same bloody designs (and sometimes the same bloody signs) you used last time. That’s the case with Julia Patterson of my new district, the 5th. She has carpet-bombed the area that has recently been ceded to her. It’s an awareness campaign, and it's worked – even though she doesn’t have any opposition for the primary, she’s well-established for the general.

The problem, of course, with placing your signs on public property is that they can disappear as easily as they appear. People may think twice before pulling a sign off your yard (well, some people don’t, but they are usually the dead-of-night-hope-the-owners-aren’t-watching-and have-a shotgun crowd), but anything in the public areas is sort of a jump ball. On my commute, I’ve regularly seen signs appear and then disappear the next day. I’d like to think that people have just taken the signs home to plant, but I haven’t seen a lot of evidence of that, yet.

Taking political wisdom from signage is similar to figuring out who is running China from the wall posters, and about as accurate. What do I take away from my daily commutes? White with Red or Blue remains the most popular approach, with Red, White and Blue works for those that can afford it. The Patterson campaign is going to the matresses early and hard - I expect to hear a lot more from her in the future. The Dunn campaign is spending like this is the general campaign (and for all intents, it probably is - the 9th is traditionally GOP, and the parts that were changing were tossed over to the 5th). Hammond remains strong in the South and East, and his signs are usually paired with Irons for King County Executive. The off-shades for the sherrif's campaigns of both Rahr and Fuda tend to look good by themselves, but get shouted out by the strong contrasts of everybody else.

But in general? Its a quiet campaign, even for the huge about of litter along the highway barriers.

More later,