When looking at a campaign from the outside, it is sometimes difficult for those not involved to understand where all that money goes. Campaigns raise thousands of dollars. You drive down the road and see some signs. You talk to people on a campaign and they're working on it for free (only outside consultants get paid). Lots of services are donated and the things that are paid for don't seem like expensive items.
That is except for advertising. Advertising from radio, to newspapers, to mailers are the one item that drains money from a campaign faster than anything. It is a necessary evil, the one thing that will most greatly impact your ability to be elected and the most expensive payout any campaign will normally have.
Campaign mailers are a double edged sword. At one point you know people hate them and throw them away. At the other point, there are the people who read them and make a decision based on what they read. The question becomes does the positive outweigh the negative and the answer is always yes. Despite the fact that many people will say they don't pay attention to them, more people read them than would care to admit.
With no specific experience regarding campaign mailers, our team hired a consultant to write them and do layout. We knew how much it was going to cost us and we knew how much Gib Armstrong had in his war chest. We were proud that we were well ahead in the game. Our team knew that financing mailers was going to be a struggle for Armstrong whose donations were low.
Perhaps we were naÏve or maybe it was just too good to be true but we really did think that it was all based on paying your own way. But when Gib's mailings began to arrive we were in for a rude awakening and one of the crueler lessons in Pennsylvania politics. The incumbent, even an unendorsed one, has a financial advantage. Gib's mailers were being sent by the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania (RSC).
The playing field immediately shifted. We were suddenly up against a resource whose financing we could not even hope to match. In addition, when Bryan Cutler had blocked Armstrong's endorsement, the local Lancaster County Republican Committee had declared an open primary and asked the State Committee to stay out of the process. The open primary was supposed to represent true, "government for the people and by the people."
In the meantime, when questioned by the press, Gib Armstrong said that Bryan Cutler could also ask for and get assistance.
Our campaign immediately responded with a visit to Committee Headquarters in Harrisburg by Ryan Aument, Campaign Manager and Terry Christopher, Coordinator of Voter Outreach. Their visit went absolutely no where. Eileen Melvin, Committee Chairwoman, not only did not meet with them, but also did not respond to any of the correspondence sent to her by our campaign. She did respond to the press however, giving responses that never really made any sense. Gib's RSC mailings continued and so did our very loud protests. Shortly after Bryan's primary win, Eileen Melvin, Chairwoman for only a year, resigned. She said that the resignation had nothing to do with the major Republican losses in the primary but for us it was a victory. We had been heard.
Next week: Our own "7 days in May"