My goodness gracious, talk about the law of unintended consequences.
Back when the Steamfitters and Pipe Smokers and various and sundry other labor unions hired an allegedly seasoned political “pro” to go on a $25,000 search-and-destroy mission, little did they know how much bang they were about to get for their buck.
The $25,000 mailer that appeared several days ago in mailboxes all over Davis looked for all the world like one of those cheesy giant postcards printed on birch bark that Aunt Sally and Uncle George send from Yellowstone National Park, letting you know they’re enjoying the sights at Old Faithful and you’re not.
The goal of this postcard, seemingly, was to generate a whole lot of controversy and discussion about the Davis City Council campaign and ultimately to help determine the outcome of the race. On that goal, the three unions involved were wildly successful. Indeed, the mailer generated more discussion around town than any other single piece of mail in the history of Davis city politics. Unfortunately for the Pipe Smokers and Uncivil Engineers who paid for this thing, the publicity was all negative to their stated cause.
Given that the proposed surface water project is one of the hot issues of this campaign and given that the three unions involved think a number of jobs will come their way if the project is approved, they assessed our five-candidate field and determined that Steve Souza was their leading cheerleader and Sue Greenwald was their most ardent opponent.
Safe to say, the other three candidates have pretty much hedged their bets on this one by saying that as much as they like water, this project needs to be studied and studied and studied some more. That wasn’t enough to earn any of them Pipe Smoker PAC money.
Not surprisingly, the union mailer has turned conventional Davis political wisdom on its head.
Seeing that Sue Greenwald has now rocketed to the top of the polls and Steve Souza has fallen off the charts, the other three candidates are now planning mailers of their own, all slamming themselves.
Hey, if it worked for Sue, it can work for them.
In other words, instead of sending out a mailer that says he was born in Davis, raised in Davis, played Little League baseball in Davis and just loves Davis to death, Dan Wolk is coming out with a mailer titled “Don’t Vote for Dan — He’s Really From Woodland.”
The mailer, which will be paid for by the newly formed PAC “Out of Town Citizens Who Want to See Dan Wolk Lose,” will no doubt double Dan’s vote total by outraging the citizenry against “out of town” influence.
Lucas Frerichs is planning a negative piece about himself titled “Frerichs Lives in West Sacramento,” with grainy photos of the candidate walking the family dog down West Capitol Avenue, eating lunch at the Pheasant Club with Christopher Cabaldon and slipping in the back door of the West Sacramento City Hall with $100 bills sticking out his back pocket.
Brett Lee’s campaign is working on a similar slanderous mailer about Brett, which allegedly has the candidate driving a Hummer, shooting wildlife out the driver’s side window and smoking fat Cuban cigars, but details remain sketchy.
The one thing these candidates have all learned about Davis voters is that negative campaigning backfires. The candidate getting slammed benefits greatly, so why not slam yourself?
As Councilwoman Greenwald continues to read letter after letter saying “I wasn’t going to vote for Sue Greenwald, but now I’m voting only for Sue Greenwald, and Steve Souza has watched his 30 years of public service vanish in an instant after some political double-dealing over which he had no control, the scramble is on to see who will join Greenwald on the next council.
It won’t be Souza, but it might be the Frerichs-Wolk combo or perhaps Wolk-Lee or even Lee-Frerichs. Depends on which one of these youngsters comes up with the nastiest mailer about himself between now and Election Day.
Slander is definitely on the front burner in this campaign. Put simply, it works. Especially for the one being slandered.
— Reach Bob Dunning at firstname.lastname@example.org