How to Spend to Win a Council Campaign

At the suggestion of a reader, I’ve been comparing the campaign expense reports filed by Debi Rose and Ken Mitchell in the City Council campaign, which are now the subject of a lawsuit on Staten Island.

The lawsuit, filed by Randy Mastro, alleges that Rose received an unfair advantage from the Working Families Party because they didn’t charge her a “fair market value” for services on the cap. And, with a $161,000 spending cap in a close race, every dollar counts.

I’m not going to speak to the fair/unfair argument, but if you compare the spending, by category, of each candidate, what you see is a clear difference in campaign strategy, which I think could help explain Rose’s upset victory.

Rose spent more money on door-to-door canvassing and voter outreach (about $64,000 compared to Mitchell’s $8,700). 

Mitchell spent more on political contributions, campaign literature, campaign mailing, print ads and polling. Which are the more general, less-personal contacts campaigns have with the public.

And that strategy isn’t held in high regard by at least one expert whose testimony was provided by the plaintiff.

Jake Menges, in his affidavit, said, “Moreover, in my years as a political consultant, I have never heard of any campaign identifying voters by means of a door canvassing operation.” 

Menges later said based on the scale, time and budget of a Council campaign, Rose’s door-to-door canvassing operation was too small.

“Identifying such voters is typically done by telephone, given the volume of individuals who must be contacted in a short period of time and—ostensibly—on a budget. If such identification was undertaken by means of a door-to-door canvass, it would require contacting a much higher number than 20,000 individuals given voters’ inherent resistance to face to face conversations.”

Anyway, a reader involved with the race provided this graph, which is easier to look at. My list of head-to-head comparisons, by category, of how Rose and Mitchell spent their money is below the chart.

 

Mitchell:

 

Fund-raising-$9,070

Rent-$3,090

Office Expenses-$20,707

Advance Repayment-$2,996

Petition Expenses-$684

Political contributions-$3,305

Professional Services-$0

Campaign Worker Salaries-$10,193

Campaign Consultation-$8,688.75

Campaign Literature-$10,0833

Campaign Mailings-$71,862

Polling-$10,300

Postage-$9,102

Print Ads-$4,095

Radio Ads-$0

Television Ad-$1,500

Voter Registraton-$0

OTHER EXPENSES-$24,101

   Robocalls-$1,953.48

   Posters-$1,192.13

   GOTV Calls-$2,099

   Lawn Signs-$11,417.75

Rose:

 

Fund-raising-$5,285

Rent-$6,750

Office Expenses-$7,317

Advance Repyament-$1,477

Petition Expenses-$4,542

Political contributions-$750

Professional Services-$234,455

Campaign Workers Salaries-$21,715

Campaign Consultation-$8,000

Campaign Literature-$3,100

Campaign Mailings-$0

Polling-$0

Postage-$829

Print Ads-$1,625

Radio Ads-$0

Television Ads-$3,150

Voter Registration-$0

OTHER EXPENSES-$8,617