By Frank Gallo
Nowadays, running a successful campaign for Glendale’s Council might cost a small fortune and require an army of volunteers and outside supporters who might have an agenda in addition to the candidate’s.
On March 3rd, 2020 the citizens of Glendale will be electing three Council Members which coincides with the presidential primary election. From now on city elections would coincide with other State elections, a measure that contributes to reduce costs for the City, while busting voter turnout. According to some estimates this might be the election with the highest voter turnout in Glendale’s history; about 45% of eligible voters are expected to cast a vote (almost 50,000 people).
Since Glendale Council represents the electorate at large, running a campaign can be quite costly as any running candidate is expected to reach as many citywide voters as possible; a monumental task for a City with over 108,000 registered voters.
Some methods commonly used by candidates to promote themselves include: electronic mail, Facebook adds, lawn signs, robot-calls, door hangers, snail mail, newspaper ads, radio ads, TV ads, neighborhood gatherings, phone banking and street canvasing.
While electronic methods tent to be inexpensive they are not as effective with habitual voters, since some older voters are not as computer savvy as younger voters. Lawn signs are relatively cheap but they do not convey much information about a candidate and while robot-calls are very cheap they cannot reach voters whose phone numbers are not updated with the County Register. Door hangers are inexpensive and can reach a good number of voters but distributing them requires either paid workers or a lot of volunteers. Printed news media, TV and radio ads are less targeted ways of promoting a candidate and their cost can escalate rapidly.
Phone banking and street canvasing together with neighborhood gatherings are effective ways to convince voters, but all these campaigning methods require either a good number of volunteers or paid staff that would act as surrogates for the candidate; let’s keep in mind that Glendale has more than 43,000 households.
Since a candidate might not have enough volunteers or paid staff what else can he/she do to reach all the potential voters? Fliers, pamphlets and other mailed materials can convey specific information about a candidate in a targeted manner. But unfortunately mailers can be costly. If we take into consideration printing, handling and mailing, each piece of mail can cost between $0.75-1.00 and for 50,000 pieces just one mailer can cost close to $50,000. Worst of all, one mailer would not be enough for a candidate to stay in the voters mind until voting time.
In past elections, well run campaigns were won on a $90,000 budget but the number of voters rarely surpassed 23,000 people. Now we are looking at a popular election where many people would just go to the polls because of the presidential primary. According to these estimates, running for Glendale City Council might cost a successful candidate well over $150,000 and require an efficient management of a small army of volunteers.
In Glendale, council candidates could tap into two major sources for funding and volunteers; city employee unions (Fire, Police, and Managers) and private organized groups (Armenian National Committee of America and medium to large developers or special interest groups).
At the end of the day, unless a candidate is really popular and has a lot of followers such is the case of a public personality, it all comes down to money raising and volunteer support. And the money can be either the candidate’s own or a large amount of donations that might come from special interest (unions, developers, etc.).
This information is important because you might be un-intendedly supporting the agenda of a special group with interest very different from your own, so please follow the money when choosing whom to vote for. Remember, not anyone could get elected to Glendale City Council.