Are the rules of politics made to be broken?
Three independent expenditure campaigns are purposely violating the adage that you always play to your candidate's strengths in their efforts backing Seattle mayoral hopefuls Greg Nickels and Mark Sidran.
On the Nickels side, local music industry political group JAMPAC is spending $17,000 on a mailer outlining Sidran's past support of additional regulations for music clubs, a ban on posting flyers, and a restrictive new noise ordinance. The JAMPAC mailing has an unusual target audience—40,000 Seattle residents between the ages of 18 and 35 who have voted at least once in the last four years. Political campaigns never target occasional voters. JAMPAC's Angel Combs knows it's a risk but thinks a flood of young people at the polls could turn the election for Nickels. "A lot of people register when they're young, but they don't vote—they don't get into the habit," she says. The payoff could be big: According to a KING-TV poll, younger voters prefer Nickels by a margin of 66 percent to 24 percent.
On the Sidran side, the landlord-funded Citizens for a Better Tomorrow seeks to shore up one of its candidate's key weaknesses: his poor standing among female voters (the KING-TV poll found women back Nickels 51 percent to 37 percent). They'll call 19,000 female voters to identify potential Sidran supporters—then make a second set of calls to deliver a pro-Sidran message. Their soft sell might embarrass the tough-guy prosecutor: the follow-up message cites Sidran's work with the United Way as proof that he's really a compassionate soul.
But leave the gutsiest move to Sidran's bashers at the Sidran Truth Squad, which plans to contact 15,000 poll voters over age 55—demographically the candidate's strongest backers (by a margin of 53 percent to 37 percent, says the KING-TV poll). These Sidran critics will present information on the $20 million in court damages and judgments paid out on his watch as city attorney, says organizer John Fox. "It's a piece of his record that has not been highlighted."
It's politics outside the box—and it just might work.