Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson leads in the polls, leads in fund raising — and leads in the variety of media messages he's been sending out to voters and contributors in anticipation of the primary election, just over two weeks away.
Billboards for the three main mayoral contenders — Anderson and challengers Molonai Hola and Frank Pignanelli — are now up. Hola, a Republican, has ended one short radio spot, and Anderson's radio and TV ads started last Monday, while former Democratic state legislator Pignanelli's campaign is wondering if radio is really a good buy at all.
Anderson has clearly been aggressive on the mailer front. He's sent targeted mailings to Hispanic, Pacific Islander and black voters, to businessmen and to the general public.
Hola, at least on the city's west side, seems to be winning the lawn sign battle. But Hola has done little in the way of printed advertisements — one door hanger is all.
Hola, a former University of Utah football player, has also mailed out photo copies of two Deseret Morning News columnists' pieces that speak of his U. playing days. Hola's radio ad notes that he was born in Tonga, raised on the city's west side, played football on a scholarship, and was president of the U. and the LDS Church's student organization. "Say yes to Hola," the ad says, adding he'll bring the city together again.
Anderson's new radio ads have Ted Wilson, a former Salt Lake City major, talking about how real leadership is making tough decisions — it even touches on Anderson's problems with the Main Street Plaza/free speech issue.
Former Jazz coach Frank Layden also talks about Anderson's leadership qualities, how Salt Lake may not be New York City, his hometown, but it is still a "sweet little apple." The TV ad is softer, talking about how the face of Salt Lake City has changed for the better the past four years. "A community with something to smile about," it says.
As the new electronic ads sink it, candidates hope city voters will start turning their attention to the Oct. 7 primary, in which one of the three leading contenders will be eliminated.
The top two vote-getters Oct. 7 move on to November's final election.
Anderson's media campaign is partly a function of money, having raised more than $470,000 with about three weeks left before the Oct. 7 primary.
Pignanelli has raised half that amount. Hola has less than a fifth of Anderson's financial resources, campaign reports show.
Pignanelli has several general mailers going out. And he blasted Anderson in a few smaller, but well-publicized, letters earlier.
Anderson has used his resources to respond to those letters with mailers of his own.
The quick responses may be one reason that Anderson, while dropping a bit in the latest Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll, still holds double-digit leads over Pignanelli and Hola.
Through his print advertising, Pignanelli is running a feel-good-about-Frank campaign. In new general mailers Pignanelli uses a baseball theme to say he will heal wounds in the community, bring people together and be a team leader. "With Frank, it's a whole new ball game," says one. "Salt Lake City deserves a winning season," says another.
Pignanelli has not targeted specific voter groups like Anderson has. And he likely won't be sending mailers to environmentalists, Hispanics or blacks. The primary election is all about turnout, says Dallas Nordstrom, Pignanelli's campaign manager. "We've started rewalking the whole city, which we've done before," she said.
"You may not see any radio ads by us. We feel grass-roots work is the way to go. We're not going to do as much media as the incumbent," she said.
Pignanelli is not saving his cash for the final election, however, she said. "This is politics, and you never can know what will happen" in the primary election.
In one new mailer, Pignanelli says "Crime in Salt Lake City is up."
Anderson says that's a plain-faced distortion.
Statistics provided by the state's Bureau of Criminal Identification, based on Salt Lake City police reports, show that overall crime, from homicide to car theft, is down through June in 2003 from 2002, which saw a spike in several crime categories.
But, points out Nordstrom, the overall crime index was up from 2001 to 2002. There were 16,476 total crimes in 2001, 18,983 in 2002, a 13.2 percent increase, according to BCI reports. "You can't look just at the first half" of 2003 because it's not clear that the lower crime rate continued through the summer months or for the rest of this year, she said.
However, major crimes in the city — murder, rape and robbery — have steadily dropped since 2000, the BCI reports. The rate of burglaries was also down the first six months of this year.