Sometimes it takes more than charm and the blogosphere for candidates to get their message across to voters, and it's no different here with local elections.
With two months to go before the June primary, Humboldt County candidates are tapping consultants for a variety of services, including video production, advising and campaign management. According to recent campaign disclosure forms, eight of the 16 candidates running for office have already utilized those services.
The front runner so far is incumbent Fourth District Supervisor Bonnie Neely, who dished out $10,000 for consultants. That money went to Seattle-based polling firm EMC Research ($6,000) and Sacramento-based Duffy & Capitolo ($4,000), which specializes in campaign management and has worked with such prominent politicians as Former California Senator Don Perata -- currently running for Oakland Mayor -- and California Assemblyman Mark Leno.
After Neely was contacted Monday regarding the details of the EMC Research poll and services provided by Duffy & Capitolo, she said she was in between meetings. "Let me call you back in five minutes," she said. Her campaign manager returned the call the next day, asking for questions to be submitted in writing. They were, but were not answered by press time.
However, Fifth District Supe candidate Patrick Cleary said Tuesday that he recently retained the services of Duffy & Capitolo as well, to help with direct mail campaigns and voter research. "Since I am a neophyte at this, I wanted a level of expertise that I had trouble finding locally," Cleary said when asked about the decision to bring on the Sacramento firm. Since Cleary hired Duffy & Capitolo after the last round of financial disclosure documents, the dollar amount of the contract was unavailable.
As campaign manager, Cleary has hired Amber Thompson ($2,550), daughter of former Blue Lake Mayor Adelene Jones. A political newbie and former school teacher, Thompson's taking care of all the "nuts and bolts" of Cleary's campaign. "I was looking for someone who had a good attitude and enthusiasm," he said.
Assessor candidate Johanna Rodoni acquired the services of Kincade & Company ($5,000), a San Francisco-based video production company headed up by Robin Kincade, a former resident of Humboldt County who also produces videos for television shows. Kincade is also working with Sheriff candidate Mike Downey.
Incumbent District Attorney Paul Gallegos dished out $400 to John Williams, of Arcata, and $1,257.50 to Michael Evenson, of Petrolia, for consulting, as well as keeping campaign manager Natalynne DeLapp on staff. Gallegos has also hired a Los Angeles firm -- ML Associates - to serve as treasurer for the campaign; DeLapp said that she was unsure how much the firm was charging.
Fifth District candidate Pat Higgins paid out $750 to Local Solutions, a local progressive political action committee that worked with Neely, Larry Glass and then-Eureka Mayor Peter La Vallee during the 2006 elections. District Attorney candidate Paul Hagen spent $1,000 for media production with J. Garland Productions, headed up by John Garland Graves, a former Arcata Planning Commissioner.
District Attorney candidate Allison Jackson and Fourth District Supe candidate Virginia Bass tapped Campaign Communications, a.k.a. One Fine Day, for $500 and $200 respectively. The SoHum-based company, headed up by Nicole Foley, does event planning, whether it be fundraising or a wedding.
-- John Osborn
Inside District Attorney Paul Gallegos' campaign headquarters -- 321 3rd St. in Old Town Eureka -- Arts Alive! patrons were exhibiting their native behavior: milling about, socializing, vaguely gazing at paintings while gnoshing delicate mouthfuls of crackers and oily salami. At the counter of the former coffee house, a woman absentmindedly ran her fingers through a basket of campaign buttons while chatting with the volunteers on the other side. In the course of their banter she offered an endorsement as tepid as the San Pellegrino orbiting the room in clear plastic cups: "Regardless of personal feelings," the woman said blithely, "I don't think we have another candidate who's a better option."
Impassioned, full-throated endorsements have fallen off a bit since 2004, when Humboldt County's DA fought off a recall challenge bankrolled by villainous Texan Charles Hurwitz's Pacific Lumber Company. Such an enthusiasm decline is to be expected, argued Gallegos' campaign manager Natalynne DeLapp. "It's the nature of the job," she said after side-stepping some new arrivals. "If you're in the court system, you're not going to be happy." And with roughly 12,000 cases prosecuted each year, that makes for plenty of unhappy voters. Still, as the campaign swings into full gear (phone-banking sessions are now happening four days per week) DeLapp is cautiously optimistic -- though with four candidates in the field, she admitted that a runoff is very likely. "It's gonna be between Allison Jackson and Gallegos," she predicted confidently.
DeLapp casts challenger Paul Hagen in the role of potential spoiler. The former environmental prosecutor could split the progressive vote, she said before launching into a litany of reasons why he shouldn't. "I don't know who told him to run," she said bitterly. Regardless, Gallegos has more than seven years of experience. "Paul's grown into this job," DeLapp said. "We've trained him on our dime, [and] he needs to be able to continue."
Gallegos himself stayed busy pressing palms and greeting supporters as they filed through the room, which was adorned with paintings of ocean waves. DeLapp pulled him from a jovial huddle to speak to a reporter. Yes, he said, a November runoff is likely inevitable. "Numerically you'd have to expect that." And he agreed that whether his experience serves as an asset or a liability will depend largely on each voter's experience with the court system. Personal grudges are unavoidable, though. "That's part of the job," Gallegos said, "which is why I focus on doing [the job] rather than keeping it."
-- Ryan Burns