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yard signs

Signs, signs, everywhere there’s Beto signs

And they’re breaking the minds of Ted Cruz supporters.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

The conversation unfolding before a campaign event for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz here last week echoed similar ones popping up among Republican groups around Texas. With a mixture of frustration and bewilderment, attendees were discussing the proliferation of black-and-white yard signs in their neighborhoods brandishing a single four-letter-word: BETO.

The signs have become a signature calling card of Democrat Beto O’Rourke’s bid to unseat Cruz. While Democrats posting yard signs for candidates is nothing new, even when it happens in some of Texas’ most conservative conclaves, what’s been different this summer is the extent to which O’Rourke’s signs have seemingly dominated the landscape in some neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, Cruz signs are far tougher to spot, and many Cruz supporters have become increasingly agitated at their inability to obtain signs to counter what they see on their daily drives.

[…]

The difference in tactics goes back to a 2006 political science experiment. At the time, former Gov. Rick Perry was running for his second full term and allowed for researchers to try different tactics in some communities to test which were most effective at motivating voters. Daron Shaw, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the Texas Tribune/University of Texas Poll, worked on experiments involving yard signs in Perry’s race and saw little evidence that they moved Perry’s numbers.

Four years later, Perry’s team essentially abandoned the entire practice of distributing yard signs during his third re-election campaign. He soundly defeated now-former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Republican primary and Democrat Bill White in the general election.

Since then, more academic research backed up Shaw’s findings, and yard signs have largely fallen out of vogue within the Texas GOP consultant class, at least among statewide candidates.

But that 2006 campaign marked Perry’s fifth statewide race — when he already had near-universal name identification in Texas, much like Cruz does now. As such, Shaw cautions not every campaign should follow Perry’s lead.

“It varies race by race and year by year,” he said. “So I wouldn’t claim that that study should be used as evidence that you ought not to be doing it this time around.”

For a candidate like O’Rourke, who began the race as a relative unknown, there is anecdotal evidence that the signs have helped him build his name identification.

Jo Johns is a retired physical education teacher who recently attended an organizing rally for O’Rourke in Weatherford.

She told the Tribune she first learned about O’Rourke by seeing his signs while driving to yoga class.

“I didn’t know who he was, and I wanted to know about him,” she added. “I saw Beto, Beto, Beto. I thought he must be a Republican because they’re everywhere.”

Shaw pointed back to the 2014 governor’s race, when Democrat Wendy Davis’ signs outnumbered her opponent, now-Gov. Greg Abbott, in some communities. Davis still lost by 20 points. But this time around, the political scientist suggests O’Rourke’s yard signs are possibly signaling momentum to voters, priming some who may have otherwise assumed Cruz was unbeatable that O’Rourke has a shot.

“In this race, it probably is more of a positive because it reinforces information you’re getting in public polls, stories you’re getting in the media and fundraising,” said Shaw.

My neighborhood is chock full of Beto signs. Literally, there’s multiple signs on every block. I do a lot of walking through the neighborhood with my dog, and not only are there tons of them, more keep popping up. Meanwhile, I have seen four Ted Cruz signs. Hilariously, three of them are accompanied by green signs with clovers on them that say “Make Beto Irish again”, to which the obvious riposte is “Sure, as soon as we make Ted Canadian again”.

Anyway, I think the Trib captures the dynamic of the sign skirmish well. Signs in and of themselves aren’t, well, signs of anything, but this year at least feels different. This year, the vast proliferation of Beto signs are both an indicator of enthusiasm and a means for expressing it. I do think it has helped to expand his name ID, and to signal to Democrats in red areas where they have felt isolated that they are not in fact alone. I don’t think it’s possible to isolate an effect related to this, and if we could it would probably be no more than a marginal one, but I do think this year that signs matter. I look forward to whatever research someone publishes about this after the election.

Endorsement watch: The one Family Court race

The 507th Family Court is one of the two new courts in operation in Harris County, and thus one of the two spots on the ballot for which Democrats had to choose nominees this summer. In keeping with its Civil Court endorsements, the Chron recommends the incumbent for a full term.

Alyssa Lemkuil

Alyssa Lemkuil

Alyssa Lemkuil is the right person for the 507th Family District Court. The University of Houston Law Center graduate was appointed in January by Gov. Greg Abbott to serve as the first judge for this bench. So far she is doing an excellent job and deserves to stay in office.

Lemkuil, 54, has a warm demeanor and extensive experience in family law. Before serving as judge, she spent three years as the associate judge of the 308th Family District Court. She also has worked in the Harris County Domestic Relations Office as a child support prosecutor, and as an attorney and mediator in private practice.

During her time on the bench, Lemkuil has worked to improve processes by allowing and encouraging more communication via email to ensure that everyone has the litany of necessary papers ready before setting foot in the courtroom. The Democratic challenger, Julia Maldonado, is board certified in family law and is fluent in Spanish. She would bring some much-needed diversity to Harris County’s strikingly homogenous family courts – a problem that both candidates discussed during their meeting with the Houston Chronicle editorial board. Maldonado is qualified for the position, but Lemkuil is the superior candidate and has earned a full term on this bench.

As we have discussed before, the winner of this race and of the Harris County Criminal Court at Law #16 will have to run again in 2018, so they may as well keep campaigning once this election is over. To go off on a bit of a tangent here, I’ve been observing the proliferation of yard signs in my neighborhood lately. I live in a mostly Democratic area – the two precincts that cover my part of the Heights voted a bit more than 58% for President Obama in 2012 – but there are always a certain number of yard signs for Republican candidates. There were several I observed for various GOP Presidential hopefuls during the primary campaign. Since then, I’ve seen nada, though there are a couple of houses that now sport Gary Johnson signs. What I do see is a couple of houses that have signs for Republican judicial candidates, of whom Alyssa Lemkuil is one. There seem to be fewer of these than I’m used to seeing as well – I don’t have any objective measure of this, just my own observation – so make of that what you will. For what it’s worth, there’s at least one visible supporter of Judge Lemkuil in my neck of the woods.

Ticket splitters

For better or worse, we live in a polarized world. Often, knowing a candidate’s political party tells you most of what you need to know in a general election. But definitely not always, and this year in particular there are plenty of examples of candidates who aren’t worthy of the support of their partisan brethren (and sistren, as Molly Ivins used to say) as well as a few who for a variety of reasons are able to transcend political barriers. I feel like this year I’ve seen more mixed-company yard signs than I have in years past. Here are a few examples:

My guess is that this homeowner is a Democrat who is also supporting incumbent District Civil Court Judge Tad Halbach, who has a reputation for being one of the better inhabitants of the judiciary.

My initial suspicion was that this was a Republican who prefers Vince Ryan and Adrian Garcia for Harris County. I drove by this location yesterday and there was another sign touting a GOP judicial candidate whose name I have forgotten, so that makes me a little more certain in that assumption.

This one’s a little hard to see – it was late afternoon, I was facing west, and any closer would have put me directly in the sunlight. Anyway, the red sign is for Vince Ryan, and the other one is for GOP judicial candidate Elizabeth Ray.

Greg sent me that one. Probably a Republican crossing over for Gene Wu if I had to guess, but Greg could say for sure.

Another one that could go either way, but as that house in the background is actually a law office, I suspect the sign-placer just likes incumbent judges.

I feel quite confident saying that the person who put out these signs is a Republican, crossing over to vote for Ann Johnson and the HISD bonds. (As well he or she should.) The Halloween decoration nearby is a nice touch.

So there you have it. I don’t have any broad point to make, I just noticed these signs around and thought it would be fun putting something together on them. I have a Flickr set for these pics, so if you find any more examples, send them to me via email or post them on the Off The Kuff Facebook page and I’ll add them in.

Recycling campaign signs

Great idea.

Plenty of these for the taking

[Mike Martinez] has been running Food is Free since founding it in late January, and now he’s asking for old campaign signs to line the edges of garden boxes. They can be dropped off in front of his house at 5608 Joe Sayers Ave.

The group, currently trying to register as a nonprofit, makes free wicking bed gardens, self-contained boxes bordered by plastic with soil on top of gravel or tumbled glass that acts like a natural water table. By watering through a pipe that leads to the rough bottom, Edwards said, the roughly 4-foot square planting boxes only need to be watered once every two to four weeks.

“It helps people that don’t have time, have failed at gardening or they just weren’t interested before to get started with gardening,” [co-founder John VanDeusen Edwards] said.

[…]

In Edwards’ backyard, where he also has a small farm and 27 chickens, there are stacks of hundreds of the corrugated plastic signs that lined Austin’s avenues throughout May. The bigger ones are more useful because he can cut them to fit, rather than having to squeeze several in, but Edwards will take them all. The metal used to hold up the signs can be used to make tomato cages, he said.

David Wahlberg’s campaign dropped off a tall stack of the signs, Edwards said, after the lawyer’s win in the Democratic primary for the 167th District judge. “Leffingwell and (Brigid) Shea’s campaigns were both fired up about giving us their signs” as well, he said.

Boy just imagine if Eric Dick had agreed to donate all his campaign signs from last year. They’d be set till the end of the decade. And no, those jokes aren’t going to get old any time soon.

Spending on voter outreach: At Large races

I did this exercise for the Controller’s race last week, let’s see now what we can learn about the four contested At Large Council races. First, At Large #1:

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== Karen Derr 88.32 Advertising (Allen Jamail) Karen Derr 298.70 Advertising (Allen Jamail) Karen Derr 50.00 Advertising (GHWCC) Karen Derr 358.30 Printing Karen Derr 386.99 Yard Signs Karen Derr 3,772.51 Yard Signs Herman Litt 849.76 Yard Signs Herman Litt 2,530.08 Stationery, pushcards, invitations Herman Litt 388.70 Campaign T-shirts Herman Litt 784.81 Yard signs Herman Litt 1,001.31 4x4 campaign signs S Costello 150.00 GHWCC luncheon/literature table S Costello 1,037.04 T-shirts S Costello 297.42 4x4 campaign signs S Costello 584.00 Campaign stickers & T-shirts S Costello 584.00 Campaign stickers & T-shirts S Costello 2,189.28 Yard signs S Costello 2,000.00 Yard signs R Rodriguez 60.00 Advertising (Rusk Athletic Club) R Rodriguez 180.00 Advertising (HBAD) R Rodriguez 4,140.56 Yard signs R Rodriguez 576.18 Signs L Allsbrooks 5,000.00 Signs and printing L Allsbrooks 2,000.00 Flyers and brochures

Lots of signs, yard and otherwise. In my neck of the woods, Derr and Allsbrooks signs predominate, with Rick Rodriguez a distant third, though farther north and east you’ll see more of them. I’ve seen a few scattered Litt and Costello signs, but clearly haven’t driven through their strongholds. Given Costello’s cash on hand advantage, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t do mail, or some kind of media buy.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== Sue Lovell 11,668.00 Citywide survey Andrew Burks 551.00 Push cards Andrew Burks 156.96 Magnetic signs Rozzy Shorter 375.00 Campaign literature Rozzy Shorter 77.80 Campaign literature Rozzy Shorter 120.00 Flyers Rozzy Shorter 823.00 Signs Griff Griffin 68.00 Printing Griff Griffin 477.00 T-shirts Griff Griffin 324.00 Signs Griff Griffin 1,081.00 Food and drink

Another poll I’d love to see but probably never will. I’m somewhat surprised to not see any expenditures for signs or mail or anything like that for Lovell, given that I’m sure she’ll be doing – and will need to do – these things, and can afford them. Perhaps the signage expenses were in the July report, and the other stuff will be in the 8 days out report. I’m mentioning Griffin’s food and drink expenses because it’s not clear he’s throwing a party instead of running a campaign. Someone over there must love Subway sandwiches, because there are three entries totaling $266 in purchases of said subs.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== Noel Freeman 692.80 Campaign signs CO Bradford 433.29 Campaign signs CO Bradford 1,979.02 Campaign signs CO Bradford 200.00 Campaign print ad (Holy Name Church) CO Bradford 2,121.75 Campaign signs CO Bradford 880.99 Campaign push cards CO Bradford 1,379.00 Campaign doorhangers

Not really much to say here except to observe that despite Bradford’s padded report, he did legitimately raise more money than Freeman, and has more to spend, including more on things like yard signs.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== Jolanda Jones 1,000.00 Direct mail Jolanda Jones 500.00 Advertising Carlos Obando 1,050.00 Yard signs D Daniels 350.00 Advertising/Marketing D Daniels 1,000.00 Advertising/Marketing D Daniels 2,000.00 Advertising/Marketing

Unclear what “advertising” or “advertising/marketing” means here. Sometimes these reports give a clear picture, as when “advertising” means “I bought an ad in someone’s newspaper/newsletter/program/whatever”, and sometimes, as when it lists an agency as the payee with no further elucidation in the Purpose field, it doesn’t. The only other item of interest in the At Large #5 group was that Carlos Obando appeared to be filling up his gas tank and buying lunch (a few times, anyway) with campaign funds. I didn’t notice anything similar on the other reports.

I’m going to try to wade through the district race candidates’ reports next. I suppose given the generally meager sums people have raised, this is about what we should expect. I’ll be interested to see what the 8 day reports look like – if Sue Lovell doesn’t have some sizable expenditures on it, I’ll be quite puzzled.

Finally, because I don’t know how long it’ll take me to make something of the district race reports, let me take this opportunity to point you to Stace’s post on District E fundraising, and Greg’s research on KA Khan and the questions about where he really lives.

Spending on voter outreach: The Controller candidates

We know that this has been, relatively speaking, a low-dollar, low-profile election. I’ve been curious as to what the candidates’ strategies for doing voter outreach have been. We’ll probably know more when we see the eight-days-out reports, but for now, I’ve been looking through the various campaign finance reports to see what spending they have reported so far on various communication methods. Here’s a look at what the candidates for Controller have been doing.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== MJ Khan 3,716.81 Printing, postage, bumper stickers MJ Khan 12,592.56 Printing of signs MJ Khan 4,486.85 Printing of signs and stickers MJ Khan 944.48 Printing of T-shirts MJ Khan 22,469.00 Polling services

The “Amount” and “Purpose” are taken directly from the reports. I’ve listed anything that seems oriented towards getting the “Vote for Me!” message out, excluding basic things like website maintenance and email services. Nobody in this race has skimped on yard signs. I’m glad to see that someone is polling citywide. I’d kill to see the questions and answers Khan got. Word I’ve heard is that Khan will be running ads on cable, which he should be able to afford. I’ll be interested in seeing that as well.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== Pam Holm 2,730.61 Yard signs Pam Holm 1,358.27 T-shirts Pam Holm 1,547.34 Mailing/printing Pam Holm 2,600.00 Signs Pam Holm 477.38 Koozies Pam Holm 2,520.33 Signs Pam Holm 8,358.00 Advertising (Stan and Lou Advertising) Pam Holm 2,774.85 Automated phone calls Pam Holm 662.06 Radio production costs Pam Holm 2,380.73 Signs Pam Holm 2,900.00 Door hangers (*) Pam Holm 26,367.15 Direct mail Pam Holm 1,487.00 Automated phone calls Pam Holm 10,000.00 Radio ads

Holm is the big spender here, which is no surprise. I saw two $2900 entries for door hangers, one of which listed the recipient and one which didn’t; I don’t know if this was a duplicate entry or not. We’ll know in about three weeks how much Holm spent on her TV ad. Oh, and I totally want a “Pam Holm for Controller” koozie. Surely someone with the campaign can set me up.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== Ronald Green 1,930.91 Printing Ronald Green 753.79 Printing Ronald Green 1,107.72 Printing Ronald Green 1,091.71 Printing Ronald Green 275.00 Advertising (Jewish Herald Voice) Ronald Green 1,930.91 Printing Ronald Green 343.15 Printing Ronald Green 866.00 Printing Ronald Green 100.00 Advertising (St Peter The Apostle Catholic Church) Ronald Green 197.29 Printing Ronald Green 622.98 Printing Ronald Green 161.89 Advertising (Facebook) Ronald Green 200.66 Printing Ronald Green 411.97 Printing

He may not be able to afford radio or TV, but Ronald Green has the Facebook market locked up. That’s actually a pretty decent investment if you don’t have that much money to spend. I have no idea what all those printing costs are for – my guess is the ones in four figures are yard signs, but I’m not sure about the others. Who knew that churches took advertising?

Next up, the At Large Council races.