After the deluge of political mail last cycle I vowed to count each piece of political mail I got this year and report back. This report is late because we’ve had incredibly beautiful winter weather. Walks and taking pics trump (so to speak) politics. Junk mail is an issue because we on an island with no landfill or incinerator. All garbage that we can’t compost or recycle, gets barged south to a landfill in Central Washington. The printing process used in most colorful junk mail is not recyclable. This year our household got 88 pieces of election mail. It was a light year, with fewer pieces than in 2020.
I know when I will get a PO box full of political junk even before I dig out my box key, it’s sticking out the trash can flaps in the Post Office lobby. I watch as it goes from folks’ boxes to the trash with no intermediate stop. This year I took mine home to catalogue. The barge comes into Sitka on Thursday. Junk mail comes up on the barge, so it hits the boxes on Fridays and Saturdays, including on the Fridays and Saturdays for two weeks after the election was over. Political campaign consultants don’t understand how mail works in Rural Alaska. Lisa Murkowski was the worst offender, Lisa you were BORN in SE Alaska, you should know better. The “Putting Alaska First Committee” sent me two pieces for a candidate running in a district about 100 miles south of us, in Ketchikan. Get a map guys.
Here is a rundown of the biggest junkers.
In the US House race between Republicans Nick Begich and Sarah Palin and Democrat Mary Peltola, 16 mail pieces came supporting Nick. 15 Were from the Kochs’ “Americans for Prosperity.” They endorsed Begich on one side, and attacked Sarah, Mary, or both on the other. All of them came in August. Once into September the tap was shut. I don’t know if the Koch organization gave up on Begich or on Southeast Alaska. Most of the attacks were against Sarah Palin. Apparently the Kochs do not understand how ranked choice voting works. Only one piece came from the Begich campaign itself. We got a couple of mailers from the Republicans saying, “Don’t Rank Peltola.”
Thirteen pieces came on behalf of Mary Peltola, one from the Democratic Party and 12 from the Peltola campaign. All the Peltola pieces were relentlessly positive, none attacked opponents, most addressed issues and five instructed us on how to vote early or absentee or how ranked choice worked.
Sarah sent two pieces, both positive, talking about Southeast Alaska issues.
In the Primary Al Gross, a Democrat, got the most votes for his party but withdraw in favor of Petola. (We all wish we knew what happened there.) Two years ago, when he ran for the U.S. Senate, he was the undisputed champion of junk. This year his campaign sent out only two pieces.
Nick Begich’s visual presentation was always young, manly, and smiling. All the male candidates made themselves manly, smiling and as young as possible. Since we got no pieces attacking him, I have no idea how Nick would have looked in a negative mailer. Thank goodness Al withdrew early. All of Alaska got tired of the piece with him killing a bear two years ago. Big deal.
Mary Peltola has the most engaging smile. It graced all her mailers. The opposition found the two only known pictures of Mary not smiling and used them (of course darkened). The New York Times used one of the same pictures (undarkened) in its coverage of her election. Apparently, the Times thinks all Native Americans must have a stern, inscrutable look.
Americans for Prosperity made a mistake and showed one picture of Sarah near the beginning of the campaign where she was smiling and looking pretty good. That didn’t happen a second time. She didn’t exactly look bad in the anti-mailers, but she did have a death grip on the mic and some hairs were out of place.
In the US Senate race between Republicans Lisa Murkowski, Kelly Tschibaka (The Trump endorsed candidate tasked with unseating Lisa) and Democrat Pat Chesbrough 9 pieces came from the Lisa Murkowski Campaign, 8 were positive, 1 had an attack on Kelly. Five Pieces came from Mitch McConnel’s PAC, the “Senate Leadership Fund.” All attacked Kelly. Eight pieces came from “Kelly for Alaska.” All attacked Lisa on one side of the card and supported Kelly on the other. Nothing came from Pat. She gets the environmental stewardship award, or perhaps her campaign just had no money.
The photos of the Lisa being attacked are darkened and show her scowling. Attack ads emphasize facial wrinkles. Lisa could make a fortune endorsing skin cream using the anti-picture as “before” and the pro picture as an “after.” In some opposition ads Lisa is a brunette. In the pro ads she is blonde. Is a Clairol endorsement in the wings? (Am I dating myself?)
With Kelly it wasn’t as extreme. The attack pieces were darkened, and they did find pictures of her not smiling. Kelly added ear protectors to shots of her shooting guns as the campaign progressed. Alaska Candidates need to have pictures of them shooting guns. Good call Kelly, protect that hearing. None of the ads show us the target after they were done aiming at it. The Tshibaka Campaign switched her from heels to fur lined boots as the campaign progressed. With Lisa it was always XtraTuffs.
In the governor’s race between Republican incumbent Mike Dunleavy, Democrat Les Gara and independent Bill Walker, we got 3 pieces from Mike. 1 was positive on both sides of the card, 2 were positive on one side while attacking Les and Bill on the other. We got one piece from Les and two from Bill. Both endorsed each other in the ranked voting scheme, saying vote me first, the other guy second. The tone was positive and collegial. All the men, of course, look rugged and outdoorsy in their own mailers. Dunleavy had an assault rifle and ear protectors. The opposition adds Mike put out make Bill look corporate and Les Gara clueless. That could be the motto of the ad agencies from New York or California that are preparing these pieces “Corporate and Clueless
2 thoughts on “Political Junk.”
Amazing analysis, Rich! Lots of reactions here, from frustration to amazement to laughter. Thanks for your efforts!
Thanks Mike, It was a strange exercise.