A pair of politicians seeking a Metro Council seat in southeastern Baton Rouge have turned to the humblest of campaign materials to push their message across, though they’re using different styles of postcards as Election Day approaches.
It costs 35 cents or less to mail a postcard to a specific household, depending on bulk rates available. Hitting each of the 21,744 registered voters in District 8 would cost less than $8,000. Targeting just voter residences would cost even less.
Incumbent Denise Amoroso has gone glossy, packing both sides of a 6-by-11-inch postcard with bullet points touting her conservative credentials. Each bears a Baton Rouge postmark.
Challenger Brendan Csaposs’ messages come handwritten and with stamps canceled in faraway places. The feel is decidedly grassroots, even if it makes one wonder why someone in Hawaii or Washington is interested in Baton Rouge politics.
Voters face two choices in the March 30 special election that will decide who finishes the remainder of the late metro councilman Buddy Amoros…
“Aloha. I’m writing from Hawaii to ask you to vote because we’re all in this together!” an unidentified writer pleas with the “Crucial Voter” in the Carrington Place subdivision. A writer from Yakima, Washington, sends a similar message to an “Awesome Voter,” saying “a balanced Council will see Baton Rouge at its best.”
Republicans currently hold a 7-5 edge on the Metro Council. Should Csaposs win, the panel would be split evenly politically.
Csaposs is benefiting from the work of postcardstovoters.org, a Georgia-based group of volunteers that backs Democrats by mailing postcards to like-minded voters in the days leading to an election.
It has done similar work for candidates in other states. According to its website it notes that it started two years ago and now has 59,000 volunteers in every state.
"Postcards to Voters are friendly, handwritten reminders from volunteers to targeted voters giving Democrats a winning edge in close, key races coast to coast," it says. It did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Early voting starts Saturday and ends March 23 for the March 30 election. On the ballot in parishes in the Baton Rouge region are a number of…
Csaposs’ campaign finance reports from the past month do not show any kind of relationship with the volunteer group. The candidate has raised approximately $7,100 for the race, while Amoroso has claimed over $15,000, according to reports filed with the state.
Nathan Kalmoe, a political science professor at LSU, says obtaining help from nonlocals is an established tradition in politics. Anyone can successfully educate voters on the facts when an election approaches, and in low-turnout races such as next week’s special election, turnout can be key, Kalmoe said.
Mailers obtained by The Advocate indicate that Csaposs' national supporters generally emphasize spreading logistical information, telling voters about the early-voting period and the March 30 election.
Kalmoe said that, when out-of-towners go beyond data and start telling people how to vote in their own elections, they risk backfire.
He recalled the 2004 Democratic primary. Even before the infamous "Dean Scream" that helped chase him from that year’s presidential race, political scientists wondered if former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean hurt his chances by busing a lot of nonlocals into Iowa before the state's caucus.
By participating in nonlocal elections, the out-of-state voters can perhaps wield influence they cannot do at home.
Members of each party consider wins on their side as an overall victory for the left or the right, especially because voters who lean blue or red on local elections tend to vote the same way in national races, Kalmoe said.
Csaposs’ financial status report bears that out to a degree. Of 98 people who have contributed to his campaign, only 21 were from Louisiana.
Csaposs declined to comment on his strategy.
Csaposs explained that, as a gay man, he was partly motivated to run when he heard the council would be reconsidering an ordinance to end anti-LGBT discrimination. He also said he wants to tighten drainage ordinances, as District 8 was especially hammered in the 2016 flood.
A local “fairness ordinance” that seeks to bar discrimination against anyone in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexuali…
Amoroso has held the post temporarily since her husband was killed last year in a bike accident in West Feliciana Parish. Her campaign material notes that she was married to Buddy Amoroso for 37 years.
A quiet voice on the council, she can be relied upon to vote with the conservative faction and has emphasized business development and tougher law enforcement in her election bid. Her postcards do not mention that she is a Republican, though they call her “conservative, pro-business and pro-family.”
Amoroso is pursuing a more traditional campaign strategy, with billboards and yard signs. She declined to discuss Csaposs' letter-writing campaign at length. Of her 40 contributors, all but five are from Louisiana.