When it comes to billboards, keep it simple

September 25, 2012

There’s an art to designing a good political billboard. Forget about art and forget about design. Just put the candidate’s name up there big and bold.

That’s what Alex Pires - or should I say ALEX PIRES? - has done with his billboard. It just has his name and the office he’s running for - U.S. Senate. You can read it a half mile away. (Pires, of Dewey Beach, is running a vigorous campaign as an Independent against incumbent Tom Carper. Kevin Wade, a Republican, and Andrew Groff, a Green candidate, are also running.)

Many candidates make the mistake of adding pictures or slogans. This is too much, even for a billboard. For the small roadside candidate signs that dot our landscape, it’s way too much.

Sher Valenzuela, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, has roadside signs that look nice and would make good newspaper advertisements. It features a photo of Valenzuela with some other people in the background. It’s attractive.

But billboards and smaller roadside signs are a very different medium from newspapers. Drivers only have time for a quick glance, while newspaper readers - who hopefully aren’t driving - can be drawn into an ad with pictures and a headline.

Looking back on old times

On a warm spring day nearly four decades ago, I ran a 4:53 mile on the old Cape Henlopen track. (It was a 360-yard track, the only one I’ve ever heard of.) That was my best time.

There’s nothing remarkable about the time or the fact that I can remember it. Runners always remember their times. Which is why I wonder how many runners have had conversations like the one I had last week with my brother David and sister Ruth, who also ran for Cape.

David brought up vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s mistake about his time in the marathon. I say “mistake,” and that’s generally how it was treated in news stories, though he took some shots from pundits.

But I think any runner would say not only was it a lie, it was a whopper. Answering a question about his marathon time, Ryan said, “I ran a two hour and 50-something.”

That’s a good time - good enough that the interviewer said, “Holy smokes!” to which Ryan responded, “I was fast when I was younger, yeah.”

In fact, Ryan finished in just over four hours. That’s a whole ‘nother level. He wouldn’t have remembered himself as being “fast” for the simple reason that he wasn’t. (Sarah Palin ran a faster time.) No runner would make that mistake, especially a numbers guy like Ryan.

It would be like me saying, “Oh, I ran about a four-minute mile or so.” Nope. Not even close. And I’d never feel quite the same way about someone who told such a ridiculous lie. The Cape Region is home to many runners. I’d be curious if any of them disagreed.

Weldin Stewart’s weakness a strength?

An incumbent who attracts three primary opponents has to be a weak candidate.

For Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart, that turned out to be an advantage. In a field of four candidates, she bested second-place finisher Mitch Crane of Lewes by less than 2 percentage points.

Crane, who was the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, probably would have won except that he was also running against fellow Democrats Dennis Spivack and Paul Gallagher.

The official vote count, according to the state of Delaware website, was Weldin Stewart, 15,590; Crane, 14,429; Gallagher, 9,454; Spivack, 8129.

Weldin Stewart will go on to face Republican Ben Mobley of Middletown, whom she will likely defeat because of the predominance of the Democratic Party in Delaware, especially New Castle County.

No-growth would be no-go

In my Sept. 11 column about growth and planning, I asked if anyone had a handout for a neighborhood meeting that referred to a “no-growth option.”

Rich Collins of the Positive Growth Alliance sent me some material provided for the Aug 21 meeting. It included an introductory paragraph that said, “Join your family, friends and neighbors to provide input on whether to grow, how and how much to grow and where to grow in the Cape Region.”

So while none of the scenarios presented by the Cape Henlopen Regional Plan members suggested a no-growth option, “whether to grow” was mentioned as a possibility. Which is a mistake.

People aren’t going to be willing to discuss growth in the Cape Region if they think one of the proposals is to end it.

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