Campaign consultants help supervisor hopefuls
“Many receive advice; only the wise profit from it.”
During this election season in Nevada County, the comment made by a 1st-century Roman writer couldn’t be more true.
Nearly $34,000 has been spent by candidates on political advice for the March 2 local election. The political consultants do everything from researching voting behavior to creating mailings and campaign timelines.
District 5 candidate Ted Owens from Truckee and District 1 candidate Nate Beason of Nevada City are being advised by local political consultant Donna Kingwell. She ran the 2002 campaign for District 4 Supervisor Robin Sutherland.
It is the first time Owens has used a political consultant.
“I haven’t used them before because it’s a small town and you know where to go and what to do,” Owens said of Truckee. “What makes it difficult are the rules and regulations.”
The Truckee town councilman, who is running unopposed for supervisor in the March 2 election, said Kingwell helped him coordinate his campaign, especially in relation to the Elections Office and meeting deadlines. She helped him compose a timeline, for example, for getting his message to absentee voters.
“You just don’t want to make a dumb mistake because you didn’t know,” Owens said. He paid Kingwell $3,200.
Beason, however, who is running for the District 1 seat against Olivia Diaz and Josh Ramey, has paid Kingwell $21,000 so far. Meanwhile, in District 2, incumbent Supervisor Sue Horne has paid a Sacramento-based consulting company nearly $10,000 in her re-election bid.
Kingwell said the cost varies on the candidates – how long she will be working with the candidate and what services they want.
Political consulting isn’t a novel idea, but the creation of the political consultation field is fairly recent – 1969, according to the American Association of Political Consultants.
More than a billion dollars is spent annually on campaign communication, according to the association.
Kingwell has done political consulting for several decades. Although she took her first Nevada County job in the mid-’80s, she made a name for herself after managing Sutherland’s successful defeat of incumbent supervisor Elizabeth Martin in District 4.
Kingwell said she screens her candidates to ensure their goals are generally akin to hers.
“No issue is black and white … but you must have something in common,” she said.
Although she does not look for party affiliation, Kingwell said she generally ends up with Republican-oriented candidates.
She creates a 15- to 20-page campaign plan, advising how and when to drop mailings or – in extreme cases – warning candidates about areas in which they are unlikely to do well, based on voting patterns.
Kingwell said she avoids doing opposition research or digging into opponents’ private histories.
“There is a fine line between rotten campaigns and fighting back or pointing out differences,” Kingwell said. “I wouldn’t do it because it’s not in me … I don’t want any part of it.”
Kingwell said she doesn’t send out negative mailers, but she will rebut an attack. She said her services focus on advice such as avoiding a campaign office unless the space is donated.
While some consultants continue to work with candidates after they are elected, Kingwell said her responsibility ends after election night.
“I’ll get you elected, but after that you’re on your own,” Kingwell said. “Once they’re there, they have a responsibility, and that doesn’t include me.”
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