The Brief: Why Aren’t the Mayoral Candidates on TV?

Plus: the Condo King throws his hat in the (council) ring, and the revival of Market East.

Nothing to see here. |

Nothing to see here. |

By March 9, 2007, Philadelphians were already growing tired of seeing Tom Knox’s mug on television. They’d heard about Dwight Evans, and his metaphorical table, Bob Brady was on the air too, touting his negotiating chops and the endorsement of the FOP and then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham (fat lot of good that did her; Brady is now backing Anthony Williams). True, the 2007 mayoral favorite Chaka Fattah didn’t go on the air until mid-April. But then again, he got crushed. Michael Nutter? He held his powder longer than most, unleashing his remarkably effective television ad blitz in late March.

Maybe all the candidates this time around imagine they’re the next Michael Nutter, because so far, there’s been not a single TV spot in the mayoral campaign. Lest you think television no longer matters as a medium in this age of Rokus and DVRs and the like, remember that Governor Tom Wolf—a virtual political unknown—had already crushed his primary competitors by the end of February last year. Believe me: the mayoral candidates are not abstaining from television ads because they think it’ll help them come primary day. So what’s going on? And what does that mean for the race? A few things:

  1. There’s just no money. We’ve covered this before. By historical standards, the candidates are broke. Or at least they were as of January 1, when the candidates were last required to file campaign finance statements. One assumes the fundraising pace has picked up a bit since then, but apparently none of the candidates have socked away enough to get a jump on their competitors with a meaningful ad buy. Now, it’s possible that various well-funded independent expenditure and dark money outfits are primed to go on TV. But wouldn’t that be weird? Wouldn’t it just hammer home the unsettling fact that the candidates’ don’t control their own messages if the first big media blitz isn’t even a message-they-approve, but rather one chosen by some mysterious third party?
  2. The candidates got a really late start this cycle. We’ve mentioned this as well. It’s partly because of Council President Darrell Clarke and his Hamlet-act, and partly because of Ken Trujillo’s late exit (and Jim Kenney’s late entry), and partly because … well, these candidates just aren’t quite as together as were the 2007 contenders. It’s certainly conceivable that one or more of the big candidates has the resources and desire to be on TV right now, but just hasn’t quite gotten organized enough yet to produce a solid spot.
  3. So what does all this mean? Expect a pell-mell, mad-rush, insane, crazy, jam-packed conclusion to this campaign. The money will eventually get spent (be it by the campaigns, or by allied independent expenditure committees); the television ads will air, and they’ll air in bunches. April is looking like a great month to spend some time out of town.

Don’t Miss…

  • Citified’s Holly Otterbein broke the news late Friday that Condo King, developer and general Big-Man-On-Rittenhouse Allan Domb seems primed to run for City Council at-large. It’s a fascinating development.
  • This long read from Jeff Gammage at the Inquirer  on the redevelopment of Market East. “If Philadelphia were a basketball court, Market Street East would be that inexplicable dead spot on the floor, the place where the ball just doesn’t bounce.” That looks like it’s about to change.
  • Special interests are already lining up in opposition to Gov. Wolf’s plan to raise the sales tax and (here’s where the special interests come in) do away with the fairly non-sensical exemptions to the sales tax.