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“Mayors races can be more fun. They’re most tangible to people,” Vogel said. “People know their mayor, and political ads aren’t going to fool voters. You are talking about local issues that people are familiar with and impact their everyday life.”
Vogel is also working in New York with Babylon Town Supervisor Steve Bellone in this year’s Suffolk County executive race. Years ago, Vogel was Rep. Steve Israel’s (D-N.Y.) deputy chief of staff, so there is a geographic connection, but there was also symbolic potential by challenging incumbent Steve Levy. Levy was elected as a Democrat but switched parties to run for governor in 2010. He abruptly dropped out of the county executive race at the end of March to end a federal investigation into his fundraising activities.
Some firms try to carve out a geographic niche, leading them to races further down the ballot.
Seattle-based Democratic media firm Kully Hall has worked with Democrats including Rep. Kurt Schrader (Ore.), former Rep. Walt Minnick (Idaho), former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.).
Founding partner Brandon Hall managed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s re-election last year in Nevada, but on Tuesday, the firm was focused on getting Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani into the runoff for Las Vegas mayor. She did, by 15 votes.
She’ll have a tough fight against Carolyn Goodman, wife of current mayor Oscar Goodman, in the June race. But Hall will have an even bigger battle next year when Tester faces Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) in one of the country’s biggest Senate races that could decide the Senate majority.
Even though off-year races don’t have the same impact inside the Beltway, these media consultants are not the party strategists who appear on cable news, but practitioners looking to hone their craft and their message for next year’s critical elections.
“There is an opportunity for Democrats to put a spotlight on Republican over-reach and energize the Democratic base,” Lapp said. “In 2012, drawing strong contrasts on the choices and consequences of a Republican agenda will be critical.”
For some media consultants, off-year races just don’t add up.
“We would love to do more off year work,” said one national GOP media consultant. “But signing it is sometimes more trouble than it is worth.” In some cases, larger, D.C.-based firms are pitted against smaller, local firms when pitching candidates in the off-year.
According to the GOP source, “For the most part it isn’t worth chasing five House of Delegates races to do some small cable buys.”