As crunch time approached with Tuesday's primary vote, candidates moved into high gear on getting their name and message out to the public. While all candidates say the best way to gain a vote comes via face-to-face contact, the power of the electronic tube cannot be denied.
"In a lot of ways it's a very effective medium because you can have an image to go with the message," said Josh Kivett, campaign manager for Republican U.S. Sen. James Inhofe. "People are very busy these days and that's one way of communicating your message."
Inhofe was out of the gate early this campaign season with many ad buys during the month of June. The three-term incumbent spent more than $233,000 on television air buys with local and cable stations, records show. He led the pack of primary contenders on television face time like Secretariat at the Belmont Stakes.
An examination of all television buys by Oklahoma Gazette found local and state candidates spent nearly two-thirds of a million dollars sending images and messages out to the masses. By the time Tuesday's election finally came, candidates had spread their talking points from NBC's "Today" show to Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes."
"While broadcast is the most expensive medium, it is also an effective way to reach more voters," said Tres Savage, press secretary for Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Rice. "Having served two years in the Oklahoma state Senate representing an Oklahoma City district, he is using his television message to introduce himself to more voters statewide."
NEXT IN LINE
A review of records shows 10 candidates, ranging from the U.S. Senate to county sheriff, wrote checks to have their slogans appear on television. After Inhofe's tremendous buys, the Republican candidates for Oklahoma Corporation Commission were next in line.
Dana Murphy spent more than $84,000 while her primary opponent Rob Johnson was close by with nearly $83,000. However, Johnson also split some ad buys with Oklahoma County Commissioner Republican candidate J.D. Johnston, costing $66,000. The split buy involves the two candidates sharing 30-second commercial spots with two 15-second ads.
Johnston also split buys with Joe Lester, who is seeking the Cleveland County sheriff post. On his own, Johnston paid more than $34,000 for commercial time. He is trying to unseat fellow Republican Brent Rinehart for the office of District 2 Oklahoma County Commissioner.
The race for Oklahoma County Clerk saw a flurry of action as well. In their bitter campaign, former County Commissioner Stan Inman spent more than three times the amount incumbent clerk Carolynn Caudill forked out for television spots.
Other candidates vying for the same seat and facing off on television were Republicans Steve Russell and Kyle Loveless for the state Senate District 45 seat. Russell spent more than $10,000 for television time slots, while Loveless went the split route. He joined with Lester for $8,000 in commercial time on cable.
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Ted Ryals booked $1,771 worth of time on cable as well.
Several candidates spent more of their ad buys in July, with emphasis on the remaining days of the primary season. However, Inhofe took a different approach. The staunch conservative used the month of June to fill the airwaves with his face and voice, but skipped the primary vote month of July.
"We have a strategy we feel confident in that will remind folks of the positive accomplishments Sen. Inhofe has achieved for Oklahoma," Kivett said.
Gazette surveyed the records of four local television broadcast stations as well as local cable provider Cox Communications.
The total amount purchased for air time was $645,213. Candidates spent $570,262 on local stations KWTV Channel 9, KFOR Channel 4, KOCO Channel 5 and KOKH Channel 25. Cox reported $74,951 in candidate ad purchases.
KWTV raked in the most campaign funds with $207,402.
But the future of television campaign commercials may change. Candidates are now placing the same television ads on their campaign Web sites. While it may seem economical to cut out the television advertising completely, Kivett believes stations are still the viable way to go.
"It would save money, but I think you need a good mix of all of the ways to communicate your message with voters," Kivett said. "TV is a very effective form. The Internet and new media communications are a very effective way of doing that. But I think you need a mix to have a successful campaign, and I think every campaign would agree with that. If you have the resources, you want to reach out to people in as many ways as possible." "Scott Cooper