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Ben McAdams, Mark Crockett make final push to reach voters

Published: Friday, Sept. 4 2015 2:29 a.m. MDT

Mark Crockett, left, and Ben McAdams, Salt Lake County mayoral candidates, talk during a break in their debate on Mark Crockett, left, and Ben McAdams, Salt Lake County mayoral candidates, talk during a break in their debate on "The Doug Wright Show" on KSL NewsRadio in Salt Lake City, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Candidates in the hotly contested Salt Lake County mayoral race are taking two distinct approaches to reaching undecided voters in the final days before the election.

Fundraising and spending by Democrat Ben McAdams has outpaced Republican Mark Crockett throughout the race. In the final quarter, McAdams has dedicated a significant amount of his ample war chest to unchallenged TV advertising.

McAdams has spent $350,000 in the past six weeks, with $142,000 used for political commercials that will run through Tuesday. An additional $35,000 went toward TV production costs, according to campaign manager Justin Miller.

McAdams said TV ads are an effective way of introducing himself to voters. The three TV spots have generated daily feedback, especially from viewers saying they appreciate McAdams' positive bipartisan message amidst a sea of scathing negative political ads being aired in other races.

"We all knew that with a campaign this size it was going to be important to be on TV and get our message out to voters," McAdams said. "I'm surprised (Crockett) decided not to go there."

Crocket, the Republican, has been absent from television campaigning. He said he decided early that TV advertisements would be lost in the sea of ads from high-profile races. Instead, Crockett is using much of the remaining $90,000 in his campaign to pay for targeted mailers in the final days of the campaign. 

"We're going to be going directly with mailers to undecided households," Crockett said. "We're going to focus our dollars where we think it counts most. We've run a very lean campaign, just like how we would try to run the county."

Some funds will also be allocated to replace about 1,500 signs that Crockett said have gone missing in the past few weeks.

Matthew Burbank, a political science professor at the University of Utah, said the results of the election will test whether McAdams has been able to outspend the surge of Republican enthusiasm that presidential candidate Mitt Romney is sending across the nation.

"If McAdams wins, we'll be able to say that advertising helped and the amount of money he spent really helped," Burbank said. "If he hadn't done that, there would be virtually no chance that he could win this race," Burbank said.

McAdams took in $258,000 in contributions this quarter, short of the $277,000 he reported in September. The Democrat has less than $60,000 left leading up to the election, according to a financial disclosure report filed Tuesday.

The McAdams campaign has raised $830,000 to date, nearly double Crockett's $468,000.

Crockett has seen a steady increase in contributions throughout his campaign, jumping from $24,000 in April to $170,000 this quarter. About $55,000 came from Crockett's own pocket. 

Crockett reported $150,000 worth of expenditures for this quarter, with approximately $84,000 spent in advertising, billboards and mailers.

Burbank said Crockett's decision to stay off the airwaves was a fiscally sound decision in light of his smaller budget, despite the appearance that his campaign doesn't wish to challenge the McAdams message when it comes to TV ads.

"If you're only going to run a few ads, if you don't have a big budget, it's not clear there would be any advantage at all," Burbank said. "The way that political ads tend to be effective is when people see them repeatedly but not to the point of being saturated by them."

E-mail: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @McKenzieRomero

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