Republicans and Democrats have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars this year on voter canvasses that they hope will not only turn out the vote Tuesday, but also give them the high-tech targeting of specific voter households.
In most elections, the get-out-the-vote effort is all important. But in this presidential year, with the governor's race and tax initiatives on the Utah ballot, most Utah registered voters will vote anyway, political party strategists believe.Thus, while it is tradition and mandatory to have some kind of get-out-the-vote effort, few campaigns are going overboard.
But that doesn't mean the $110,000 the Republicans spent on their voter canvass and the $100,000 was spent in vain by the Democrats.
The statewide canvasses were the first conducted by the parties in some years. The Republicans tried a statewide canvass in 1986, but while it was completed there are differing views on how valid the results were.
This year, Sen. Orrin Hatch's campaign contracted with the NICE Corp., Ogden, a telemarketing firm, to conduct a statewide canvass. The idea was that the state party and other GOP candidates, mainly Gov. Norm Bangerter and Rep. Jim Hansen, would buy part of Hatch's canvass.
According to GOP State Chairman Craig Moody, Hatch, who has raised almost $3 million in his re-election bid, ended up paying most of the cost. Bangerter kicked in $30,000, instead of the $60,000 he originally considered, and Hansen didn't buy any of the canvass at all.
Moody is enthusiastic about the NICE lists, even though the statewide effort was scaled back and some Democratic strongholds were left out of the survey after Bangerter and Hansen cooled to the idea.
"We have about 115,000 targeted households. We know if they are Republican, Democratic or independent and who they favor in the major races," Moody said.
The information can be invaluable. For example, Moody is a Utah House member seeking re-election. His Sandy district was targeted, and about 4,000 households out of the 10,000 in his district called by the NICE telemarketers. Moody knows who favors him, who he might contact for campaign contributions, and who is undecided and could use a personal telephone call or direct mail letter.
State Democratic Chairman Randy Horiuchi is equally excited about his canvass. The Democratic Party contracted with the National Coalition For An Effective Congress, a Democratic group, to target areas where Utah Democrats could make the greatest gains. The Democrats will spend between $100,000 and $125,000 in telephoning 150,000 to 175,000 homes in order to get 75,000-to-100,000 voters identified.
"We don't have a big Senate race like Hatch who can dump a lot of money into our party," Horiuchi said. "We can't buy our way like the Republicans, we have to sweat it out."
Yet, Horiuchi admits that the Democratic Party itself has raised about $200,000 this year.
Moody said Republicans have raised between $250,000 and $300,000 for their party. "But that includes about $100,000 raised by an associate group, the Committee To Re-elect a Republican Majority," he said. That group, started by some House GOP members, decided earlier this year to raise their own money to help elect Republicans to the Legislature.
Moody said they've been very successful. "We're giving, on the average, our House candidates $1,000, and as much as $2,000." Senate candidates get more. Moody said he's concerned that a House race this year will cost between $7,000 and $10,000; a state Senate race between $15,000 and $30,000.
"That's a lot of money (to win) a part-time job that pays $3,000 a year (the average legislator's pay). We must honestly question what political campaigns are coming to in Utah. This year we have some Democrats on cable TV in Cache County, the first TV ad for a legislative race ever."
Although he dislikes what legislative races have become, Moody is dedicated to raising more money than Democrats and "computerize every race," to better identify and reach voters. The party has even hired Moody's younger brother's computer firm to help bring the Republicans into the information explosion age.
While the NICE lists allow Republicans to raise funds in more sophisticated ways, Horiuchi's canvass lets his candidates know where the minority-party Democrats are hiding. His main financial groups are still employee groups.
"I act like a traffic police officer. I'm massively involved in meeting with PAC groups and coordinating money, directing it here and there to our candidates," said Horiuchi. As in years past, the Utah Education Association, the Utah Public Employees Association and the state AFL-CIO have contributed to Democratic candidates Horiuchi suggests. State lawmakers exempted themselves from reporting campaign contributions before an election, they only have to be reported after the election. So the exact amounts that candidates receive, and from whom, is unknown - for now.