Politics

#WhoMailedIt: KPCC breaks down the political mailers of election 2016

Machine Operator Lucio Sandoval inserts campaign mailers into an address printer at Mellady Direct Marketing in Santa Clarita, Calif. on Thursday morning, Oct. 6, 2016. Campaigns can buy voter data relating to age, party affiliation, gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
Machine Operator Lucio Sandoval inserts campaign mailers into an address printer at Mellady Direct Marketing in Santa Clarita, Calif. on Thursday morning, Oct. 6, 2016. Campaigns can buy voter data relating to age, party affiliation, gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

"When you control the mail, you control information."

Those words were uttered by the mail carrier Newman on "Seinfeld" but could easily apply to this year's campaign season. As ever, campaigns are fighting for victory via California's mailboxes.

While the stream of mail might be an inconvenience for voters, it's a critical part of many campaign strategies. That's especially true in local races, where candidates have few alternatives to election mailers.

KPCC has been collecting political mail this year through our #WhoMailedIt project. Several themes reappear on mailers for different candidates in different races, so we thought we'd point some out. Of course, showing these mailers doesn't mean we endorse their messages; KPCC doesn't make political endorsements.

Here's a KPCC taxonomy of political mailers. If we're missing something, email us at whomailedit@kpcc.org or tag us on social media with #WhoMailedIt.

The Trump connection mailer

With Donald Trump looking at a landslide loss in California, local campaigns are finding ways to tie their opponents to the controversial Republican — whether or not their opponents actually are Republicans.

The mailers in the top row tie Republicans to Trump. The first draws parallels between Trump and L.A. County Supervisor, state senate candidate and longtime Republican Mike Antonovich. The second connects Trump and Kathryn Barger, an aide to Antonovich running to replace him on the Board of Supervisors.

The mailers in the second row attack democratic Assembly candidates Cheryl Brown and Laura Friedman. Trump-themed mailers have been popping up in California all year

The crossed arms mailer

"Can you believe it?" these skeptical female voters, with their crossed arms, seem to ask as they stare with conviction into the camera.

The mailers below both come from the same state senate race, the contest for Senate District 25. One attacks Republican Mike Antonovich. The other lambastes democrat Anthony Portantino.

The where is it on the ballot mailer

With overstuffed 2016 ballots being called "too darn long," it can be hard to find a given race or measure. So some mailers are making sure voters know exactly where they can find specific measures.

That's the strategy in these two mailers for City of Los Angeles measures, which remind voters which page to cast their vote on.

https://twitter.com/maurawalz/status/793622583795027968

The which Democrat is the real Democrat mailer

With California's top-two system, two members of the same party can square off on the general election ballot. That's the case in Southern California races for the state Assembly in the 43rd district in L.A. County and the 47th district in the Inland Empire.

In both contests, two Democrats are vying for the same seat.

The mailer on top comes from an outside group supporting Eloise Reyes, who's running to the left of incumbent Assemblymember Cheryl Brown. The one below asks voters to pick the second Democrat for Assembly listed on their ballot, Laura Friedman. It could be considered a cousin of the 'where is it on the ballot' mailers.

The creative mailer

Laura Friedman's opponent, fellow Democrat Ardy Kassakhian, has sent out perhaps the most unusual item we've seen this year.

https://twitter.com/WeboChapin/status/788830114209419264

The full set of mailers

Voter Brittany Faix sent in this image of her political mail to KPCC.

"My husband and I have been doing our own little experiment collecting our political mail for the past month," Faix said. "We noticed an unusual volume of mail from one candidate!"

Faix has received 19 mailers from Assembly candidate Laura Friedman, including six in a single day. She said her household has collected about 2.5 pounds of political mail this month.

Faix wasn't the only one. Through #WhoMailedIt, KPCC received a huge number of mailers from candidates in the 43rd Assembly District race — mostly from Friedman and Ardy Kassakhian. All together, we've collected more than 175 pieces of mail from just this race.

 

The slate mailers

One familiar genre of political mail is the slate mailer. These cards, which recommend a "slate" of candidates and measures, are not always what they seem.

When you see an asterisk next to a candidate's name, that means that campaign paid to be on the mailer. Candidates typically pay a few cents to make it onto the mailer; for judicial candidates, it might be the only type of political mail they can afford

Mailers also come from groups that may not be exactly what they seem — read the fine print.

Sides of two different slate mailers. Of the 16 visible endorsements here, 15 were paid for.

The big and small mailers

The trend in political mailers is towards huge mailers, which campaigns figure are too big to ignore. But those are more expensive and #WhoMailedIt submissions have varied greatly in size.

 

The letter from the wife

Three nearly identical letters hit the mailboxes of voters in three different parts of the state last week. They all came from the wives of GOP candidates.

https://twitter.com/a_mendelson/status/791721100329689089?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

The letters featured identical fonts on identical letterhead, seeking to influence three separate races. They all have the same date and each features images of the families of the candidate running for office.

The 100,000 personalized postcards

The group supporting Proposition HHH, a housing bond in the city of L.A., are sending out 100,000 personalized postcards.

The mailers feature messages penned by volunteers, according to Tommy Newman, an advisor to the United Way's Yes on Proposition HHH campaign. He said the mail campaign is targeting female voters with a record of voting in-person in presidential elections. 

Picture sent by Tommy Newman

The Anthony Weiner mailer

KPCC also received this.

This mailer hit mailboxes in Orange County right as the former Congressman's texts led the FBI to reopen an investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails.

The mailer was sent by an outside group attacking state senate candidate Josh Newman by tying him to Weiner.