NY-22 Minute: Brindisi's Call to Action Off to Slow Start By Luke Perry
Democrats in NY-22 are enthused about Anthony Brindisi challenging Claudia Tenney. The next question is, how can this enthusiasm be harnessed in support of Brindisi's campaign? Donating money appears to be the campaign’s only answer thus far.
The header of Brindisi’s new campaign website reads: “Changing Upstate New York Starts Here,” but when people click to “sign up,” they are redirected to Act Blue, a Democratic political action committee. All you can do there is donate money. The rest of Brindisi’s website includes an introduction to Brindisi and an explanation of why he is running for Congress. Another Act Blue request for money is sandwiched between these two narratives.
There is no disputing House candidates need to raise money, and the more, the better. The recent special election in Georgia (6th district) was the most expensive House race ever with a total of $55 million being spent by candidates and outside groups. Average victorious House candidates have spent approximately $1.2 million to $1.6 million per cycle over the last decade. Brindisi probably declared this early in part to help raise money.
And this is not intended to discount grassroots mobilization by liberals since last year's election. Rather, campaigns are best served when firing on all cylinders from the outset. Claudia Tenney’s website has all the essentials, including some Brindisi is lacking, including “contact” and “issues” links. Moreover, Tenney is constantly issuing press releases and regularly provides e-mail newsletter updates.
Of course, Tenney won a House campaign and has been in office for six months. Each member of Congress also gets a hefty allowance for personnel and professional expenses. This is one of the many reasons incumbents have an advantage over challengers.
Still, digital press releases and newsletters don’t cost much. Nor does having issue statements in place, some point of contact publicly posted, and someone on social media quickly responding to Tenney’s statements and actions.
It may not be possible to pay people (as Tenney can) to do this kind of work, hence Brindisi’s fundraising splash. Perhaps that is something people can sign up for to help change upstate New York.
Challengers start out losing by definition and need to strive for perfection to emerge victorious in a typical House race. Just days in, Brindisi is leaving points on the field.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College.