Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ben Hall's bad week

The bad weeks are running together at this point.

Top mayoral challenger Ben Hall refused to attend a candidate screening with incumbent Annise Parker at the Houston Chronicle Friday afternoon, just 15 minutes before it was scheduled to start.

“The Chronicle has failed to provide unfiltered information or to inform the Houston electorate, instead serving as a megaphone for the interests of Ms. Parker and her cronies,” said Julia Smekalina, press secretary for the Ben Hall campaign. “This final refusal to accommodate increased transparency and access is further evidence of their loyalty to only a select few at City Hall.”

The release cited failed negotiations with the Chronicle to “open the screening process to the general public or members of the media. No allowance was made for the Hall campaign to film the meeting for distribution. Negotiations with the Chronicle ended in a disrespectful ‘No’ from their executive vice president.”

Disrespecting the Chronicle right back seems to be a big hit with Republicans.  They have been squawking since Labor Day about poor picked-on Hall and the mean old newspaper.  I'm sure there will be some reaction to yesterday's development from Jolly and the new and improved Khronically Obsessed in due time.  I'll update this post when it shows up.

But back to Ben Hall and his bad week.

In the final weeks before November's election, the only time top mayoral challenger Ben Hall appears in television ads could be in those crafted by the opposition.

After spending more than $1.3 million since July - most of it out of his own pocket - public records show that, as of Thursday, Hall had not purchased any more airtime leading up to the Nov. 5 vote.

"I don't understand why he's running at this point," said Bob Stein, Rice University political science professor. "Why announce a campaign months ago, put millions of your own money in, spend very early on, attack the mayor and build momentum only not to spend the money?"

Hall's campaign played down a report on KRIV (Channel 26) that the campaign did not plan to run any more television ads before the election.

That was the very last line in Fox26 reporter Greg Groogan's account.

(Political insider and UH professor Bob) Stein speculated that perhaps Hall's mediocre debate appearance, coupled with poll numbers that are not definitive about whether he has the support to make a runoff, have persuaded him not "to throw good money after bad."


Records of advertising purchases show Hall's campaign usually bought television spots in two-week chunks, often just before air times. Parker's campaign paid for slots as much as a month in advance, following what (Stein's colleague Brandon) Rottinghaus and Stein called conventional political wisdom.

Because the most critical days are those immediately before Election Day, they said candidates often purchase those dates early and work backward through the calendar.

The incumbent has scheduled hundreds of television spots on local and cable channels for the last three weeks, which Stein says gives her a definitive edge over her eight challengers.

I think this story must be an example of the Chronicle "bias" Hall -- and Big Jolly and Dr. Whited and those others -- constantly whine about.  Horrible, isn't it?  I wonder why they don't blame the local Fox affiliate for negative accounts of Hall's candidacy?

Update: It took all weekend and half of Monday, but there's finally a response from Jennings and Whited posted.  It's not as sputteringly indignant as I was expecting., so there's that...

I don't hold a high opinion of political consultants as you know, but I'm still on speaking terms with a few, and what they say is that Hall's campaign probably neglected to purchase his ad time "backwards" from Election Day months ago, as described above.  That's called incompetence, and wouldn't surprise me a bit based on what Hall's team has already demonstrated.

We might still see some TV ads and mailers from Hall, of course.  I just don't think it's going to make any difference in the outcome.  He's either going to make a runoff or he is not; that feels like a pure coin flip at this point.  And that could also change in these last few weeks, but any movement won't have anything to do with what Ben Hall does or doesn't do.

The mayor is still coasting to re-election, runoff or no.  As long as her team doesn't make a big mistake, this race is over.

Texpate was ahead of me on this and has a POV on the ed board boycott by Hall with which I completely agree.

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