"We'll continue to be as visible as we can be," Hession says, cradling a 6 am hit of caffeine at one of the small tables in the downtown Starbucks.
"Look, he has a $300,000 advantage. I don't want to tell him what I'm doing this weekend," Verner says, grabbing a bag of peanuts out of her gray Prius in the minutes before Monday's city council meeting. "We are running a grassroots campaign and we will be getting out the vote."
For both candidates, these final days mean waving signs and ringing doorbells and making phone calls -- essentially working from well before sunrise to well after sunset. Hession and Verner alike are cramming as much campaigning as possible around their jobs (in Verner's case, her job plus city council).
"I get so busy I forget to eat," she says, ripping open the peanuts. "This is the first thing I've eaten since 4 this morning."
In addition to all the foot-soldier work of campaigning, the last-minute push for visibility will include some new television commercials starting as early as today.
Here is where the disparity in fundraising (a record-high quarter-million dollars for Hession to less than $100,000 for Verner) comes into play: The Hession campaign has purchased nearly $50,000 of air time for the last three weeks before election day, to roughly $11,000 for Verner's campaign.
Ad contracts at local television stations show a stark divide. Each is pretty equal at KXLY with contracts showing expenditures of $3,500 to $4,000. The big difference comes at the more expensive (thanks to bigger ratings) stations. At KREM and KSKN, Hession has purchased 83 slots for $22,735 to Verner's 22 slots at $2,105.
At KHQ, Hession has purchased 107 slots for $21,060 to Verner's 30 at $5,530.
Verner says she is hopeful good placement can overcome sheer volume.
"I understand one of our ads was shown in the top of the fifth inning during the World Series (Game 4) yesterday. That's good," Verner says.
Judith Gilmore says the Verner campaign is airing a new spot called "Pieces," intended as a parody of the Hession attack ad that depicted Verner as a puzzle, taking a portrait of her apart for purported inconsistencies.
"We put Mary back together again," Gilmore says, "never mentioning anything about that other ad. We think the voters can make the connection."
Citizen Vince and Today's Youth
Last week's Chase Youth Forum, where city council and mayoral candidates were invited to speak to The Youth of Today, created a weird literary echo here at The Inlander.
Candidates speaking earnestly, and even passionately, to an audience who could not vote for them brought to mind one of the more wonderful chapters in Jess Walter's award-winning thriller about voting, where a candidate gives the sweatiest, most electrifying stump speech of his life to a crowd of felons and late-night no-counts at Sam's Pit who either can't vote... or won't bother.
The big difference, of course, is ambiance. The City Council chambers last week had no whiskey, barbecue, Cadillacs or other vices. Still, it was fun to watch the candidates do their best to woo The Youth of Today, who paid polite attention but did not refrain from fidgeting the moment they lost interest. The Youth of Today have many things on their mind and no patience for a message gone astray. There's something we can learn from this.
Richard Rush was perhaps the unluckiest of the candidates in this regard, often finding himself -- deep into his allotted two minutes -- stuttering a tangled explanation of sidewalk ordinances or planting street trees. The Youth of Today were busy texting.
"I am the youngest council member ever elected," Brad Stark opened with a chirp, only to take a wrong turn: "Spokane is an exciting place to be right now -- Forbes magazine rated Spokane among the 20 best places to do business." The Youth of Today hit "shuffle" on their iPods.
Stark did pummel Rush in the mock election held afterward, 48-22. But the geriatric Steve Corker drew the most votes of all, 49. Perhaps it was Corker's grandfatherly way of repeating, "the older I get the more important it is to be around young people," but we suspect it's because he was the only candidate to say, "Hey, visit my Website." The Youth of Today hoped there would be games.
Knowledge of the music scene may have made the difference in the mock vote for mayor, won 46-24 by Verner. Hession's opener included a genial, "I just took a test over at The Inlander and I didn't know who won BOBFest, I'm sorry to say." The Youth of Today finished their homework. No rimshot for the mayor.
Verner, in her closing remarks, had written down the lyrics to "If Everyone Cared," by Nickelback and "Meant to Live," by Switchfoot... although at the time she mistakenly attributed it to John Mayer.
Despite the gaffe, The Youth of Today slowly nodded their heads in time, eyes hidden behind mysterious shades.