Hey, so have you been following the 9th District Congressional race? If not, no fear, because I have. I have followed it closely for a few reasons: 

  1. I live in the new 9th district (by one street thanks to the new redistricting) and was excited to see a fresh face and a twenty something like myself running to represent the district. 
  2. My colleague Jason Russell took a leave of absence from the Civic Commons to run candidate Graham Veysey’s campaign. As a result, I’ve gotten some inside scoop. 
  3. The Civic Commons also works regularly with North Water Partners, Graham’s business in Cleveland, which is how I met Graham.

Since starting to follow the race, I’ve been pretty frustrated with the coverage and I’d like to tell you about it...

As we all know news is market driven and seeks to give the audience what it wants or expects. It is extremely difficult for an unknown candidate to win any race, but particularly a highly contested democratic race, when the media controls the message. Money and stature are key, but when you don’t yet have either, you need to hustle and make the most out of the “free” or local media coverage. It can

be a great challenge as a candidate whose shot at winning is most often described as long. Despite a candidates chances at winning, voters should have the opportunity to know about all the candidates. How can we fulfill our duty in this democratic society without knowing our options? Since I’ve got some friends on the inside I’ve been able to keep up but everyone else does not have the same advantage I do. I’ve realized it is quite a challenge to run against established politicians as the new, unknown candidate, who likes to push the envelope.

The 9th Congressional district race is dominated by incumbents Dennis Kucinich from Cleveland and Marci Kaptur from Toledo. The redistricting in Ohio has forced these candidates who were previously known as friends to fight for their seat in a new district that combines both of their territories. These incumbents have spent years in Washington, they have dedicated constituents and the media is mirroring this legacy with its coverage. Graham Veysey is the third democratic candidate for the North Coast. Unlike Kucinich or Kaptur the media has not given him much of chance

Why is it that an unknown candidate can’t break through in a race ? Shouldn’t voters have the option of knowing all the candidates, not matter what their chances?

Without copious funds for prime-time commercials the Veysey campaign has counted on the local media markets to cover the campaign trail. It has been a great challenge to get anyone to pay attention. Some markets are easier to break into than others, however, inequality in representation has occurred across the North Coast.

Overall, Kaptur and Kucinich have dominated the airways and newsprint, but where was the underdog Graham Veysey? Commentators have noted that the two major candidates are actually quite similar in their policy positions. If that is the case then why cover just two-thirds of the race, leaving out the alternative third?

Graham Veysey’s strategy from the beginning has been to discuss the issues and push the other candidates to think hard about their positions on issues like poverty, debt and women’s health. Debates between the candidates have been energetic and interesting. In the end it seems most media outlets stick with what they know. How can this be changed to be more democratic? The answer lays in social media and places like the Civic Commons, of course. Social media has already changed the democratic process across the world, so perhaps this tool will help equalize the field in the future as people move away from traditional news sources, perhaps. However, social media was not powerful enough for this race. Getting recognition as an unknown candidate truly is a David and Goliath feat. Luckily every race has a timeline and this one ends March 6th.

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Copyright © 2012 Taryn Gress; available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

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