We cover a lot of elections at KBIA but Mike Carter's 2012 run for Lt. Governor was bizarre, hilarious, wonderful. We'll explain:
The office of Lieutenant Governor is a strange one: it's highly sought after because it's the second highest position in the state government. Yet there are only three powers of the office as enumerated in the state's constitution. The first is that the Lt. Governor can break a tie in the State Senate. The other two are both about replacing the Governor in the event of his absence or death--so really it's just two powers.
In an election year, you might think of the Lt. Governor position as a "down-ballot" race: those positions at the bottom of the paper ballot along with judgeships, county commissioners, etc. Often these down-ballot races are so obscure, a politician can win with little-to-no experience and a bit of name recognition.
That's the lesson Mike Carter learned when he won a county judge position in Wentzville, MO in 2009. This elected position was so obscure, the town so small, the job could be won with just a few hundred votes. And Carter literally has a machine that can get votes. Despite widespread disapproval of the practice, Carter regularly makes use of "robo-calls" to spam people's phones and voicemail boxes. His strategy is all about name-recognition. The hope is that by time the average voter makes it all the way down the municipal ballot to the obscure positions, Mike Carter's name might just be the only familiar thing on the page.
It's not a scam, it's a fact of local politics. It's the dangerous position we find ourselves in when we vote for things we know nothing about and care nothing about.
"I don't know if the best advertising campaign on Earth can make the voters care about the office of Lt. Governor," Carter has said in an interview.
But a cheap advertising campaign can make voters remember the name Mike Carter.
In the KBIA newsroom we became of aware of Carter mainly because of his hilarious, ubiquitous press releases. They were often missing punctuation and the grammar was always off. Some of them were clearly sent from a smartphone (confirmed by the inclusion of the phrase "sent from iphone APP"). But the releases were most shocking because they so often flew in the face of what we thought of as standard public relations strategy.
Several press releases bragged about the robo-calls Carter was bothering people with. In one release, he alerted newsrooms that the annoying robo-calls were just minutes away as if we were supposed to start a countdown.
Most strangely, he attempted to start a contest that required newsrooms to poll their listeners on which needy Missouri family would get $1000 from Mike Carter. The logistics were confusing and the ploy for attention was transparent.
"I was just trying to think outside the box" he told us in an interview. "What would be a way to reverse the relationship to where [newsrooms] wanted to get a hold of me and would look like buttheads if they didn't. I'm not going to give this donation at Christmas time unless you get a hold of me."
KBIA didn't take the bait and neither did anyone else.
In the end, Mike Carter over played his hand in the race for the Lieutenant Governor's office. His robo-call strategy had proven itself on the local level but he couldn't scale it to the statewide arena. And his unusual, often hilarious, ploys for media attention fell on deaf ears. Yet, we called him up and we're talking about him now because we think his 2012 campaign, as strange as it was, had something to say. One could read it as a stunt or a kind of satirical play that ran in real time. Carter simply points out the pettiness of the job and of our electoral system. This, Carter seems to be saying, is the kind of race our politics deserve.
On this week's episode of CoMo Explained we look back at the 2012 race and give Carter a chance to
explain what went down. Click on the play button above or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes to hear what Mike Carter had to say about his 2012 race. Check this space every Wednesday for a new podcast.
Some entertaining press releases:
- Carter counts down to robo-call o' clock
- Carter announces his latest website, www.didyoublow.com
- Carter brags about controversy over his latest rap commercial
- Carter's $1000 Christmas contest
- Carter challenges all candidates to a sweaty, 1800s style debate in a stuffy room with no AC
- Carter volunteers his own DWI record