I’m one of many political activists who believe yard signs are a very effective campaign tool.
One candidate who is using yard signs to spectacular advantage this summer is former Kansas City Royals’ second baseman Frank White, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Jackson County Legislature.
White’s opponent in the Aug. 5 primary is Sherwood Smith, a retired Kansas City firefighter. Under normal circumstances — that is, without a former All-Star second baseman in the picture — Smith would be a formidable candidate. He presents and speaks well, and he has served as political director for the International Association of Fire Fighters Local No. 42 and later as the first African-American president of the Missouri State Council of Fire Fighters.
Along with The Kansas City Star, the firefighters’ union is the best organized and most lethal political force in Kansas City. As former Mayor Charles B. Wheeler likes to say, “You can beat The Star, and you can beat the firefighters, but you can’t beat The Star and the firefighters.”
Not that they’re together that often, because The Star almost always opposes the firefighters, who generally are most concerned about union interests.
But as I was saying, White’s yard signs are outstanding. Credit for the concept — the words “elect Frank White” inscribed in blue between the red seams of a baseball — goes to local p.r. and political consultant Pat O’Neill, of O’Neill Marketing & Event Management Inc. in Westport.
O’Neill, whose late father was also a gifted p.r. man, has many successful political campaigns under his belt. The biggest upset he was involved in occurred in 2002, when Wheeler, then out of office for 23 years, defeated then-state Rep. Henry Rizzo for the Democratic nomination for Missouri Senate and went on to be elected to a four-year term.
Why and how did Wheeler win? In my opinion, he had the best yard sign I’ve seen in 40 years around Kansas City politics.
Here it is:
…Now O’Neill has Frank White as a client. And what do you do with a candidate like that — someone who just might have the second-highest name recognition in Kansas City, after the one and only George Brett?
You don’t have to introduce him to voters; you don’t have to put out a lot of “white papers” (although White has those); and you don’t have to raise a ton of money to promote him. In fact, when the first round of campaign finance reports were filed, Sherwood Smith had raised much more money than White.
What you do is put his name on a baseball and tell people he’s running for office. Let the words “Frank White” — sandwiched between the seams of a baseball — tell the story.
O’Neill put it this way: “My first thought (regarding strategy on signage) was, “Frank White’s running for something. Whatever it is, ‘Let’s elect!’ “
You’ve seen that sign…Everybody has. Here it is.
Congratulations, Pat. As sure as the sun came up this morning, you’ve got a winner.