The changing landscape of local campaigning – News – seacoastonline.com


PORTSMOUTH At least two City Council candidates have taken to the internet to raise money for their campaigns.

Brian Kelly, director of marketing and development for Seacoast Repertory Theatre, and Jason Walls, director of technical marketing for QA Cafe in Portsmouth, have created GoFundme pages to raise money for their campaigns.

Kelly has used GoFundMe pages before to raise money for various causes and was comfortable using it to raise money for his campaign.

You get what you get and you pay a fee but the structure (of the GoFundMe website) is worth the fee,” Kelly said in an interview this week.

Kelly’s Gofundme page had raised $1,100 by Friday afternoon.

Some of the people who donated to Kelly’s campaign are listed as anonymous on his page.

But the first-time candidate stressed “it’s anonymous to the public but it’s not anonymous to me, which is really important because I can fulfill all my campaign reporting requirements.”

Like many of the younger candidates, Kelly is active on Facebook and his campaign website.

“I grew up on the internet. I was probably maybe 12 or 13 when we got it at our house. It’s something you learn how to do,” Kelly said about using social media to raise money and campaign for the council.

But Kelly also plans to practice the traditional approach to campaigning like making phone calls and going door to door.

“I have a lot of experience with political campaigns and nothing approaches the value of knocking on a door and having a conversation,” he said.

He plans to hand out literature and post yard signs while also using social media to campaign.

“I’m not the sort of candidate that every single person is going to embrace,” Kelly said. “I think I found my tribe and plan on speaking about my positions as honestly as I can.”

Walls laughed when asked about his GoFundMe page and said “it’s like a thousand times less work” than raising money for a campaign the traditional way.

“I only really care about directly covering the costs for things like signs and refrigerator magnets,” Walls said this week.

Walls’ GoFundMe page had raised $600 by Friday afternoon.

Like Kelly, he’s active on social media and uses it to let people know about his campaign and keep them updated.

“For me anyway the most important thing is making sure people go out and vote on that day,” Walls said.

He is also planning to hold a Facebook Live video event “so people can ask questions in real time from the comfort of their own homes.”

But he also will go door to door and hold meet and greets. “You can’t rely on it solely or you end up in an echo chamber,” Walls said about social media.

City Attorney Robert Sullivan said raising money through a GoFundMe page, or through other online sites, does not violate any city campaign laws.

“They just have to disclose where they’re getting the money from if someone donates $100 or more to them,” Sullivan said.

City Councilor Josh Denton, who is running for re-election, called the idea of creating a GoFundMe page to raise money “awesome.”

“As long as they disclose where the money is coming from, it’s an innovative way to raise funds,” Denton said this week. “It’s something I should look at.”

Running for City Council – especially when a candidate buys lawn signs, brochures and does a major mailer – can cost $3,000 to $5,000, Denton said.

“I put myself at a disadvantage by not being more active on social media,” he said.

But Denton has already begun going door-to-door in the city. “I’m doing that because that’s been a tried and true way to speak to voters directly,” he said.

Longtime City Councilor Brad Lown, who’s not running for re-election, called it a “smart idea” to raise money online.

“I don’t know if it’s ever been done before,” Lown said this week.

The way people campaign for City Council is changing, he said.

“What I’ve learned from the last two campaigns is going door to door doesn’t necessarily get you on the council,” Lown said. “This new kind of campaigning through social media is effective.”

He pointed to Mike Kennedy, who ran two years ago for City Council and lost.

“Mike Kennedy is a good guy and a good candidate. He went door to door exhaustively and he did not win,” Lown said. “That should tell you something.”

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