Reed, Slay spar over familiar territory -- debates -- while also releasing positive online videos
In most campaigns, battles over debates – whether and when to have them – are common. And so it’s no surprise that the issue has erupted in the March Democratic primary contest between St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and his chief rival for a fourth term, Aldermanic President Lewis Reed.
What is notable is that the dispute has quickly escalated.
The Reed campaign issued a release today asserting that Slay’s campaign “ refuses to agree to a debate schedule, or even return phone calls. While Pres. Reed looks forward to joining the Mayor in spirited debates on the issues, the Mayor appears to afraid to face Reed in an open forum.”
“…The Mayor knows our campaign is building momentum, daily, and is scared,” said Reed in a statement.
The Slay campaign shot back that the duo already had agreed to “at least a dozen candidate forums and debates,” with Slay campaign manager Richard Callow observing drily, “Somebody must have stolen the Reed campaign schedule.”
The Slay campaign’s examples of already-scheduled joint appearances include a January 29 public forum to be held at the St. Louis public library’s reopened central branch, and cosponsored by the Partnership of Downtown St. Louis, the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis, the League of Women Voters and the library.
“I will confirm for the record that we have absolutely no intention on relying on Mr. Reed’s campaign to deliver him on time and prepared to any scheduled event. Nor will we help his campaign play catch-up,” Callow added.
Glenn Burleigh, Reed’s new campaign manager, replied that the forums and joint appearances scheduled so far are not major enough. “Many are ward committee meetings and neighborhood forums, and many of them are private,” Burleigh said.
In the case of the January 29 forum, he said the library’s auditorium is not big enough to handle a large crowd. Reed’s campaign also questions why the event includes Green Party candidate James McNeeley, who will face the Democratic primary victor in April.
The forum also will feature Democratic rival Jimmie Matthews.
Burleigh said that Reed is seeking a “head to head’’ debate with Slay in “a bigger public venue.” The inclusion of Matthews would need to be discussed, the campaign manager added.
What's optional? Videos or finance reports?
Meanwhile, both campaigns appear to be gearing up to begin airing TV spots. The first step these days is to test out themes by first airing online videos.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay's latest campaign video was released on Monday.
Slay released a new video on Monday, which just happens to be exactly 60 seconds – the time also allotted for a longer TV spot. (Generally speaking, TV ads are 30 seconds and 60 seconds in length.) Callow declined comment on the campaign's ad plans.
Slay’s professionally produced ad – er, video -- seeks to highlight his accomplishments and his focus on urban redevelopment and improving education. It does so by featuring other people offering a positive view of the city, its direction -- and its leader -- with only a short clip of the mayor.
Reed’s two videos (here and here), also professionally produced, reflect the challenger’s traditional approach -- especially when going against a veteran incumbent like Slay. Reed’s videos are longer and take on a more personal flavor in order to introduce the lesser-known challenger, and to highlight vision over accomplishments.
Burleigh said that Reed’s videos may be trimmed to run as TV spots.
For the moment, Reed’s campaign is raising money – and spending it on canvassing and phone banks, Burleigh confirmed. Slay has amassed far more campaign cash, and also is spending some on similar campaign activities.
Both campaigns are expected to file campaign-finance reports today that should cover the month of December, and offer a glimpse into their differing aims and approaches in raising and spending money.
However, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Ethics Commission told the Beacon that today’s filings are “optional” because of a provision in state law that eases the January 15 requirement when a November general election had been held.
The mayoral campaigns are required to file campaign-finance reports on January 24, which is 40 days before the March 5 primary.
Slay did file a Jan. 15 report, which showed him with $1.499 million in the bank as of Dec. 31. Slay reported raising $134,894 and spending $119,053 since Dec. 2.
As of late Tuesday, Reed had not filed a campaign report and perhaps won't do so, since it's apparently optional. He may wait until Jan. 24.