Home Uncategorized Evansville candidates don’t always ‘shop local’ for services

Evansville candidates don’t always ‘shop local’ for services


Evansville candidates don’t always ‘shop local’ for services


EVANSVILLE, Ind.  — The word leaped out in a sea of other words explaining where and how Evansville City Council candidate Alex Schmitt spends campaign donations.

Australia. Schmitt paid $119.40 to Sydney-based graphic design company Canva for help, he said, creating invitations to a fundraising event.

Canva spokeswoman Liz McKenzie said the online platform, started up in 2013, is free for anyone to use unless they buy one of the company’s images or fonts or upgrade to “Canva Pro” services. It requires no design skills and is used by political parties and candidates all over the world, McKenzie said.

“You definitely should go on and give it a go,” she by phone while visiting San Francisco.

No other City Council candidate reported buying campaign services from a company on the other side of the world, but Schmitt wasn’t the only one who didn’t always “shop local” in this year’s first quarter.


The candidates — including Schmitt, a Republican seeking one of three at-large seats — did turn mostly to local vendors for such services as yard signs, mailers and printing. They reported making exceptions for out-of-town companies run by friends, companies with which they have longstanding relationships or companies that simply offered lower prices.

But that wasn’t always the case.

Those professionally produced mailers Democrat Kaitlin Moore Morley sent out during the spring primary campaign? Moore Morley reported paying $3,412 as of April 3 to Wildfire Contact LLC for them. The direct mail consulting firm has offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago and Des Moines, Iowa, but Moore Morley worked with a team based in Indianapolis.

Pointing out that she also paid locally based Embrace Marketing and Communications $1,758 for her logo design and video production, Moore Morley said Wildfire Contact was recommended to her at the Indiana Democratic Party’s 2018-19 “Emerging Leaders Project” training program. Moore Morley is one of the party’s three nominees for City Council’s at-large seats.

“It was easy to go with the recommendation this time around simply because I’m so new — and so when you are trying to figure out the ropes, you need to go with the people that are recommended to you by people who have done it before and have been successful,” she said.

Sometimes the reasons for not shopping local are political.

More: Evansville’s Winnecke raises cash with no opponent in sight

More: Evansville Republicans have their team for at-large council race

More: In At-Large Democratic City Council primary, Morley, Ungar, Weaver celebrate victory

Gina Robinson Ungar, another Democratic at-large candidate, reported using local printers in her pre-primary fundraising report. But after filing that report, she said, she turned to Louisville, Kentucky-based Grace By Design for help with her yard signs.

“I believe in supporting union shops,” Robinson Ungar said.

“I don’t know if there’s another local shop that produces union yard signs. (Grace By Design) were just the place that other candidates referred me to,” she said.

Robinson Ungar said using local vendors is a preference, but “it’s not as important as other lines.”

“Certainly buying local, it’s a great way to keep money in the community and support people that we really know,” she said.

Paul Abramson, a Republican running in the 6th Ward, said he spent $742 on pens produced by “The PenGuy” in Jackson, Tennessee, because he has used the small company for private projects and likes its “attention to detail.”

Abramson didn’t think much about whether the company is local.

“I actually didn’t look. (PenGuy CEO Gary Austin) is the guy who I’ve used before,” he said.

Schmitt paid $500 to Indianapolis-based designer Kevin Spahn, he said, because Spahn is a childhood friend and “a great graphic designer.”

Evansville mayors don’t always shop local for campaign services, either. But when a mayor shops, it’s on a much bigger scale. Mayoral campaigns typically cost many times more than campaigns for City Council seats, so the bills are many times bigger.

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke reported spending $242,363 with local marketing and advertising firm AXIOM for TV ads in his first campaign in 2011. That year, Winnecke ran a hotly contested campaign against Democrat Rick Davis. AXIOM did the bulk of his TV advertising.

But for this year’s re-election campaign, with no opponent in sight, the Republican mayor reports spending $14,500 as of April 9 with BrabenderCox, which bills itself as “a full-service political marketing, public affairs, strategic communications and advertising firm” with offices in the Washington, D.C. area, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Albany, New York.

The change, which happened in 2015, was done for strategic reasons, Winnecke said.

“We needed an agency that was really closely aligned with the group that does our polling, and Brabender has a specialty in political advertising,” he said. “We really felt like we needed a specialty ad agency.”

Brabender’s website states that its clients “are extremely diverse, and include presidents, governors, senators, professional sports franchises, fortune 500 companies, entertainment and gaming resorts, non-profit and healthcare organizations.”

Winnecke isn’t the only mayor in modern times to spend big for campaign services in faraway places. In 2007, then-Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel spent $121,575 with Denver, Colorado-based Media Strategies & Research.

Like most of the City Council candidates, Winnecke said shopping local is a goal, if not a mandate.

“We’d like to use local whenever possible, sure,” he said.