With a week left in the runoff elections for the two remaining undecided Memphis City Council seats, the incumbent in the District 1 race, Berlin Boyd, who is opposed by Michalyn Easter-Thomas, is pursuing an unusual and all-out advertising campaign.
One deviation from the norm is the fact that the Boyd campaign has purchased some large billboards on major thoroughfares in the city’s far eastern precincts. Billboards are an uncommon medium for a district race, and these are many miles away from Boyd’s District 7 bailiwick. Perhaps Boyd, one of the financially better endowed council candidates, figures he can afford it, and he — or his advisers at Caissa Public Strategies — believe in using all the means at one’s disposal. Another Caissa runoff candidate, District 1 incumbent Sherman Greer, who is opposed by Rhonda Logan, is also using large billboard signs.
But what’s the idea behind another, odder advertising stratagem that’s been linked to Boyd? Here’s how it was described in a Facebook post on last Friday by Jeffrey Lichtenstein of the AFL-CIO:
I was just got a really concerning automated phone call.
It first seemed like a live poll, but eventually it was clear I was talking to a sophisticated recording. This is the number that called: (901) 245-4604.
It said “Hi this is Becky Spray, calling from Memphis Brighter Future Political Action Committee. Can I ask you about the city council election? This will take 90 seconds.
Do you plan on voting in the upcoming city council election?
If the election was today, would you vote for Anthony Anderson, Berlin Boyd, or unsure?
Do you need a ride to the polls?”
This is push polling. It seems clearly designed to confuse people and discourage us from voting for Michalyn Easter-Thomas. This kind of shady political game is shocking.
When I called back, it said “extension 370 is not available. Leave a message.”
Moments later, the same number called my friend Thomas Wayne Walker, and it was the same call. We were able to record it. I’ll try and figure out how to post that....
As a reminder, Anthony Anderson was Boyd’s runoff opponent in the 2015 City Council race, but was not a candidate for the District 7 position this year. Lichtenstein seems convinced that the robocall is intended to “confuse” and “discourage” potential voters for Michalyn Easter-Thomas, the runoff opponent to incumbent Councilman Berlin Boyd in District 7.
The robocall is obviously confusing and it definitely does Easter-Thomas no favor by leaving her out of the question.
But, on the discouragement front, the robocall — and publicity given it — could have a boomerang effect. Anderson, for example, has responded to the robocall and its use of his name by posting an online endorsement of Easter-Thomas.