vox populi, vox vaccae


Okay, so Time Warner is blanketing Southern California with their own unique brand of suckage, so none of us have internet – thus I’m just going to paste my first DailyKos diary entry on here and hope it’s at least mildly – and I mean mildly – amusing enough to keep you from falling into a gape-mouthed stupor.


My wife and I live in Columbia County, NY – however, we also work in television, which means spending a lot of time here in Los Angeles. My wife met Kirsten Gillibrand back in 2002 at a Democratic Women’s Conference, and was immediately impressed by what a smart, wonderful woman she was. When we heard she was going up against our embarrassing Republican congressman John Sweeney, we decided to spend September and October in Columbia County going door to door, and sponsoring a big donation party at our farm.

Work, however, had other plans. We were stuck in LA all through the election season. Inspired by exhortations for “D.I.Y.” campaigning, we hatched an idea that would introduce Kirsten to thousands of people in our district without actually being there.

The lands surrounding our farm are used as pasture for eighty milk cows each spring/summer/fall, and right by the road is a giant billboard. Usually it features an ad put up by our local lumber company, but after hearing about Gillibrand’s signs being stolen early in the campaign, I immediately thought of something impossible to steal: the billboard itself.

It took a little research to find out who owned the billboard, but it turned out to be Lamar Advertising, and once we pinpointed the actual spot (and which way it would face), it was easy enough to get in touch with Lamar and reserve it for the month of October. We asked the Gillibrand campaign if that was cool, and they were overjoyed.

Once Lamar takes your credit card info, they direct you to a site (Circle Graphics) where you can upload your own art. They do the printing for you on thirty sheets that equal 10.5′ high and 22.8′ across, and paste the whole thing to the billboard. In essence, you can accomplish the entire production without ever leaving your keyboard.

Then we contacted the Gillibrand campaign to see if they had a specific message – or existing art – they wanted to use. I suggested that it say something like “Columbia County: Home Of Kirsten Gillibrand” along with their usual art, since Sweeney had been implying she didn’t live there (another sleazy move from a totally sleazy dude). It also provided the name recognition Kirsten sorely needed on the only major thoroughfare from our part of New York to Massachusetts.

Coordinating the Lamar people, the Circle Graphic folks, and Kirsten’s campaign – with me as the go-between – was frustrating. I should have been on the phone every morning to ensure Gillibrand’s art people connected with everyone else. Instead, I assumed everyone was already talking, and we ended up missing our target date; the billboard didn’t go up until October 9. But we still hit the sweet spot before the election.


The picture above is a recreation of what is currently there (obviously, I can’t take pictures from California) but according to the locals, it looks great. We have no illusions. It was always an uphill battle in Columbia County, despite the progressives in Hudson and the newly-hatched weekenders voting in Copake, Craryville, Claverack and points north. I suspect many of the older folks around us (we’re in our thirties) have never pulled a Democratic lever in their lives. But at least now they have seen their alternative while driving to work.

Some things I’d do differently: I’d get the dimensions and art first, then reserve the billboard. I’d also start earlier, with a 2-month lag time (instead of three weeks) and expect a fair amount of missed connections. All in all, however, we’re totally psyched. Kirsten is a great candidate for us and even remembered my wife after four years of campaigning, which is, to say the least, impressive.

It wasn’t cheap, but it was cheaper than three round-trip tickets from LA to NY for us and our eighteen-month-old. And with it standing tall all day, we have the inexorable feeling that we’re making a tiny difference, which is unbelievably rewarding when we’re stuck so far away.


So there it is. I was going for zero snark and maximum info, so it’s rather dull, but you can’t always make fart jokes and let your balls hang out of your pants. Again, I have no wanton prognostications about this election, but doing what we did felt wonderful.

0 thoughts on “vox populi, vox vaccae

  1. killian

    Dull? That was anything but. . . Passion and determination PLUS success? C’mon, Ian, don’t get jaded on us NOW! Thanks for the uplift, sans farts and balls.

  2. Just Andrew

    I hate election season. Each side busy trying to out do the other side in any manner possible. Thankfully Vermont has no billboards to clutter up the landscape. Just a million little lawn signs everywhere, which isn’t quite as bad, I think.
    Ian, I do appreciate your fervor and desire to keep out the slime and I also realize that if you hadn’t rented the billboard there would be an ad for cheap lumber instead. Still, I can’t look at that picture and think that some beautiful countryside has been ruined for the sake of some name recognition.
    The line is blurred for me between why that would be acceptable and why oil companies raping the artic and giving kickbacks to the pubs is any different.
    If progress looks like the final scene from ‘Brazil’, then leave me the hell out of it.

  3. emma

    I’ve never had the opportunity to take Latin. Is the translation for “vox populi, vox vaccae”, “the voice of the people, the voice of the cows?”

  4. Mom

    Just Andrew: I usually agree with you about billboards in general, whether for lumber or beer or politics.
    But I’m proud of Ian and Tessa for this gesture. Remember, the lawn signs (which are, as you point out, “not quite as bad”) were being stolen early on, to blur her name recognition. A tasteful, refreshingly non-narky billboard seems a brilliant (and safer) alternative. Bravo.

  5. Piglet

    Still, I can’t look at that picture and think that some beautiful countryside has been ruined for the sake of some name recognition.
    The line is blurred for me between why that would be acceptable and why oil companies raping the artic and giving kickbacks to the pubs is any different.
    How about because Gillibrand is hotter than Fahrenheit 451?
    If it was a picture of some ugly old Republican man politician with a soul that looked like a coal miner’s lung, I’d say you have a point. But if Gillibrand makes it I’m going to be watching a lot more C-SPAN I can tell you.

  6. Ian

    Emma, you got it.
    Just Andrew – I agree in general, however, John Sweeney has scored some of the lowest environmental scores IN HISTORY with the three wildlife protection agencies that monitor Congressional votes. Oddly, this crazy billboard for Kirsten is a step towards not seeing other billboards.

  7. Lindsay

    Today’s news: State troopers called by John Sweeney’s wife last December because he was beating her.
    Better than a billboard would be to googlebomb this one.
    We gotta get this guy out. I’m trying to hook up a bunch of Fordham Law Democrats to do phone-banking over the weekend for Kirstin. And, though I missed the deadline for absentee ballots (it was yesterday), we’ll be driving up to vote.
    This last week is the MOST important time. How about an entry on the Daily News story? Look at MyDD for header info to make sure it comes up when people serach on Sweeney in google. Right now, you can’t access the story without searching in the Daily News (it’s not on their home page or Politics or New York pages).


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