Sunday, August 25, 2002

'Star Trek' convention raises money for Democrats

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        CLEVELAND - Karlene Lewallen couldn't wait to rub elbows Saturday with William Shatner and other actors from her favorite Star Trek television shows, but she decided to leave her Star Fleet uniform at home.

Bill Hagan, Democratic candidate for governor, gets a laugh from wife Kate Mulgrew as William Shatner looks on.
(AP photo)
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        “I'm glad I didn't wear it,” the Akron medical assistant said Saturday, looking across a Cleveland meeting room filled with fans but no Vulcans, Klingons or other alien races. “I would really have stood out.”

        Although she admits she doesn't follow state politics, Ms. Lewallen wrote a $150 check to the Tim Hagan for Governor Committee to attend a Star Trek convention held in his honor. In the process, she and about 400 fellow “Trekkies” have transported the image of Democratic fund raising in Ohio.

        Star Trek: Voyager star Kate Mulgrew, Mr. Hagan's wife, persuaded several of her fellow cast members and Mr. Shatner to come to Cleveland to make an unusual bid for campaign cash. Ms. Mulgrew said it seemed natural her fans would support her husband's campaign.

        “I find Star Trek fans to be incredibly, fiercely loyal,” said the actress, who played Capt. Kathryn Janeway for seven years before the show went off the air.

        Although the fictional United Federation of Planets that Capt. Janeway served “evolved beyond the need for money,” Mr. Hagan has to have lots of it to power his campaign's sputtering engines. Currently, he has only one nickel for every dollar Republican Gov. Bob Taft can spend.

        If the 2002 race for governor depends entirely on money, Mr. Taft is the runaway winner.

        With $8 million in the bank, Mr. Taft has already aired his first campaign commercial. The 30-second spot praises his efforts to attract new jobs, build better schools and increase school funding.

        Mr. Hagan wants voters to know that the governor's budget cuts spurred double-digit college tuition increases, undermined child welfare programs, and that the leader of Mr. Taft's school building program resigned amid accusations of contract steering.

        Even though he plans to raise up to $3 million, Mr. Hagan told the Enquirer last week he can't buy enough television ads to make an impact on the race.

        “We're not planning to go on television,” Mr. Hagan said. “I'd have to raise $25,000 a day between now and the (Nov. 5) election. There's no way.”

        The chasm of cash between the candidates in this race is reminiscent of the 1994 campaign between Republican Gov. George Voinovich and Democrat Robert Burch. Outspending Mr. Burch nearly $14 to $1, Mr. Voinovich easily won his second term with 72 percent of the votes cast.

        Up to $3 million may seem like a lot of money, especially when compared to the $550 cost of one 30-second spot on WCPO-Channel 9's evening news.

        But that's just one ad on one television station in a diverse state that has six major media markets. An effective statewide television campaign hinges on a strategy that buys hundreds of ads in each market.

        Republican state Treasurer Joe Deters has already booked 100 ad spots on WCPO, said Brian Lawlor, the station's general sales manager. The total cost at that one station could reach $50,000.

        Mr. Hagan said he needs another $2 million on top of the $3 million to run on television.

        That's because the other costs of running a statewide campaign are expensive, too.

        Campaign spending reports from the 1998 race between Mr. Taft and Democratic challenger Lee Fisher show the two spent a combined $14.5 million on television ads.

        But Mr. Taft spent another $660,000 on special political consultants and private opinion polls. Mr. Fisher, who lost the race, spent nearly $1 million for the same services.

        The cost to print enough bumper stickers, pamphlets, posters and buttons to blanket the state easily exceeds $100,000. The $770,000 Mr. Fisher paid in campaign staff salaries is more than the total amount Mr. Hagan now has for his entire campaign.

        While Mr. Fisher had no problems raising and spending more than $12 million four years ago, Mr. Hagan can't get his party's financial backers to open their wallets. Faced with a Republican incumbent who raised an average $7,000 a day, Mr. Hagan acknowledges many Democrat backers think they'd be throwing their money away.

        A May 10 fundraiser for Mr. Taft featuring President George W. Bush raised $1.9 million from well over 1,000 donors. Mr. Hagan's most well attended fundraiser, on March 21, raised $47,000 from 430 people.

        Without traditional funding sources, Mr. Hagan's unconventional Trekkie convention is essential. His staff estimates it could be his biggest payday so far - about $200,000.

        A more traditional fundraiser, with former President Bill Clinton in September, will also bring in more money. Just how much, Hagan campaign staffers are unwilling to say.

        Despite that, Mr. Hagan admits he'll never come close to matching Mr. Taft's budget. In the absence of television he hopes to reach voters via direct mail and through the Internet.


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