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The two Web(b)ers

By David Wildstein

What happens if Jay Webber is the Republican candidate for Congress in the 11th district, and Democrats nominate Linda Weber as their congressional candidate in the adjoining 7th district?  That will be an interesting challenge for candidates, political parties and political action committees in competitive general election contests that could help determine control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The two districts share a nearly identical media market.

Will Democrats buy network TV and radio ads attacking Webber? Will Weber run “Vote for Weber” ads that help Webber?  And what about Leonard Lance? Will he put money behind an anti-Weber message that makes it more difficult for the GOP to hold Rodney Frelinghuysen’s house seat?

Media consultants will need to address the Webber/Weber thing.  On a TV attack spot, they can use the usual grainy black and white photo, but that assumes voters will learn that there is Webber the Man and Weber the Woman.  Radio ads will be especially confusing.  And voters will still see basic paraphernalia, like lawn signs and bumper stickers.

In the 7th, Weber can’t just run as “Linda” – she doesn’t have the name ID to do that, and it’s possible that Larry Weitzner did such a good job that voters still think Linda is a Spender.

Name confusion happens more often than people realize.

In 1995, Republican Assemblyman John V. Kelly faced Democrat John W. Kelly in the 36th district.

Morris County voters are accustomed to this; in one legislative district, Senator Anthony R. Bucco runs on the same line as his son, Assemblyman Anthony L. Bucco.  It’s easier to put money behind building one name ID, but it’s also easier for a Senate challenger to attack one Bucco and have the other Bucco’s negatives go up.

There was a race for City Council in San Clemente, California six years ago when a guy named Bob Baker ran against incumbent Bob Baker.  State law says that when two candidates of the same name run in the same race, the election board puts a number in front of the name – so it was “0 Bob Baker” and “1 Bob Baker”.   “1 Bob Baker” didn’t like that “0 Bob Baker” was listed first on the ballot – he said 0 wasn’t a number and that the other Bob Baker should be listed as “2 Bob Baker.”  The official ruling was 0 was a number.

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