In the late 1990s when the DPP and then the KMT started experimenting with telephone polls to decide nominations, I wondered why the candidates never bothered campaigning. They went crazy putting up billboards, flags, and banners for the general election, but they did nothing for the primary. One of the main purposes of the telephone primary is precisely to make the primary electorate more like the general electorate. The whole population is eligible, and you don’t know who will be sampled. If you want to get 30% support in a telephone survey, your best bet is to have 30% support in the general population. So it didn’t really make sense that the candidates didn’t advertise or campaign energetically. Over the last two decades, the politicians have slowly figured this logic out. Nowadays they do campaign, though they still don’t start early enough or campaign energetically enough, considering the fact that the nomination race is more critical in many races than the actual general election. This is all a long way of saying that I have taken a few pictures of political ads for this year’s legislative nominations. With one exception, these are from my local race in Keelung City. It seems that both sides have decided to hold polling primaries here, and the candidates are advertising a bit. Let’s look at some of the interesting themes.
This is a pretty standard ad. Tsai Shih-ying poses with Tsai Ing-wen, tells you he is a local guy, emphasizes his good education and his jobs (city councilor, head of city party branch), and asks voters to “only support him” in the poll.
Cheng Wen-ting is also running for the DPP nomination. The main them of her campaign is that she is isn’t a city councilor like the other two DPP aspirants. She suggests that voters just put the other two in their current seats, and they should stay their for the rest of the term. If she is nominated, the DPP can win a legislative seat without giving up a city council seat. We got a leaflet in the mail in which she hammered this point even more forcefully.
This theme has popped up in several places during the primary season. It was prominent in the DPP’s contests in Kaohsiung, and it may be at the heart of Eric Chu’s hesitancy to run for the presidency. The problem is that the local elections are too close to the national elections. Local politicians have to run for re-election to stay in the public mind, but then they have to almost immediately switch gears and start running for national office. Just one more reason to reform the electoral calendar.
Let’s pop over to Taipei City for a second, where Chueh Mei-sha is one of several people trying to take Alex Tsai’s seat in Nangang and Neihu. Unlike most politicians, Chueh usually puts concrete policy issues into her ads. In this one, she argues that the current education policy is a mess and she wants to clean things up. She doesn’t hint at how she would do this, but at least we know what her top issue would be.
Back to Keelung, where this year’s theme seems to be public service announcements. Han Liang-chi reminds us all to donate blood. Coincidentally, he’s also running for legislator, though he doesn’t mention that in this ad. He must believe in subtlety. By the way, Han ran for the KMT mayoral nomination in 2014, but he lost to Huang Ching-tai. When the KMT revoked Huang’s nomination and drafted Hseih Li-kung, Han was furious. He insisted that they should go back to the primary system where he might be the winner. Han eventually decided to run for re-election to the city council, but he ran as an independent to protest the party’s unfair processes. He won easily. I guess he reconciled with the KMT, because this year he is back in the party trying to win the legislative nomination.
Han also wishes all the mothers a happy Mother’s Day. Wow! This guy takes some controversial positions!
Ho Sheng-lung is another contestant for the KMT nomination. He wants us to know that he has two MAs and did well on one of the national civil service exams. This makes him a finance and economics expert! Also, this is a public service ad, since he and nine lawyers will consult with you twice a week. Ho is a bit like Han. He is a longtime politician in Keelung. He used to be on the city council, but he has bigger ambitions. He has run for legislator and mayor a few times, though sadly he seems unable to connect with voters. His only victory in these higher-level races was in a legislative by-election several years ago.
Chen Tung-tsai does a two-for-one. This ad wishes you both a happy Mother’s Day and a happy Dragon Boat Festival. Clearly Chen understands the concept of economies of scale. I’m not sure if this is significant, but the kids in the ad are wearing shirts that say “I heart Keelung.” This was the logo from Lin You-chang’s mayoral race last year, so the unstated implication is that Chen is Lin’s candidate.
Hey, check it out! Here’s a sign inviting us all to join the Min-kuo Party. For a party with no ideals, no political stars, and no reason to expect to win anything, someone sure is optimistically spending an awful lot of money.
The rest of my pictures are ads for this guy, Lin Pei-hsiang. If it looks like he has a professional photographer doing his ads and a professional campaign consultant running things, he probably does. His mother is longtime KMT leigslator Hsu Shao-ping, and his father was former mayor Lin Shui-mu. His mother is retiring this year, and she is trying to pass the family business onto the next generation. Interestingly, he never tells us about his parentage in his ads, even though they all mention his mother. In this one, the final line says that Hsu “guarantees and recommends” him.
On this sound truck, Lin tackles a concrete issue. He promises to protect the rights of Keelung residents to a reasonable commute. This refers to the Taipei city government’s decision to close down the bus station next to the Taipei railway station, where many of the Keelung-Taipei buses disembark. Note the small print. In addition to his mother, Lin is also endorsed by KMT deputy chair Chiang Hsiao-yen. I’ve seen KMT candidates associating themselves with lots of stars, such as Jason Hu, Eric Chu, Hau Lung-bin, and so on, but this might be the first time I’ve seen an ad touting Chiang’s support. If Chiang’s son wins his district, Chiang Hsiao-yen might have two seats in the legislature!
“If you drink, don’t drive. If you drive, don’t drink. Lin Pei-hsiang!”
This is the kicker. Lin Pei-hsiang tells us that “Mothers, you are really fantastic!” Oh, and don’t forget to support him in the telephone polls. In the bottom right corner, it says “Legislator Hsu Shao-ping.” I think that means that this banner was officially put up by Hsu’s office, and since it marginally passes as a public service message extolling the virtues of mothers, it might have been paid for with public funds. Mothers really are fantastic!