How California candidates use three words to sway voters

People say first impressions are everything, but in California politics, sometimes the last impression matters most.

“A lot of thought and debate goes into this every two years,” said Dave Gilliard, a Republican political consultant. Thought, debate, public-opinion research and, when all else fails, litigation.

There’s a subtle art to crafting the right designation: appealing to voters’ sympathies and papering over unpopular occupations. It’s all about knowing your audience, said Gilliard.

“Republicans tend to favor business and law enforcement, Democrats tend to favor educators,” he said. Nurses and doctors also tend to do well overall, especially among liberals.

While most elected lawmakers seem to believe there’s a benefit in touting one’s credentials as an incumbent, not every politician does. Assemblyman Jim Patterson (“Businessman/Broadcast Executive’) and state Sen. Andy Vidak (“Farmer/Small Businessman”) both eschew any mention of their elected status. The two incumbents are Republicans from the Central Valley, the region where approval of the California Legislature is lowest, according to a recent poll.

Republican U.S. Rep. David Valadao (“Farmer/Small Businessman”) is the only California member of Congress whose elected status won’t be on the ballot. His district overlaps with both Vidak’s and Patterson’s.

Meanwhile, there’s a bipartisan distrust of lawyers, said Gilliard, which may explain why candidates from the legal profession often tack on softening qualifiers. “Workers’ rights attorney,” “consumer protection attorney,” or “attorney/mother” are all on California ballots this year. And for lawyers who own their own firms, he said, consultants will sometimes suggest omitting the J.D. entirely and casting themselves as yet another “small business owner.”

Read more at CAL Matters

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