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Amid technology, campaign signs popular in Arizona

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Campaign signs multiply like candidate promises during election season. And while many stick to the facts in patriotic hues, others dare to go beyond the red, white and blue.

Former state Rep. Jerry Weiers, running for Glendale mayor, has a jet zipping across his signs to show support for landing the F-35 at Luke Air Force Base.

U.S. Rep. Trent Franks’ trademark signs feature babies wearing sunglasses to go with his pro-family message. And who doesn’t like babies in shades?

Then there is Scottsdale City Council candidate and Cactus Flower Florists owner Eric Luoma, whose campaign sign includes a Twitter hashtag (hash)runfloristrun.

U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle’s signs show a photo of him with his wife and baby.

He’s hardly a trendsetter. Sharon Wolcott, elected Surprise mayor in 2011, is certain that her purple-and-yellow campaign signs with a prominent photo of herself attracted female voters in a city with an all-male council.

Several campaign consultants said photos can work.

“If you’re a good-looking, appealing candidate, it’s no different than models in a magazine ad,” public-relations consultant Jason Rose said.

Other campaign experts worry the images are a sitting target for being defaced.

At the least, the photo probably ought to be authentic. Former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon took some ribbing for a 1997 campaign-sign photo of him on a swing set with three children that weren’t his own.

Gordon said his own kids didn’t want to be in the picture. In hindsight, he said, he would have provided more of a disclaimer to stave off any negativity.

So does creativity count?

Phoenix resident Joe Jacobus calls all signs a nuisance, while Peoria resident Janet Gregg said they offer some insight into who’s running for office.

Campaign managers say simple is best: The name, the office and a prayer that voters remember it on election day.

“The key is maximum legibility for your name from maximum distance,” said state Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, who’s also a graphic designer.

Most consultants say they’d love to wish away campaign signs. They are costly and time-consuming for the precious little message on them.

Today’s candidates have more opportunities to get their views out, including websites such as Twitter and Facebook. But even in a technology-filled time, veteran Arizona political scientist Bruce Merrill said signs play a role.

They ingrain a candidate’s name in voters’ minds as they whiz by busy intersections. So, most candidates spend $2,000 to $15,000 on signs.

And volunteers spend hours jockeying for prime real estate to pound stakes into cement like Arizona dirt in the scorching summer, only to find some missing, vandalized or blown away when the monsoon storms kick in.

Walt Opaska, a political newcomer running for Glendale mayor, said the signs help because he’s largely unknown to voters.

“At least now, when I go door to door, people tell me they’ve seen my sign,” he said.

Chris Baker, a Scottsdale-based campaign consultant, said Arizona seems to be one of the few states that goes crazy for big signs. It’s a matter of keeping up with the Joneses, or the Joneses’ 4-by-8 sign.

Size matters because the signs stand out, experts say.

But sometimes, small signs are as much a part of election-season shenanigans. Opaska’s campaign paid for small signs posted near Weiers’ signs that say “career politician.”

Consultant Bob Grossfeld recalled tiny signs years ago that had the word “crook” with an arrow pointing toward a candidate’s sign.

“That one itty-bitty sign with just one word on it said it all,” Grossfeld said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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