Politicians run on a variety of platforms and issues, but Bill Stouffer's may be the most ingenious yet. Stouffer, a Republican candidate for Missouri secretary of state, is focusing a big part of his campaign around saving the state's roadside billboards, a stance that, if nothing else, has earned the candidate a whole lot of free advertising.
Stouffer has secured an estimated $118,000 in free advertising through Missouri billboard owners. The majority of that support has come through Lamar Companies, one of Missouri's largest billboard owners, and the Missouri Outdoor Advertising Association has also thrown its support behind his campaign.
While many are less than enthusiastic about billboards, Stouffer and his campaign make a point of praising the advantages of outdoor advertising. "Billboards promote the state and promote tourism," Chasen Bullock, Stouffer's campaign manager, said. "That's why [Stouffer has] been a long time supporter of billboards."
At the base rate of $1,500 that Lamar's website quotes for four weeks' ownership of a one-panel billboard in Missouri, Stouffer's campaign has amassed about 78 billboards' worth of donations from billboard companies alone. A representative of the Missouri Outdoor Advertising Association estimated that there were between 8,800 and 8,900 billboards in Missouri as of this spring.
Want a different take on politics? Check out OTUS on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @OTUSNews. As a state senator, Stouffer pushed through legislation that allowed electronic billboards and that protected existing billboards from being destroyed during highway expansions. The money-saving measure, which, according to Huffington Post reports, could save Missouri $60 million in billboard destruction costs by allowing governments to choose to relocate them instead, a much more cost-effective strategy. The move has also saved Stouffer a bundle in campaign costs this year.
Bullock believes that Stouffer's record will help him not only in terms of fundraising, but also come November. "This bill saved taxpayer dollars," he said. "Any bill that saves taxpayers helps communicate with the voters." While that may be true, Stouffer's billboard-friendly stance may not go over well with some voters - many drivers feel less than friendly toward what's been called the "spam of the open road."
While not a conventional donation, Stouffer's campaign will certainly still benefit from free billboard space, according to Bullock. "Our donors decided to help out our campaign by donating billboard space - and we are utilizing it as part of our discussions with voters," he said.
Stouffer's platform focuses on protecting small Missouri businesses, and with money-saving legislation under his belt, the campaign is confident that its message will reach voters this time around as well. And, you know, the free billboards don't hurt.
Stouffer faces two opponents in the Aug. 7 Republican primary. The nominee will then square off against Democratic Rep. Jason Kander in November.