After receiving calls from irked Republicans over a series of Democratic political sticker ads, the Ravalli Republic, a Hamilton-based daily, re-evaluated the advertisements last week.
The Ravalli County Democratic Central Committee purchased the ad series—which was slated to run on the newspaper’s cover through October—for $2,880 back in August, according to committee spokesperson Deb Essen. Soon after the first sticker ran on Oct. 8, Essen says she got a call from the saleswoman who sold the ad, informing Democrats that a large number of angry Republicans had dialed up the paper, slamming the series as an endorsement of the Democratic Party.
“The Ravalli Republic—give them credit—they said, ‘No, these are paid advertisements,’” Essen says. “It sounded like this was a well-organized call drive…Republicans were calling up and threatening to cancel their subscriptions.”
The Republic eventually decided to pull the sticker ads off the masthead and moved them inside. When asked why, publisher Kristen Bounds responded that it wasn’t reader pressure that caused the change, but an unknown policy by the Republic’s parent company, Lee Enterprises, forbidding political ads on the front page.
The ads in question pair illustrations of mid-20th Century Americana—the image of Rosie the Riveter appears in one—with campaign messages on contemporary political issues.
Despite Democratic suspicions, no evidence has surfaced that the calls came under a consolidated effort rather than a grassroots response to the ad content. Sue Pyron, chair of the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee, says she didn’t even know the controversy existed.
Either way, Ravalli Democrats characterize the sentiment against their advertisements as a product of the same spirit that hatched the state GOP’s registration challenge against 6,000 Montana voters earlier this month.
“The bully tactics are a problem,” Essen argues. “We may not agree with someone’s opinion, but we need to respect the fact that they have one.”
Bounds, who reports she only personally received a few calls about the ads, suggests the extent of the ruckus may be overstated. “There’s some weird e-mails going around that have some inaccurate information,” she says.