Eye On Illinois: No mail yet, but digital campaign ads making an impression

Are you getting more mail these days?

Although represented by Republicans in Springfield, and although our House district flipped blue in 2018 and red in 2020, the mailbox isn’t seeing any action from Republican gubernatorial primary candidates. The mailers exist – easy fodder for bloggers and tweeters – but here it’s a dust bowl compared with the recent onslaught regarding the income tax amendment and legislative races.

That’s not to say the campaigns aren’t reaching our community. Someone from the Gary Rabine campaign put up yard signs in a few public spaces, enough to outnumber the occasional “Fire Pritzker” placard, and a few candidates themselves have been around a time or two. But the yards aren’t nearly as decorated as those we saw during our recent drive to Whiteside County. My wife knows of state Sen. Darren Bailey but hadn’t seen his picture until encountering it in Tuesday’s newspaper.

So I was a little taken aback when the 14-year-old, during a weekday car ride, asked me to explain Richard Irvin’s campaign strategy. Turns out the digital ad buys are really resonating with the eighth grade set, which is the perfect combination of studying government to meet graduation requirements and voracious consumers of YouTube content.

The kid knows Irvin is mayor of Aurora and running for governor, but his main takeaway is Irvin seems to be communicating “Democrats hate me.” I explained how Illinois’ richest resident is bankrolling Irvin’s slate, that other GOP candidates are questioning Irvin’s conservative credentials and Irvin is already working a bit on his pivot to the middle by trying to convince primary voters that Democrats are most worried about seeing his name on the November ballot.

My son also sees Gov. JB Pritzker’s early ads and understands that message to be focused on the state’s credit rating making slow improvements for the first time in ages. Few teenagers deeply understand government borrowing, but it’s interesting to hear what parts of the communications strategy are resonating, especially because he usually only pays attention to adults talking if he’s going to be tested on their subject matter.

We’re also seeing ads during baseball games on TV, occasionally they pop up when playing phone games, and it’s easy to find any of them online, along with loads of other information the campaigns are all too happy to share. But as someone paid to follow these races, it’s refreshing to get an outsider’s perspective, especially from a future voter.

Political journalists can spend enough time on Twitter to foolishly believe there’s nothing more important than a blue state’s red primary when the reality is not even all the 750,000 people likely to vote in June can name every aspiring candidate.

How’s the mail looking at your house?

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at