No on 8 needs $10 million; 'Our lead is gone'
by Seth Hemmelgarn
With the campaign to defeat anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 behind in money and in two recent polls, Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors declared Tuesday, "We are going to lose this election if we don't raise the money we need to stay on the airwaves."
No on 8 senior strategist Steve Smith who, along with Kors, was speaking on a conference call with LGBT media, said the campaign needs to raise at least $10 million before the November 4 election. That money is crucial to reach voters through TV ads.
Smith responded to a reporter's question about what the homeland security alert color would be at this stage by saying, "To hell with orange. We're going straight to red."
"Our community is very complacent," Kors said, thinking that the election's over and that "we're going to win." But, he said, "Our lead is gone."
"We are not matching them dollar for dollar," Kors added, "and that is slippage that we've got to stop."
Just a week after the Yes on 8 campaign launched a commercial featuring San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom shouting that same-sex marriages are going to happen "whether you like it or not!" polls show opponents of same-sex marriage gaining an edge, although the race is extremely close.
The latest SurveyUSA poll sponsored by CBS5 in San Francisco showed that 47 percent of likely voters statewide would support Prop 8, while 42 percent would oppose it. However, the survey, released Monday, noted, "polling on ballot measures in general is an inexact science, and polling on homosexuality in general is a tricky business. So, not too much should be made of the five points that separates 'Yes' and 'No.'"
The poll, which was conducted among 670 likely voters between October 4 and 5, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
An internal poll from the No on 8 campaign by Lake Research Partners that was discussed on the Tuesday call showed that 47 percent of voters support Prop 8, while 43 percent oppose it. That survey, conducted among 1,051 likely voters from September 29 through October 2, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
In the unusual move, No on 8 released its internal poll numbers Tuesday, as part of its direct appeal for money. Earlier public polls showed No on 8 leading.
"The electorate is still very movable," said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research, who said 20 percent of voters are either undecided or are moving back and forth on the issue.
But she, Smith, and Kors credited the "volume" of the Yes on 8 Newsom commercial.
"Their ad is really breaking through," Lake said.
A striking find from the recent polls shows Yes on 8 leading among younger voters, who have previously been strongly supportive of marriage equality. Asked about that new development, Lake attributed it to the loudness and energy of the Newsom ad, but said that those voters would be the "easiest to get back."
"That trend speaks to the problem of continuing to be out-bought," she said.
No on 8 has continued to run its first ad, featuring local couple Sam and Julia Thoron, the parents of a lesbian daughter. And this week a new ad began airing showing two women talking about same-sex marriage, with one sharing a photo of a lesbian relative and her partner. When one woman said she didn't know if she was in favor of same-sex marriage, the other woman states that rights shouldn't be "eliminated." The unsure woman agrees.
Smith and Lake insisted that No on 8's "message is effective," but that the campaign does not have the money to match Yes on 8's large statewide media buy. The Yes on 8 campaign began airing the Newsom ad on Bay Area radio stations Monday, much to the consternation of local gays, several of whom contacted the Bay Area Reporter and the radio stations.
Behind in fundraising
According to data filed with the secretary of state's office, ProtectMarriage.com, the main group backing Prop 8, has raised about $25.4 million through September 30. No on 8, Equality for All - the main group opposing the measure - had raised almost $15.8 million.
Smith said, "The massive problem is their side has raised far more money than we anticipated," especially with strong support from the Mormon Church.
He said the amount of money raised by Yes on 8 has allowed the campaign to buy much more ad time, targeting more people.
The data filed with the secretary of state's office indicates opponents of Prop 8 are going to need a huge amount of money to catch up. Yes on 8 has a cash balance of about $12.8 million, while No on 8 has approximately $1.8 million.
Smith said the campaign will spend more than the $20 million to $22 million it has budgeted. He said Yes on 8 is going to spend up to $28 million.
Asked about the $28 million figure, Chip White, Yes on 8's press secretary, said he didn't have the budget, but said statewide campaigns in California generally spend at least 75 percent of their budget on advertising.
Smith also said that the campaign's potential donors don't need to wait for fundraising events to help out.
"Give us whatever amount you can give us, and we can put that on TV right now," he said, referring to additional ad buys.
The statement announcing the results of the Lake Research poll said that "many voters have already received their absentee ballot ... time is of the essence. Voters are deciding right now, and a record number of voters may also be voting right now. We need to communicate with them."
Meanwhile, the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law on Monday released a report that said an estimated 11,000 same-sex couples have married in California between June 17 and September 17. Nearly 80 percent of those weddings have taken place in five counties: Los Angeles (2,719), San Francisco (2,708), San Diego (1,689), Riverside (1,247), and Alameda (475).
Smith declined to discuss the content of future No on 8 ads, but said they will address the lack of credibility of the Yes on 8 ad.
The Yes on 8 commercial, which shows Newsom speaking in front of a crowd in City Hall on May 15, shortly after the state's Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that same-sex couples have the right to marry in California, makes some false claims, according to No on 8.
The ad states that if Prop 8 fails, churches opposed to same-sex marriage could be threatened with losing their tax-exempt status, and suggests children in public schools would be taught about same-sex marriage.
Smith has disputed those claims. He pointed out that in its opinion on same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court noted that, "no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs."
As for children being taught about same-sex marriage, Smith also pointed out that, "Not one word in Prop 8 mentions education."
Other groups also raising money
Aside from the main No on 8 committee, there are several groups that are part of the statewide coalition that are also raising money on their own. Not all of that money is going toward buying TV time.
Marriage Equality USA has raised just over $25,000 through its committee, according to Molly McKay, the group's media director. McKay wrote in an e-mail that volunteer chapter leaders statewide have been working to ensure that the message is being heard. The money raised by MEUSA is being used for campaign materials.
The No on 8, Equality for All campaign "did a great job of distributing an initial run of campaign materials to folks around the state - stickers, signs, yard signs ... but indicated that any additional materials would not be funded by the campaign," she wrote.
Once the group ensures that local chapters have the materials they need to do public education in their community, MEUSA will provide the remaining funds to the No on 8 campaign. McKay wrote that in addition, the group's been distributing collection envelopes for Equality for All and directing people to the coalition's Web site.
MEUSA has raised another $11,300 through its Web site, where people can make donations "in the name of a loved one to Marriage Equality."
McKay wrote that those donations "go to our national nonprofit organization that will continue to do our grassroots outreach work to educate people about marriage equality. Even after we defeat Proposition 8, we still have a lot of work to do to secure recognition of marriages of same-sex couples at the national level and in the remaining 48 other states that do not recognize civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. We are in this for the long haul."
"We have different ways we raise funds and are clear about their uses," McKay wrote.
Another group that's part of the coalition but raising money on its own is Republicans Against 8. Scott Schmidt, the group's campaign manager, said that at the end of last week, Republicans Against 8 had raised more than $50,000 in cash and in-kind contributions.
He wrote in an e-mail that the funds are being used to reach voters through ways such as online advertising, new media outreach, and grassroots activities.
"... Monies raised for Republicans Against 8 are being used exclusively to send Republican messages to Republican voters with Republican messengers," he wrote. "We believe this is an effective strategy because we have a unique role as communicators to our fellow Republicans that cannot necessarily be accomplished by others."
He added, "I have encouraged others to give to No on 8, Equality for All and have contributed to the main No on 8 campaign myself."
He said the group's video "Freedom is a Republican Value" was viewed more than 12,700 times on YouTube and AOL uncut in just five days.
Kors said the money being raised by other groups in the coalition is "not a concern ... we're all in this together."
For more information, visit www.noonprop8.com.