The hot spots! Watch the hot spots!" the pushy guy from Terre Haute snapped in a nasal voice. "We've got hot spots from the lights - glare on his face. Let's get some powder on him."
The camera stopped rolling, and a woman armed with powder and puff advanced on Gene Stunkel. "Forehead first," she barked.
They were only trying to help, Stunkel knew, but still he winced a little when the people from the ad agency insisted on face powder. There may be some places hwre men wear makeup and take orders from women, but downstate Illinois is not one of those men.
For a moment, Stunkel wrestled with this new dilemma.
But just for a moment. If face powder was what it took, face powder it would be. The guy from Terre Haute was an expert at making television commercials - he ought to be, with the fee he had quoted. Gene knew he'd better go along. Makeup, after all, was probably just one of the indignities he would have to endure in his race for the Republican nomination for Congress in Illinois' 22nd District.
And if makeup was the worst thing Stunkel had to contend with in his congressional campaign, he would be getting of f easy. Dave Hill could attest to that.
On the same January day that Stunkel was shooting his TV spots, Hill, a 26-year-old Democrat from Mattoon, was stamping his sodden feet on an icy sidewalk in North Danville as he fought in vain against a snowy wind that would not let himunfold his map.
Hill, who had brought a maximum of energy and a minimum of money to his campaign, was searching for the home of Edwin Miller, the Democratic chairman of one of Danville's 125 electoral precincts. If he found it, he would recite the litany he had already pronounced to scores of other precinct committeemen: that "Dave Hill" was the name to remember for the March 21 primary.
The free-spending Stunkel and the penny-pinching Hill were pursuing, each in his own way, the same evanescent but essential goal in the race for the 22nd's seat in Congress: name recognition.
The unexpected announcement that George E. Shipley, the district's veteran Democratic congressman, would not seek re-election in 1978 had drawn three Republicans and four Democrats into the congressional campaign. Each candidate had quickly come to realize that his first imperative would be making his name familiar to the voters.
There might be places where a candidate named "Kennedy" could beat an opponent named "Smith" purely through the connotations of his name. There might be districts where an unknown could be elected because he has the most Irish, or Italian, or Jewish, or Japanese name on the ballot. But not the 22nd.
In a district where most people list their national heritage as "American", no name by itself is a ticket to election. Even in general elections, where each name has a party label attached to it, the 22nd's voters have proven that they won't mark the ballot for someone they have never heard of.
Among this year's seven candidates for Congress, there are some whose names are familiar to some voters.
The best-known of the four democrats is Don Watson, shipley's chief assistant and brother-in-law. As Shipley's district spokeman for 18 years, Watson has won the friendship of just about every active Democrat in the district.
Watson's chief opponent, state Sen. Terry Bruce, enjoys extensive recogniation in his senatorial district, which covers about 30 percent of the 22nd but is little-known elsewhere.
Still, Bruce is far better off than Dave Hill and another neophyte, Tim Thut, whose recognition factors were nil when they entered the campaign.
Among the Republicans, state legislator Roscoe Cunningham is a down-right celebrity - but only in the district's sparsely populated southeastern corner. Dan Crane, a Danville dentist, is widely known in a certain segment of the party; he was Ronald Reagan's local campaign chairman in 1976. Stunkel, however, was a nobody when the campaign began.
Although the candidates have no shortage of ingenious theories on how they can win the electorate's attention, six of them - all but Stunkel, a successful businessman whose resources seem close to infinite - are hounded in all they do by an unhappy law of political economics: getting known costs money.
The traditional candidate's tools of downstate Illinois have been favors: matchbooks, emery boards, astrays and the like emblazoned with the name and slogan of the would-be public official. Unit a few years ago, each campaign brought forth a flood of such paraphernalia; but now prices are going up. When Watson ordered a month's supply of emery boards not long ago, he was flabbergasted to receive a bill of $561,25. In the future, he'd have to find another way to win the women's vote.
Billboards, too, are a tradition in the 22nd, but when Bruce investigated that approach, he found the cost prohibitive. A good lighted board in one of the district's county seats cost $100 or more per months; 50 such billboards would consume most of his campaign budget.
"The Illinois Blue Book," an official almanac that gas become a kind of Bible for the candidates and their managers, lists 85 "media outlets" in the 22nd District. Most are weekly newspapers, with radio stations and a few daily papers interspersed.
Although there are bargains to be fund there bargains to be found on the list - a full-page ad in some of the weeklies can be purchased for around $100 - the congressional candidates learned early that here, too, money talks.
A 30-second on radio might be cheap enough - less than $100 in some places - but the buyer of a single commercial is apt to hear his message only in the dead of night. To be assured of "prime time" - the spots preceding and following the early morning farm price reports - a candidate has to buy half minutes by the dozens.
It's not just the money, either, that hurts in buying media time or space. Every time a candidate signs another chech to a newspaper, he has to face the nagging awareness that, if he were just a little smarter, or a little luckier, he could get his name in the same paper for free.STAccordingly, most of the candidates have blitzed the local "media outlets" with a steady bombardment of press releases.Some boast of campaign achievements ("Stunkel Support Growing Dramatically"); some set forth itineraries ("Watson to Speak in Mattoon"); some even deal with issues ("Crane Hits Canal Treaties").
Since some candidates believe that each new day requires a new release they occasionally have to go far afield to find grist for this voracious mill.
Terry Bruce was scratching for a subject last Friday when he heard about The Washington Post article discussing his candidacy. The article noted that Democrats in southeastern Illinois consider him something of a political wizard. "Washington Post Calls Bruce 'Political Wizard'!" screamed Bruce's press release for the day.
Although Bruce is as hungry as the next man for a good, favorable news story, he seems more skeptical than the others about the benefits of news coverage.
He likes to tell the story of the New York Times reporter who showed up one day to do a story on the Illinois legislature. The young senator could hardly wait to see his name in that great newspaper. But when the story appeared, the Times had mangled "Terry Bruce" into "State Senator Tony Bruck."
That kind of mistake is one indignity that Gene Stunkel probably won't have to worry about, because Stunkel, alone among the 22nd's candidates, can afford to buy enough advertising so that every voter is familiar with his name.
He is the only man in the race - and the only candidate in the 22nd's history - to buy time on television.
Stunkel's handsome, confident face first graced the district's TV screens during the Super Bowl - a half minute that cost him $1,200. Beginning Feb. 22 - a month before the primary - his upbeat, polished spots will become as common as those of Ronald McDonald and Morris the cat.
With the publicity increasing in steady crescendo, more and more of the 22nd's residents were learning that they would be picking a new Congressman this year. That prompted a recurring question; "What made old George Shiple y quit, anyway?"
NEXT: The Vacancy.