By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
A trio of campaign billboards along major corridors through Laramie are catching the attention of many travelers with their unusual marketing approach.
Merav Ben-David, a Democratic candidate for Wyoming House District 46, recently put up a billboard advertisement along eastbound Interstate 80 as it goes through Laramie, and two more on state Highway 287, poking fun at her opponent’s fish-and-chips business.
The billboards read “Stick To Your Fish, Ocean” over a photo of two fried fish sticks.
The ad is a reference to incumbent Republican Rep. Ocean Andrew’s business, On The Hook Fish And Chips food truck. The business specializes in serving line-caught wild Alaska Pacific cod fish and chips.
Hook, Line And Sinker
Andrew told Cowboy State Daily that he isn’t offended by the billboard.
“I think it’s more of an attempt at humor,” he said. “It can seem offensive because some conclude that it attacks a local product and place of employment, but it would be more reasonable to assume that she is running against my principles and not delicious fried food,” he said Thursday night.
Ben-David said she agrees that On The Hook’s fish and chips are delicious, but she finds Andrew’s legislative record is less appetizing.
“It’s quite wonderful,” she said, adding, “I think he should stick to that.”
Andrew said he doesn’t have a direct response to the billboard, and that “like most Wyomingites, I would actually prefer to be left alone to raise my family and mind my business.”
That said, he also understands that’s not necessarily the recipe for politics.
“However, I know government does not naturally work like that,” Andrew said. “Liberty must be fought for and I am willing.”
Andrew is one of the more conservative members of the Legislature. He is staunchly pro-life on abortion and opposes the teaching of critical race theory.
Ben-David is pro-choice and a strong advocate for green energy.
She also sees her billboard a form of free advertising for Andrew’s business.
Politics As Usual?
Cartoonish or comedic political billboards are certainly not new in Cowboy State politics.
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, put out a series of billboards this summer sarcastically remaking on her opponent’s past support for her and opposition to former President Donald Trump.
Nina Webber, a state House candidate in Park County, put up billboards in her county in 2020, advertising herself as a “RINO hunter,” a reference to the phrase “Republican in name only” some in the GOP use to describe Republicans who are perceived to not be conservative enough.
What is unusual with the Laramie-area billboards is to see a Democrat engage in mudslinging with a prominent advertising campaign. Andrew said he did not expect this type of campaigning in Albany County.
“I did it to put my name out there and have people recognize it,” Ben-David said, adding that many people also may not know Andrew moved to Wyoming in the last decade.
“He doesn’t believe in the Wyoming spirit of all citizens having equal rights and women getting to make their own decisions about their bodies,” Ben-David said. “This is a state where people value equality and funding for public education.”
Ben-David ran for U.S. Senate in 2020 against U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis. Although she received 72,766 votes in that election, she likely faces an uphill battle against Andrew, who won this year’s Republican primary by a large margin and was elected in 2020 by 19% points over his nearest opponent.
She said there is a wide range of constituents in her district facing a large variety of issues and priorities.
“Ranchers are highly concerned about drought and water,” she said. “I’m talking to a lot of people in trailer parks who have concerns about inflation and the cost of living.”
She said many people have moved to trailers because they can no longer afford living in traditional homes. Making matters worse for these people, she said, is that many out-of-state companies have bought these parks, leaving more responsibility on residents to pay for utilities.
More Effective Than Yard Signs
Ben-David said she chose the I-80 billboard location for a few reasons. First, because it’s in a main corridor of Laramie. Second, because it happened to be one of the few billboards available.
“The reason I chose this billboard is because my district is very large,” she said. Ben-David said she doesn’t find banners and yard signs to be as effective because of the lack of density. “I thought this would be more efficient.”
Andrew said he doesn’t like to make predictions about his own races, but he has worked hard to listen to his constituents.
“It’s up to them to decide if I’m still the right person to represent them,” he said.