November 2, 2011

Independent candidate runs frugal campaign

Political newcomer paints his own yard signs.

by Jason M. Rodriguez

LOGANSPORT — Seger Mathew stands in the back of his father’s black pickup truck as two young volunteers hand him large green yard signs bearing his name.

“Think election 1920s,” he said with a grin that lifts his modern-styled hair — spiked in the front and perfectly combed on the top and on the sides.

Mathew is running a true modern-day, grassroots campaign — complete with Facebook and fingernail dirt — to take over the Logansport mayor’s office. On a recent campaign day, Mathew, two volunteers and his daughter, Meadow, loaded up six large yard signs that the candidate had hand painted and stenciled.

On the surface, he’s dressed to impress with a light blue, collared, button-up shirt and khakis. But as he rolls up his sleeves before dotting various Logansport neighborhoods, faded green paint tiger stripes his arm. Specks of that green paint can be faintly seen along his fingernails.

Asked why he chose the color, he says simply, “Green means go.”

He says the color is also associated with Libertarians and independents.

“I did a lot of research to see what was most appealing to the eye, and orange and blue were the two colors, but Ted had already taken that,” Mathew said, referring to Ted Franklin, the Republican candidate. “He’s a smart guy.”

Mathew asks his daughter to read from a small notebook the address of the first home where they’ll stop. She obliges, and he recognizes that name and address from a request he received on his Facebook page.

As he walks up to the place, his two volunteers that day, Dahrol Perry and Cody DeWitt, grab a sign, the shovel, a piece of wood and a hammer.

Beep, beep.

A car driving by honks at Mathew as he’s walking to the door.

“You get that a lot,” he said, admitting it’s been happening more frequently recently and had hardly happened in previous months.

Undoubtedly it’s a culmination of the fliers he designed himself and printed at Staples and the 20-or-so signs he spent five hours apiece making.

“When you have 20 signs, it’s ‘Hey, can I have one?’” Mathew said. “But when you have 400 signs, it’s ‘Hey, may I put one ... ?’”

He knocks on the door to greet the supporter and let him know the sign he requested was being put up. No answer.

Mathew heads to the front lawn to canvass where this coveted sign would be best visible. After eyeballing trees and light posts, he finds the perfect spot where both eastbound and westbound traffic on High Street will see it.

Mathew hops his 31-year-old frame on top of the shovel and starts digging. He carves out the patch of grass and preserves it so it doesn’t ruin the supporter’s lawn. As the sign posts, which are painted pieces of old flooring, are placed into the ground, he kneels to mold the dirt around the sign and scuffs the knees of his khaki pants with dirt. He replaces the patch of grass and, as if he’s done this 15-or-so times before, he looks at the sign and says, “Perfect.”

On to the next one and the next one.

Mathew is frugal and hands on. With $650 in his campaign coffers — $250 of which came from his own pocket — Mathew knows that his hard work is what will get him in the head office. Having run his campaign with a treasurer who has had to leave the state for several months due to an emergency, Mathew gets a call from the election office seeking receipts for his campaign reports. His sign planting party is over. But not before he squeezes in one last sign at the home of a supporter who was there for him from the very beginning of his campaign.

“Any time someone gives their time to you, it’s only fair you give yours back to them,” he said.

• Jason M. Rodriguez is news editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5117 or