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The Athens Campaign Trail: Mayoral hopeful uses Web to build campaign support

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series about campaigning for office in Athens.

As the only Republican running in either of the city’s two contested races this fall, Randy Morris has been forced to use innovative campaigning methods.

“I’ve done mailers, newspaper ads, I have gone door-to-door. I’m just trying to get the word out,” said Morris, who is challenging incumbent Mayor Paul Wiehl, a Democrat.

He also has posted seven personal videos on his campaign website, He said he decided to film the videos himself to add a more authentic feel to his message.

“Personally, media tends to pick a sound byte out. It’s hard to get the whole message,” Morris said. “This way people get the whole message.”

The videos vary from one to five minutes in length, and each focuses on a certain topic. The most recent post, uploaded Oct. 10, focuses on his experience and qualifications to be mayor.

Some citizens voiced concerns about Morris’ experience at the Oct. 4 mayoral debate at the Athens Public Library, where his military leadership was questioned.

Morris spent 29 years in the Air Force and was an Air Force ROTC detachment commander at Ohio University and the University of California, Berkeley.

In one of his site’s videos, he addresses his opponent’s views of his military experience expressed in the library debate.

“(Wiehl) sort of put down military leadership as not being applicable to a city government like ours,” he said in the video. “My experience is relevant. It is not the only way to gain leadership, but it is one way.”

In addition to virtual campaigning, Morris stressed the importance of fundraising. He sent a letter seeking support and also used person-to-person communication, he said.

Morris’ campaign was given $4,995 in monetary expenditures and had $7,449.17 in available funds, according to his campaign finance report.

His campaign has spent $4,641.86, leaving $2,807.31 yet to be used, according to the report.

Morris said he spent all the money on campaigning to Athens residents and OU students. Though he said he campaigned most issues the same to both groups, he did post one of his videos about town-gown relations Aug. 14.  

He said city officials tend to portray “the students” as a problem in the city and that students are aware of the town’s opinion.

“They are not the problem. We shouldn’t tar the students,” he said, adding that he would work to improve the strain between students and long-term residents if elected Nov. 8.

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