Phoenix City Council - Arizona Case Study.
In 2013, Lake Research Partners helped elect two women to the Phoenix City Council; working with Kate Gallego in District 8 and an independent expenditure on behalf of Laura Pastor in District 4. Gallego became the first woman elected to the council from District 8 and Pastor became the first Latina elected from her district. Research on behalf of both candidates was critical to informing the strategies going forward, and ultimately winning the seats.
The first, Kate Gallego, in District 8, is where we really saw the importance of polling and the benefit of doing so early in the race. Originally, the campaign’s plan was to wait on polling and to begin by introducing Gallego to voters as a Harvard graduate who would be the first woman elected from the district. Polling showed that a different strategy was warranted. District 8 is very blue collar, with an electorate that is majority Latino and African American. The Harvard angle would have been wrong for this district and ran the risk of making Gallego seem out of touch with voters. Instead, Gallego ran as the candidate “most qualified to fight for you.” No one would have expected a 32-year-old to run on that platform, but by polling early, we learned that the path to victory came from Gallego’s background and qualifications. The research showed that voters wanted a Council Member who would fight for them and their district’s fair share of City Council money. Thus, we needed to demonstrate Gallego’s unique qualifications, such as her business background and other best attributes, to introduce her as the candidate who would not only stand up for them, but had the right skills to ensure she could win the fight on their behalf. Gallego won the primary with 48% of the vote and ultimately won the general with 61% of the vote.
Then in our independent expenditure work on behalf of Laura Pastor, one of the main goals from the beginning was to not allow her opponent to gain too much momentum in the campaign coming out of the primary. When we first polled before the primary, Pastor had the lead. However, her opponent eventually won the primary. We then had to pivot to the run-off and before the campaign or IE made any moves, Pastor was down by 9 points. We polled again and developed a two pronged path to victory. The first move was to define her opponent as not a real Democrat by focusing on past contributions to Republicans, in order to convince base Democrats to vote for Pastor. The next step focused on defining her opponent as someone on the [property] developers’ side and thus would fight for them and “not for you,” in order to pull away independents that supported Pastor’s opponent. Though Pastor and the IE on her behalf were outspent, ultimately the winning messages and attacks resonated with voters and Pastor won the election 54% to 46%, and by fewer than 500 votes.
The key to both of these campaigns was opinion research that armed the mail, communication, and field teams with the best message advice they needed to win the campaign. For Gallego, it meant running on experience (which was counter to conventional wisdom) and for Pastor, it meant finding a dual path that convinced Democrats to support her and independents to vote against her opponent.