District 8 of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board is a study in contrasts. The district is in the southwestern corner of the parish, where low income apartments exist in close proximity to high income subdivisions. It has a decided, but not a secure, Republican edge, as it contains a mixture of middle income blacks, lower income blacks, academics, and white collar professionals of various income levels.
While at the national level, Republicans carry the district, it is not with overwhelming margins, and this support is rather tentative, particularly if the Republican is a staunch conservative. John McCain and Bobby Jindal both received 62% support from the district’s voters, but in a special Congressional election in 2008, Democrat Don Cazayoux carried the district 49-46% over Woody Jenkins; six months later, Republican Bill Cassidy defeated Cazayoux 58-34% in those same precincts, and while he received 66% support from the district’s voters in his 2010 re-election effort, David Vitter only received 54% of the vote (Charlie Melancon received 41%).
The district was an open seat race. Our client was Republican Connie Bernard, who faced three energetic Democratic opponents. We wanted her to win in the first primary, so we planned our strategy accordingly. To facilitate our ground game, we started with a targeted voter list that scored voters based on proprietary criteria we developed to get the most likely voters. We also conducted a poll of likely voters to determine where we should/should not devote campaign resources.
As our client was dutifully working the prioritized precincts with the able assistance of her grassroots team led by Jennifer Madsen, we also impressed upon the candidate the importance of maximizing the early vote. This meant that once early voting started, the grassroots team that was canvassing the district was also encouraging favorable likely voters to early vote.
Our emphasis on the early vote as we executed our ground game paid off handsomely; 15% of the vote was cast before Election Day, and Connie received 67% of these voters. With those who voted on Election Day, Connie still won with an absolute majority of 52% (with at least 70% of the vote in three precincts), enabling her to win with 54% – impressive in an open seat race with multiple candidates.