Metrocouncil District 12 is located in the southern portion of East Baton Rouge Parish roughly between Perkins and Highland Roads. While it contains some of Baton Rouge’s more affluent neighborhoods, it is a politically marginal district due to two factors: (1) a noticeable (27%) minority vote consisting of blacks and Asians, (2) a substantial number of more liberally inclined state and/or LSU employees living in the district.
While District 12 has the reputation of being a Republican district (it has only elected Republicans since 1988), the truth is more complicated. Certainly, at the national level, Republicans carry the district, but not by overwhelming margins. Mitt Romney’s 55% of the vote in 2012 was actually a steady decrease in Republican strength compared to 2008 and 2004. Furthermore, in down ballot races, the district displays more of an independent voting streak, particularly if the Republican is a staunch conservative.
Our candidate in this race was John Delgado. This was his first run for public office against a one term incumbent, fellow Republican “Smokie” Bourgeois. From the outset, we knew that the incumbent would face a tough re-election simply from looking at the district’s history – between 2000 and 2012, this race has been pushed into a runoff each time, and has been decided by less than 500 votes. Furthermore, the incumbent (who unsuccessfully sought the seat in 2000 and 2004) had generated a fair amount of controversy during his single term in office.
JMC Enterprises of Louisiana was engaged by Delgado to provide strategy and polling, and to maintain a database of voters/identified supporters. It was determined early on that the race would have to be won with a bipartisan/biracial coalition, given that the incumbent was a Republican. JMC’s strategic recommendations provided the neighborhood “roadmap” necessary for the Delgado campaign, while periodic polling was used to assess candidate strengths/weaknesses, and to evaluate which issues were important to the voters.
The initial campaign strategy had to be modified, however, when shortly before qualifying, a black Democrat entered the race. Since the November primary election coincided with the Presidential race, the thought was that Democratic voter turnout would be substantial, and that the Democratic candidate would benefit from being the only Democrat in the race.
This is where polling was crucial: it determined the effectiveness of voter contact and campaign mail outs among various voter demographics throughout the duration of the primary campaign. As Election Day got closer, polling was augmented with targeted, automated “get out the vote” messages both during early voting week and before Election Day. Throughout the campaign, it was understood by the campaign team and the candidate that voter identification was vital. Towards that end, JMC developed and maintained a database to accumulate a list of those identified for each candidate. Mailers/get out the vote efforts were only sent to identified supporters/undecided voters.
In the primary, the incumbent led with 41%, a result which was foretold due to JMC’s continuous polling. Because the Delgado campaign had taken the time to build a bipartisan/biracial coalition (including getting about 10% of the black vote against a black candidate), 206 votes put the Delgado campaign into a runoff against “Smokie” Bourgeois.
While the campaign believed it had an excellent chance of picking up a lion’s share of the vote going to the black Democratic candidate in the primary, the runoff had a different challenge: it was held on December 8 (in the middle of the Christmas holidays), and early voting started immediately after the Thanksgiving holidays. Therefore, we focused on two things: (1) the voters we had identified who voted in November, and (2) we looked at the primary election results, and prioritized our voter contact efforts accordingly.
In the runoff, mailers were used to communicate the message, but were only sent to those likely to vote in December. We again used automated messaging both for the early voting period and before Election Day. On Election Day, our GOTV was highly targeted: the focus was now on individual precincts and voting demographics.
The efforts of JMC Enterprises of Louisiana (as well as John Delgado’s campaign team) were recognized with a 53%, or 418 vote, margin that was both biracial and bipartisan.