Coordinating Phones and Mail for Special Elections

August 13, 2015

A special election was scheduled for July 14, 2015 to fill a vacancy in the 80th District of Georgia’s State House of Representatives. The top two vote-getters were Democrat Taylor Bennett and Republican J. Max Davis. With Georgia’s 50+1 voting requirement, a runoff election was scheduled for August 11, 2015. Davis had been embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal as Mayor of Brookhaven before he resigned to run for State Legislature. Should the Democrats win this seat, they would end the Republican supermajority in the State House, giving Democrats control of Fulton County. This made HD 80 a unique pick-up opportunity for Democrats. It was victory-critical for Democrats to make a strong case to the Republican-leaning district to vote for Taylor Bennett, or to vote against J. Max Davis.

With turnout expected to be severely low, the only way Democrats could win this election would be to turnout Democratic voters at the polls and convince Republicans to vote against J. Max Davis. The Georgia House Democratic Caucus saw this as a major pick-up opportunity. This election was barely on the radar for voters. Democrats needed a plan that would get as many Democrats and Republicans to turn out to vote for Taylor Bennett as possible, as well as to paint J. Max Davis as a twisted politician. 

Knowing what was at stake for Democrats, the CPG team conducted internal research on J. Max Davis, and uncovered some scandalous baggage. We provided a rundown of the incident and it’s history to the Caucus. They shared this information with the direct mail firm, who used it as the basis for their mail program. Even though we were not producing mail, we worked along side the mail consultant, general consultant, and the entire team to help streamline communications moving forward. We designed our phone program to correspond with the language voters saw on mail pieces. We used a script that delivered slightly different messages to voters, depending on their likely party. First, we explained to everyone that Davis abused his power in office to cover up his sexual harassment scandal. Then, we used a straight partisan appeal to Democrats, explaining that Taylor was the only Democrat running and his win would be powerfully important for all Georgia Democrats. Republicans, on the other hand, received a message decrying Davis’s behavior, saying they deserve better. We then encouraged them to support Taylor Bennett on Election Day.

We delivered our message to thousands of Democratic and Republican voters across Georgia’s 80th State Legislative District. Democrats knew that winning this election was essential to steal a State House seat from the Republicans. Republicans knew that Davis was a disgusting creep who abused his power as Mayor to cover up his own indiscretions. In the end, our message was received extremely well by voters of both parties. On election day, Taylor Bennett won by almost 500 votes, ending the Republican supermajority in the State House. Bennett’s victory gives Democrats control of Fulton County’s legislative delegation, and gives Democrats more than one-third of the State House seats, enough to block constitutional amendment bills if each party voted along party lines. 


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