After the exhilarating successes in Virginia’s odd-year elections last year, we began to focus on Arizona. In this update, we’re going to tell you about our efforts in an April special election in the Phoenix area, and how this experience is leading us to some amazing opportunities in the midterm elections in this state.
The (Very) Special Election
Arizona has definitely been a red state for a long time; it voted significantly for McCain in 2008, Romney in 2012, and Trump in 2016; and its Governor, its state legislature, and both of its Senators are Republican. This isn’t new — this was the land of Goldwater back in 1964.
But the times are changing. Arizona is becoming more and more “purple”. The Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake is up for grabs, and Democrats see more and more opportunities. Even now, 4 of the 9 Congressional seats are held by Democrats — not an overwhelmingly Republican advantage.
That being said, the 8th Congressional district, a northwest suburb of Phoenix, with a seat vacated by a resigning Republican (Trent Franks), is still known to be strongly Republican. The Cook Report rates it as R+13, which means it is 13% more Republican than the national average. Trump won there by 21 points, Romney by 25. The April 24 special election there was viewed as a long shot by Democrats, and was definitely not on the national Party’s targeted list.
But along came Hiral Tipirneni, a former emergency room physician, a strong, kind woman who was willing to go through the difficult process of a campaign with the odds so high against her. She was a fantastic candidate — and she still is, since there will be another election for this district in November. While she didn’t win in April, she beat expectations by 20 points, with a gap of only 4.7%! And this was an election where outside groups poured in financial support for the Republican candidate, and the national Democrats largely stayed away.
This was a campaign that was ripe for the kind of volunteer-centric approaches that we have been promoting. Together with a great campaign staff and wonderful volunteers, Antonia promoted the techniques that had worked so well in Virginia, focusing on visibility and community engagement.
One approach to promoting visibility is with the much-maligned lawn signs. As we’ve noted in previous missives, research has shown them to be much more effective than previously thought. In the Arizona 8th, as in the Virginia effort before, there was a strong effort to make Hiral’s name well-known through efforts like this. 3000 lawn signs were distributed. You could see her previously-unknown name all over the district!
As in Virginia, post card writing parties were organized. These not only spread the word in a much more personalized way than the usual glossy mailers, but they engaged the community significantly. 17,000 handwritten postcards were distributed!
Of course, volunteers were also recruited for more traditional tasks like canvassing (over 56,000 doors knocked on).
So, what did the campaign think of our effort?
“Antonia and her team take the time to understand each person’s unique skills and abilities and how to incorporate them into a campaign. Media buys, direct mail and robocalls will never come close to having the impact your neighbor, peer or colleague have when it comes to influencing your vote. This isn’t a job, it is a passion for UpRise. They want to change the world one conversation at a time and they are. Look at their latest result in AZ CD-8!”
— Kelly Paisley, Campaign Manager, Dr. Hiral Tipirneni for Congress
That was great to hear!
What Is a Big Local Issue There?
Arizona has one of the worst records for allocating funds for teacher pay and classroom needs. As in a number of other states that are bad on this (e.g., Oklahoma), outrage over this predicament has led to massive demonstrations called “Red for Ed”, by teachers, students and parents. This is a key part of the movement to make the state “bluer”, because the Democrats have been the party that has been most vocal in fixing this mess.
What’s Next for UpRise?
Since the election in November 2016, progressives have often felt, well, like this:
Of course, at this point, what really matters is how we channel this angst into productive action.
Democrats now have a serious shot at gaining a majority in both the House and state legislature delegations, and in gaining a Senate seat. Success here can significantly affect the national scene, helping to block the most serious destructive moves of the current administration. UpRise now has a great network of Arizona partners and supporters to help make this happen in November. And our software platform, which facilitates the effort, is rapidly maturing; we expect the next significant redesign to be released by mid-July.
The UpRise Campaigns work in Arizona will enable strong campaigns by candidates with limited financial resources, powered by volunteers. While most of what we do is based on local offline action, as we get closer to November, there will also be a great need for remote volunteers, so even if you are not in Arizona, please sign in to the site to help with tasks that can be done at a distance. And if you haven’t contributed financially lately, donating to UpRise can be a great way to help the effort.
Even if you can’t help in other ways, your financial assistance will help us turn this state blue. And by showing that these approaches can work in Arizona, it can have an even bigger impact on showing how campaigns can win in 2020.
Finally, I wanted to thank the many (over 300) volunteers who worked on the 8th district campaign. The picture above shows some of them, along with campaign staff. Antonia took the picture and so is not shown, but she was, as always, the “tip of the spear” for UpRise (as well as being the key person behind our mission definition). As the back-office guy, I can’t close this report without thanking her as well for the amazing job she does. And thanks to all of you who have already helped us in this mission!
Co-founder and CEO
All images by Antonia Scatton (all rights reserved), except “Hair on Fire”, copyright sherv.net.
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