How We Did It
Recognizing the Folks Who Made it Happen
On election night, the balance of power shifted up and down the ballot in Harris County, but our win has attracted particular attention.
Yes, it was unlikely. But this year is filled with unlikely stories because unlikely people decided to run. I decided to run for office, like thousands of women across our country, because I couldn’t stand by in the face of growing challenges and alarming divisiveness.
Part of the inspiration for running was meeting young elected officials — a young mayor, a young city councilman, and a young state representative. I write this so anyone out there wondering whether they should run, knows that ingredients in their hands — hard work and the right allies — are the ingredients for victory.
Timing and circumstance played a role here, as with anything. Divisiveness at the national level turned some votes off in a county that has recently been trending purple-to-blue. I’m grateful to Beto O’Rourke for inspiring so many young people and new voters to turn out this year.
But those circumstances alone wouldn’t have led to a victory. This victory was made possible by the desire to make change and a team of wonderful people stepping up to make it happen.
A Different Kind of Campaign
We knew we’d be outspent, so we decided to take an innovative approach to reaching voters.
We partnered with the digital firm Do Big Things, who used support and turnout models to guide their targeting. We reached hundreds of thousands of voters across a number of digital platforms from Facebook to Pandora and local news sites. Each voter saw our message up to 30 times, totaling over 10 million impressions. We also identified a pool of over 310,000 voters at risk of splitting their ticket — in other words, voters who were likely not to vote a straight Democratic ticket — and reached those voters with targeted messaging. Almost 80,000 people who did not vote for any party’s straight ticket voted for us.
We wanted a campaign logo and identity that reflected our community, so we partnered with Texans on the creative team at Tandem to design a logo and look that captured voters’ attention, using portraits donated by F. Carter Smith. An all-woman crew from One Vote At A Time generously created our initial campaign video pro bono.
We worked with Change Research on baseline polling to find out where we stood. Early in the summer, we learned where we were strongest, and that helped inform our strategic decisions.
We were also one of the only campaigns to make a significant investment in Spanish language television and radio advertising. I felt strongly that you should campaign how you wish to govern, and we chose to be a campaign that communicated with every community, using every tool possible.
A Different Message
Straight-ticket voting was a big part of our win. 76% of voters decided to vote for one party’s straight-ticket. 55% of them voted for the Democratic Party. None of that happened on accident.
The Harris County Democratic Party, together with the First Tuesday PAC and their partners (the Lone Star Project, SEIU, CWA, and the Texas Organizing Project), spent millions of dollars showcasing our Democratic slate. They invited people to vote the straight ticket not out of reflex, but because of the incredible candidates on the ballot this year.
For our part, we spent our campaign resources running television ads that asked not only for support for our campaign but about Democratic values and the importance of voting for the entire ticket. Voters told me the ads gave them confidence in supporting a slate of candidates that would work hard for them and protect their values.
A Powerful Coalition
From the start, two organizations gave me the training and resources I needed to navigate the world of campaigns as a first-time candidate: The Arena and Run for Something. They helped me craft a campaign plan, raise funds, find staff, reach press, find pro bono mentors for everything from speech-writing to fundraising, and make decisions based on the smartest data.
Led by Lillie Schechter, the Harris County Democratic Party ran one of the best coordinated campaigns in the history of Texas politics, coordinating Democratic clubs throughout a county with the population of Colorado, the campaigns of dozens of judicial candidates, and numerous stakeholders from across our community, like Sisters United, which ran a program encouraging Democratic women to vote, and PSR East End, which ran efficient phonebanks for Latina women. Our Democratic clubs led powerful phonebanking, blockwalking, and mailer programs.
CWA, Worker’s Defense in Action, and the Texas Organizing Project (which knocked on tens of thousands of doors) ran huge turnout programs for communities of color in Harris County.
Our sisters and brothers in labor — specifically CWA, UFCW, UNITE HERE, SEIU and LiUNA — helped us reach voters throughout Harris County.
Many other organizations played a role. Here is our full list of endorsing organizations. And of course, activists had been building excitement and power in our community for years by the time Election Day came.
This is all to say, it was a team effort, and it took a lot of hard work. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to every person who voted, every organization who helped us, everyone who believed we can chart a new course for our county and our nation.
Now, we must turn to governing, to building a team that represents everyone in our community, regardless of who they voted for, regardless of what they look like. As we work to build a better Harris County, my deepest hope is that the energy we saw and felt this year is just the beginning, that a new generation of voters will continue to step up and have a voice in our politics and our community. I hope that those who stepped up to vote, volunteer, or participate for the first time, remain involved and that those who wonder whether they should put their names on the ballot, take that step for their communities. Sometimes, when we want things to happen, we have to do it ourselves. Let’s get to work.