September 27, 2017
By Alexi McCammond
Priorities USA quietly worked with the Florida Democratic Party to help a Democrat win a state Senate seat previously held by a Republican. It was the first time the national progressive advocacy group got involved in a state legislature race.
Why it matters: Democrats want to regain some of the nearly 1,000 state legislature seats they have lost in recent years, and progressive groups are focusing on digital campaigns as a strategy for Dems hoping to win more seats at every level. And this is another example of the sophisticated campaigns popping up to help Dems in these elections, which the advocacy groups think will create a pipeline for Democratic candidates to regain majorities overall.
Priorities USA coordinated a nearly $200,000 digital campaign in support of Annette Taddeo — who won with 51% of the vote. “Republicans certainly did a better job in 2016; they spent more money on it and it showed,” said a Priorities USA spokesperson. Taddeo is the 8th Dem to flip a Republican seat since Trump’s inauguration so far.
- Hurricane Irma affected the campaign and the election, so the group focused more on mobile ads than desktop.
- Priorities USA worked as a digital team for the Florida Democratic Party, deploying three types of ads: “positive” messages about Taddeo’s platform; “Trump” that said things like “A vote against Diaz is a vote against Trump”; and “vote early” ads.
- The ads were bilingual, which targeted voters who selected Spanish as their primary language for the internet browser.
- Battle lines: The National Republican Senate Committee “wanted their candidates to spend 30% of their budget on [digital campaigns],” the Priorities USA spokesperson said, noting Dems “have, by any measure, fallen behind on that, so this is a step toward getting it done.”
- Counterpoint: Dems haven’t won a special Congressional election since Trump and strategists have warned that these local wins are not necessarily indicative of national trends.
What’s next: Priorities USA is using their digital model from Florida, which they consider a successful start, to model the work they do in 2018. They’re largely known as running TV ads, but the spokesperson said they’re pivoting to invest more in digital campaigns and deploy them at every level in 2018 — including House and Senate races. And they’re assisting with a $2 million digital campaign for the Virginia governor’s race and they have already run digital ads in competitive Senate races on health care.
Go deeper: Dems keep winning in Trump country as Republicans resign, which is an uplifting sign for the party, especially as state legislatures will be in charge of congressional redistricting ahead of 2022 elections. Forward Majority, a new Dem super PAC, is expanding its state legislature campaign to 12 states to further help Dems win more seats. And a recent survey conducted for Priorities USA suggested Democrats should focus campaign messages on the economy to win over voters in 2018.