September 14, 2017
By Kevin Robillard
A slew of liberal groups are teaming up for a $2 million digital ad buy aiming to drive Virginia voters to the polls in November and back Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam for governor.
Planned Parenthood Votes and Planned Parenthood Virginia PAC, the Tom Steyer-backed Next Gen America, Priorities USA, Progress Virginia and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters PAC are all contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the effort, which will begin this week and run until Election Day. The ads will aim to reach and turn out more than 1.2 million voters.
“When it comes to women’s health in Virginia, everything is on the line, which is why we are doubling down to elect progressive champion Ralph Northam,” said Deirdre Schifeling, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes. “We are pushing boundaries with the most coordinated and innovative digital program we’ve seen on this scale. This cutting edge digital program in Virginia will set a new precedent for coordinated investment and execution of a digital media program to reach, persuade and mobilize voters in a statewide race.”
Planned Parenthood’s ads, the first to be released, tout Northam as a “true champion for women’s health” who will fight to expand Medicaid and attack Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie for saying he would like “to see abortion be banned.”
The groups are touting the buy as an unprecedented effort from liberal groups to coordinate their digital spending. The groups are sharing data and working together to develop messaging, voter contact timelines and dividing targeted audiences.
Democrats have often worked together to coordinate their television and mail efforts, but digital efforts have sometimes been more scattershot.
Priorities, which was the main super PAC backing Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, hopes to replicate the effort in other states with competitive races in 2018.
“For years, Democrats have worked together on TV advertising and field, but fallen behind on digital advertising. Progressives can and must work together if we are going to make electoral gains in 2017, 2018 and beyond, and this first-of-its-kind coordinated digital effort is going to provide us a blueprint moving forward,” said Patrick McHugh, executive director of Priorities USA Action. “Working closely together will allow us to efficiently deliver complimentary messages using the same data and targeting to ensure we’re all working toward the same shared goal without duplicating or competing efforts.”