Sounds like a pretty daunting task, doesn’t it?
Enter high tech campaign strategy, provided for a small cost by your own political party.
Ty McCartney and Josie Valdez face such a challenge, and such a solution.
They are the Democratic Party primary candidates in state Senate District 8, both seeking in an open June 26 primary to be the Democratic who can replace retiring Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights.
McCartney is a former Democratic House member who has been out of the Legislature for several years.
Valdez is a community/Hispanic activist and wife of current state Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray.
While Senate District 8 has been held by a Democrat for some time, it was a swing district under the old 2002-2012 legislative district maps and is considered a swing district again under the newly-drawn Senate 8. You can see a map of the new Salt Lake County eastside district here.
McCartney, a sales consultant and former police officer, says he estimates that between 1,500 and 2,000 voters will cast ballots in his primary, not many considering the size of the district.
“We could have as few as 900 voting,” he told UtahPolicy.
That would mean that in a close race like this Democratic primary is guessed to be, just a few dozen votes could make the difference.
Valdez is more optimistic on the June 26 primary vote. “I think there could be 6,000 voters,” she told UtahPolicy.
Whatever the number, how do you reach this relatively small number of people?
Both McCartney and Valdez are using the State Democratic Party’s “votebuilder” computer voter I.D. programs.
And the information comes relatively cheaply, at least for the candidates.
“I’ve paid $125 so far, may end up spending $175 for it,” says McCartney.
For McCartney and Valdez, the information has proven invaluable, however.
A candidate can put in various parameters – like those who voted in previous Democratic primaries for such and such years. Out come the voter’s names and addresses for your geographic district.
“This lets you run a big Senate race but very targeted. You can’t reach everyone (who may vote in a primary), but you can reach a lot of them,” said McCartney.
He’s identified 3,200 such possible Democratic primary voters, “the most probably” based on history.
Then he’s targeted them with mailings and walking.
Because of absentee balloting and early voting, he’s broken his mailings up into several time frames.
His first mailings went out to absentee balloters/Democrats the day before the Salt Lake County Clerk mailed out the absentee ballots, a second round of mailings the day after.
Now that early voting has begun, McCartney is working those lists as well.
“I can’t wait to get the list of absentee voters” who’ve already returned their ballots in his area. He then knows who has cast their ballots and can check them off his to-do list.
Then he follows up those mailings with telephone calls into those homes, reminding Democrats and independents who he is, asking them to read his material and offering to answer any of their questions.
He also identifies those addresses, and systematically maps out routes where he can walk/drive to those folks homes.
“You try to use your time as effectively as possible,” said McCartney. “Then you work your way down the list” of likely Democratic primary voters.
Such voter targeting – a small number of likely voters in a large geographic area – was impossible just a decade ago, or at least not as targeted as computers and mapping today allow.
“It is becoming a science, back in the day when I first ran (for the House) we didn’t have this detailed data. We used to just walk our district, house to house, knocking on doors. Now we have identified specific households, it’s a lot easier,” he says.
While Valdez is also using votebuilder, she is also making contacts with other groups in the area, including current city officeholders and the Hispanic community.
“I’m working with a larger group of potential voters,” she said.
“I am walking neighbors, as our my volunteers. You just have to be out there,” she said. Still, she added, “You can’t walk an entire (Senate) district in the short time you have” between the party convention and the primary election.
“I’m also holding town hall meetings, going one-on-one with the voters,” she said.
Of course, all the science helps little unless McCartney and Valdez can convince these voters to actually cast a ballot for them.
“My message for the primary, of course, is different than what it will be for the general, should I advance,” McCartney says.
In running against Valdez, McCartney says he’s stressing that he is a proven winner in a swing district against a strong Republican Party candidate. “I’ve proven I can beat the Republican, which is critical in a year where Mitt Romney will be at the top of the Republican ticket,” he said.
(The GOP nominee in Senate 8 is Brian Shiozawa.)
“I was also effective in working with the supermajority (of Republicans) in the House,” McCartney adds.
“Those are the two points I’m trying to drive home.”
Valdez told UtahPolicy that she’s pushing her involvement in the Democratic Party, her support and endorsements by 50 Democratic leaders, including Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and gubernatorial candidate Peter Cooke, and 40 years of community involvement in the area.
Home is the Midvale and Murray areas, she said, but she’s been working with the Cottonwood Heights area as well.
“The district is one of the most diverse in the state,” she said. “There are low-income areas of Midvale, moderate households in Murray and the affluent areas of Cottonwood.
“I’m the only candidate that will represent all of (Senate 8) and not just one area,” she said.
Valdez is retired from being an assistant director of the U.S. small business administration. She served one year with former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson as his director of diversity and just finished a two-year stint on the board of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The new voter I.D. technology is also great because it allows primary candidates – who are traditionally strapped for funds until they win the nomination – to run an adequate campaign on the cheap.
Both McCartney and Valdez show little fund raising or spending in their complete financial reports filed just before the April Salt Lake County Democratic convention, where neither could muster the 60 percent of delegate votes that would have won them their nomination outright.
However, in recent contribution updates on file with the State Elections Office both are making some fund raising headway.
McCartney listed only $586 in debt in his pre-convention report. He has since raised $6,326. A large block of that, nearly $2,000, came from a group of individuals in a family-run business out of Modesto, Calif., which employed McCartney’s wife at one time.
Valdez had raised just over $2,000 in her pre-convention report. She has since raised another $6,000.
McCartney says Valdez is “playing the endorsement game,” listing well-known Democrats who support her and raising money from a number of them.
“I asked for and received only one endorsement, that of Karen Morgan, the incumbent,” said McCartney. Morgan gave McCartney $200; Democratic Rep. Carol Spackman Moss has donated $100 to him.
Valdez says who supports a candidate is important, for it shows strong strength not only within the party but in the community as well.
Valdez’s latest contributors include: Corroon, $500; Utah Stone Wall Democrats, $500; Cecelia Romero (wife of Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero), $500; a $500 donation from the campaign fund of her husband, Wheatley; former state Rep. Jackie Biskupski, $200; former U.S. Senate candidate Pete Ashdown, $200; and former gubernatorial candidate Bob Springmeyer, $100.