Fall 2017 Political Operations

In the general election of Fall 2017, several notable Mainstream Republicans across the region performed well, providing hope amidst an uncertain political environment. For example, Kathy Lambert and Reagan Dunn won by landslide margins – almost 2:1. Morgan Irwin, who was a sponsor of the receptions at this year’s Cascade Conference, won 57% of the vote.  Several of our local candidates won across the state, as well. However, the primary focus of this race for groups across the spectrum was always going to be the Senate race on the Eastside in Legislative District 45, and that was no different for MRW.

When Senator Andy hill tragically passed away on Oct. 31 2016, mourning turned to angst as Republicans realized they must defend their most vulnerable seat after losing their most talented incumbent. Worse, those voters resoundingly rejected the Republican presidential candidate just one week later, handing him just 26% of votes cast; more than 15% of voters in Legislative District 45 voted for a third-party candidate, virtually all of them Republican. However, the GOP faced a binary choice—defend the seat or concede the majority.

Jinyoung Englund stepped up to run in this critical election, and impressed many as an intelligent and energetic candidate. However, Democratic strategists capitalized on historic opposition to the president and GOP national politics to gain an early advantage. Together with the failure to respond to these tactics, her opponent bested her in the primary election by 10 points. To save the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, Republicans would need all hands on deck, a lot of faith, and some luck.

After deciding to get involved, MRW designed a plan it believed could uplift Englund to victory if her campaign and other GOP entities could position her within striking distance. We filmed two spots starring former Governor Daniel J. Evans and Metropolitan King County Council Chairman Louise Miller, respectively, and tested them before focus group participants. Realizing this method could reach voters after strikingly positive response to Evans in particular, MRW created two more advertisements that played on cable TV and digital media—one featuring three-term Secretary of State Sam Reed and the other, Uwajimaya owner and longtime CEO Tomio Moriguchi. We raised over $330,000 and broadcast our ads to voters millions of times, along with a personal letter from local officials urging their communities to choose Jinyoung.

We know from research that the discipline and ferocity of the message linking Jinyoung Englund to Donald Trump penetrated so deeply that many voters—including Republican supporters of Englund—believed that she came in from out of state to run for office here as a national GOP mole. Worse, they used partial truths designed to make her campaign and allies hesitate about answering the many falsehoods, outmaneuvering the latter so early and completely that by the time the MRW program began to reverse the damage, too many of the independent and moderate voters required to win had long tuned out. Jinyoung pulled 18% higher in the 45th district than President Trump last fall. We helped her achieve this increase by showing that she is a moderate who would work in a civil, bipartisan fashion. Unfortunately, even this wasn’t enough for her to prevail.

Having succeeded with their tactics in the 45th district, we know that Democrats will employ the same tactics in races across the region next year. In other words, they will bypass the normal debate about relevant issues and comparison of the candidates with a message that voting for any Republican is a vote for Donald Trump. If we do not counter them effectively, Democrats will obtain the votes they need to pass the income tax, punitive regulatory agenda on industry, undercut the bipartisan financial support for higher education passed by the MCC, and suffocating barriers to entry for small business they have long craved. Whatever the next eleven months hold in store, the leadership of the Mainstream Republicans of Washington will do whatever we can to advise and assist Republican candidates to communicate their values, what they would like to accomplish, and most importantly–accentuate the positive. This is the WA GOP’s only hope to protect the legislative gains it has worked so hard achieve.

Click here to see our 2017 Political Ad Campaign 

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