Seventeen wins, five losses. That is WinPower's record in the 2016 November elections.
We believe that political consultants should be more transparent about their win-loss record. We also believe the progressive community should do more analysis and evaluation of what worked and what didn’t. This is our take on that analysis of our own work. You can see a more detailed look at the individual races we worked on below.
Here's our consultant teams’ overall record in the Washington State Legislature over the last 15 years. WinPower consultants have picked up 13 legislative seats from Republicans since 2000 while losing three seats.
WinPower consultants have lost one elected Democratic incumbent seat. That was Monica Stonier's seat in 2014. We were proud to elect Monica in 2016 in a tough fight in the 49th Legislative District. That win means every elected Democrat incumbent in the legislature that used WinPower is either in the legislature or retired.
The elephant in the room.
We are ready to fight. We will work with anyone who is up for the fight against Donald Trump's right wing agenda. Cities and states (especially states like Washington) will need to be a bulwark against the right wing, intolerant agenda of Donald Trump, the Republican Senate and the Republican Congress. We are ready. At the same time, we will continue our work to elect more women and people of color to every level of the ballot. We will take chances on new progressive voices (even if their starting resources are limited) that contrast sharply to the vitriol we can expect out of a Trump presidency.
At the same time, we are equally passionate about reform in the Democratic Party and progressive institutions. We will work to create more diversity, more inclusion and push organizations to truly work statewide. If you run a progressive non-profit where your only events involve dressing up and going to downtown Seattle, you are running a mutual admiration society not a statewide progressive political organization. It's time to get out of Seattle and out into every community in Washington State. The 2016 election should be a great opportunity to reassess and re-evaluate all of our work going forward.
We see three areas for immediate improvement:
Voter engagement and Data. Washington State has abysmal turnout in every election except Presidential elections. As in, some of the worst voter turnout in the world. Democrats in Washington should care a lot more about that. One of the more disappointing outcomes this year was Tina Podlodowski's race for Secretary of State. She got it. She understood the necessary steps to engage new and low-frequency voters Democrats and progressive groups should have done more to get her elected.
That said, we can still push harder for electoral reform. The first thing we need to do is move the August primary. We say we want people to vote but we hold an election in August. It would be like Safeway asking people to shop at their stores but only being open between 2 am and 4 am. We need more ballot boxes, pre-paid postage on ballot envelopes, same day registration, more translation, fewer elections, and in King County, fewer rejected ballots. We need organizers on the ground in battleground areas all the time, not just during the last six weeks of an election. We can take money from the blizzard of paper we throw at voters in the last two weeks and use it to improve the quality of our contacts with low-frequency and swing voters with consistent grassroots engagement.
At the same time, we need to improve our data collection on the ground with organizers and share that information quickly and easily with other Democrats. We need the latest consumer-enhanced data to mesh with our real-time on the ground data collection.
Bold progressive policy. We are not in Olympia or Washington D.C. So, we get that doing bold policy is infinitely harder than proposing it. That said, the days of incrementalism and triangulation should be over at this point. Economic justice, structural racism, public education and climate change are all too real and too urgent to tinker with at this point. Voters are catching on that politicians aren't really putting their shoulder to the wheel. Democrats need to be able to say specifically and concretely what they will do to improve people's lives.
Better creative and narrative. There is some art to politics. You can't tell from most campaign meetings Fundraising, who knows who, who has power, what endorsements did you get...that drives 99% of all campaign meetings. How are we going to tell our story to voters? That too often gets left off the agenda. We must spend more time and energy in building an authentic and convincing narrative to help candidates win. There needs to be a balance in all these aspects of campaigns and, right now, the balance is off.
Winpower's key races this year
The Supreme Court: We worked with Justice Yu, Chief Justice Madsen and produced a kickoff video Justice Wiggins. These races were heavily politicized in October with late money. It's clear that late money in a Presidential year doesn't work anymore. All three of these justices do an excellent job and deserved strong votes of confidence. Voters in Washington clearly agree with that assessment.
A new Superintendent of Public Instruction: Voters got a great choice this year with two of the hardest working statewide candidates we've ever seen. In the end, Chris Reykdal's tenacity, clear message, education acumen and positive energy won out by a nose. We are proud to have worked with Chris and know he will do an excellent job in this role.
A tough seat to hold: The Republicans wanted to take out Mark Mullet. They got in early and raised a lot of money. We held them off with Mark winning by a few hundred votes. Mark is a great candidate for the 5th District. He has two small businesses and four great daughters that keep him grounded. He ran another exceptional campaign in what proved to be a tough year in swing districts in Washington.
Picking up two seats. On the Senate side, we worked with teacher-turned-CEO Lisa Wellman in her upstart challenge against Steve Litzow. Lisa had a great campaign team including Halei here at WinPower, Katy Ozog, Tana Senn, and Marcie Maxwell. This powerhouse team organized the effort that got the campaign up and running quickly, explained why Litzow was an obstacle to progressive policy, and showed why Lisa was the better choice. Lisa ended up winning handily. In the House, WinPower worked with new Representative-elect Kristine Reeves. Kristine leads economic development work with veterans within the Department of Commerce. She ran as a working mom who understood the challenges people in the 30th were facing. She did an amazing job balancing the work, the campaign and her family and will be a critical voice for people who live that balancing act every day. She is the only African-American woman in the State Legislature.
An Education Champion. In a tough battle for an open seat in the 49th Legislative District in Clark County, Monica Stonier won by almost ten percentage points. Monica’s race became a race about a larger issue: respect for teachers. Teachers from all over the state came in and helped ensure they had a champion in Olympia. WinPower has worked with Monica three times before and we are very excited to see her continue her successful public service in Olympia. She also increases the diversity in the legislature as a Latina and Japanese woman.
The New Senators: We elected a couple new State Senators this year with Representative Kevin Van De Wege taking retiring Senator Jim Hargrove’s spot and Guy Palumbo taking the spot formerly held by Senator Rosemary McAuliffe. We are working with Representative Patty Kuderer who made an incredibly strong impression in her first two years as a State House member and hope to see her get appointed to Senator Cyrus Habib’s Senate seat in December.
A couple initiatives: We started the year helping to pass the Issaquah School District Bond with over 70% and worked to pass the Clark County Housing Levy with almost 60% of the vote.
Voter Engagement: We worked with Democratic activists in South King County to increase voter engagement in the 11th, 30th, 33rd and 47th districts. We registered close to one thousand new voters in these districts. We won’t have full information on engagement until votes are certified but we are excited to continue this work and partner with other organizations doing this work across the state. We are in preliminary, exciting discussions with other groups around the state to push forward on these critical projects.
Our other wins: Cathy Moore for Superior Court, Derek Stanford for State Representative, Mia Gregerson for State Representative, Jeannie Darneille for State Senator, Gerry Pollet for State Representative, Tana Senn for State Representative, and Zack Hudgins for State Representative.
Some disappointments: On election night, Jason Ritchie was up by 300 votes in his race for the 5th Legislative District. He ran a strong grassroots campaign as one of the first Working Families Democrats in Washington State but came up short. We hope he runs again. He is a great candidate with great values and would do an excellent job in Olympia. This is a race where Democrats and progressives should have done a lot more. Sharlaine LaClair, a member of the Lummi tribe, ran a very strong race up in the 42nd Legislative District for a first-time candidate. She also endured challenges that a lot of other candidates don’t have to face including racist death threats. The man was charged with two felonies for cyberstalking and malicious harassment. http://www.rawstory.com/2016/11/washington-man-charged-with-cyberstalking-after-texting-racist-death-threats-to-house-candidate/. Tanisha Harris, a CASA program specialist at the YWCA ran a strong first time campaign for the Clark County Council and should be credited with ousted right wing Clark County Councilmember David Madore in the August primary. Brook Valentine, an education champion running her first campaign came up short in the 47th Legislative District. We hope both of them run again. Finally, we did two direct mail pieces helping a campaign to oppose a strong mayor in the town of Snohomish but it looks like we came up about ten votes short.
All in all, a long and rewarding year in terms of our work at WinPower but obviously a crushing disappointment at the national level. Thank you to all our clients and all of our allies in fighting for our progressive values and the Democratic Party in Washington State.
Halei and John