By Danielle Savage
In 2017, Mike Cierpiot won the Republican nomination in a special election for the 30th Senate District. The district had been held by Republicans since 1979 (with the exception of one year) and a Republican supermajority in the State Senate had been successfully defended just one year prior. But Democrats, already optimistic due to a strong national environment for Democrats, were ecstatic at the entrance of an unexpected (or so we thought) 3rd party candidate.
Jacob Turk regularly ran for Congress as a Republican against long-time Democrat Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver. Although he never was able to beat Cleaver, his numerous campaigns did generate name ID among Republican voters. Entering the race as Independent divided loyalty and plunged polling numbers for all the candidates into the low thirties. As it turned out, that was the Democrats plan all along. Working with our friend Mike Cierpiot, Victory Enterprises put together a campaign plan that ensured their tricks failed. It was a campaign for the ages.
Fresh off a successful campaign against Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and our Pollie win in 2016, the team eagerly got to work in 2017. Our researchers jumped on the case and quickly proved Hillary Shield’s husband had signed the petition to get Turk on the ballot, as had the Executive Director of the Democrat Central Committee. There was a clear link between the Democratic party and Jacob Turk. So much for a “principled” conservative.
“It was important to us that people would immediately identify Turk’s candidacy with the Democrats efforts to get him on the ballot, which is best accomplished with the branding we developed,” said Charlie Puyear, Victory’s Digital Director. “Republicans in this area still have a strong distrust of the Clintons and we wanted to find a way that would consolidate them behind our Republican candidate.”
And that’s how “He’s With Her” was born.
The creative work behind this campaign was rolled out on digital platforms before being quickly integrated into more traditional campaign collateral. Using visuals so strongly associated with the Clinton logo and slogan “I’m With Her” laid the groundwork for the powerful message that Turk and Shields had an agenda together. The ground campaign was led and coordinated by Brett Dinkins, who took the digital assets and turned them into compelling visual features all over the district, including rally signs that greeted candidates as they entered the debates.
The campaign immediately generated media buzz as Jacob Turk got defensive about his method of getting on the ballot. No matter how often Turk tried to refute the claim, the evidence was there and the damage was done.
On election night, November 7th, 2017, Mike Cierpiot won the election with 50/42/8%. This election was a great showcase for how a well-coordinated, well-researched, and strong creative can tip the scales in a candidates favor.
“If you boil it down,” said Joe Lakin, “We took something complicated like campaign collusion and base division and turned it into a slogan. Ultimately that was the difference between winning and losing.”