• Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
load more / hold SHIFT key to load all load all

Phoenix City Council - Arizona Case Study

Phoenix City Council - Arizona Case Study.


In 2013, Lake Research Partners helped elect two women to the Phoenix City Council; working with Kate Gallego in District 8 and an independent expenditure on behalf of Laura Pastor in District 4. Gallego became the first woman elected to the council from District 8 and Pastor became the first Latina elected from her district. Research on behalf of both candidates was critical to informing the strategies going forward, and ultimately winning the seats.

The first, Kate Gallego, in District 8, is where we really saw the importance of polling and the benefit of doing so early in the race. Originally, the campaign’s plan was to wait on polling and to begin by introducing Gallego to voters as a Harvard graduate who would be the first woman elected from the district. Polling showed that a different strategy was warranted. District 8 is very blue collar, with an electorate that is majority Latino and African American. The Harvard angle would have been wrong for this district and ran the risk of making Gallego seem out of touch with voters. Instead, Gallego ran as the candidate “most qualified to fight for you.” No one would have expected a 32-year-old to run on that platform, but by polling early, we learned that the path to victory came from Gallego’s background and qualifications. The research showed that voters wanted a Council Member who would fight for them and their district’s fair share of City Council money. Thus, we needed to demonstrate Gallego’s unique qualifications, such as her business background and other best attributes, to introduce her as the candidate who would not only stand up for them, but had the right skills to ensure she could win the fight on their behalf. Gallego won the primary with 48% of the vote and ultimately won the general with 61% of the vote.

Then in our independent expenditure work on behalf of Laura Pastor, one of the main goals from the beginning was to not allow her opponent to gain too much momentum in the campaign coming out of the primary. When we first polled before the primary, Pastor had the lead. However, her opponent eventually won the primary. We then had to pivot to the run-off and before the campaign or IE made any moves, Pastor was down by 9 points. We polled again and developed a two pronged path to victory. The first move was to define her opponent as not a real Democrat by focusing on past contributions to Republicans, in order to convince base Democrats to vote for Pastor. The next step focused on defining her opponent as someone on the [property] developers’ side and thus would fight for them and “not for you,” in order to pull away independents that supported Pastor’s opponent. Though Pastor and the IE on her behalf were outspent, ultimately the winning messages and attacks resonated with voters and Pastor won the election 54% to 46%, and by fewer than 500 votes.

The key to both of these campaigns was opinion research that armed the mail, communication, and field teams with the best message advice they needed to win the campaign. For Gallego, it meant running on experience (which was counter to conventional wisdom) and for Pastor, it meant finding a dual path that convinced Democrats to support her and independents to vote against her opponent.

Win Whatcom

Win Whatcom - Whatcom County, Washington.


In late September of 2013, Lake Research Partners was hired to provide polling services for a slate of four progressive candidates running for county council in Whatcom County, Washington. Two were incumbents facing Republican challengers, two were challenging Republican incumbents. But more was at stake than just seats on the Whatcom County Council – at stake was the future of a proposed coal shipping terminal in Whatcom County, which, if built, would have had massive environmental impacts on a global scale. This also meant that we would be going up against the well-funded coal lobby. In order to block the permitting for the coal terminal, the slate of four progressives had to win all four seats – just one win by a conservative would have allowed the current pro-coal majority on the council to stay intact. Further complicating the race was that due to the council’s status as a quasi-judicial body, none of the candidates were actually allowed to state their position on the coal terminal, forcing both sides to focus on other issues critical to Whatcom County, despite the coal terminal being the #1 issue on voters’ minds, with equal support and opposition. And just over two-fifths of the electorate identified as single-issue voters who would vote for/against the entire slate of candidates based on support or opposition to the terminal, leaving a smaller target audience.

After its poll, LRP found that in one race, the Democratic candidate was winning, in two others there was a tie, and in the last one, the incumbent Republican led by 12 points. Furthermore, all of our candidates were unknown to half the electorate, with our challengers being even more unknown. However, in all four races, roughly half of voters were undecided, indicating that there were still many voters who could be won over, which in some cases, meant providing the necessary cues to give them direction in the officially nonpartisan race. After testing a variety of messages for and against both sets of candidates, we found that their candidates were vulnerable on their connections to the national Tea Party, as well as past questionable decisions involving land usage and water usage – such as voting to pave over farmland with slaughterhouses, and polluting the county’s water sources, decisions our candidates had been against.

By using this frame, we were able to draw effective contrasts between our candidates and their opponents that went beyond the issue of the coal terminal, as well as provide more specific messages customized to each individual race. Working with lead consultant Dean Nielsen of Cerillion N4, our strategic advice helped inform the incredibly successful mail program and GOTV/turnout effort, and all four of our candidates were victorious on Election Day, ensuring that the new Whatcom County Council would have a progressive majority that would stop dirty climate-changing coal from coming to Whatcom County.

Mayor Annise Parker - Houston, Texas

Mayor Annise Parker


Lake Research Partners just came off of a successful re-election campaign for Houston Mayor Annise Parker. Research for Mayor Parker was critical in informing the strategy and direction of a campaign that won a landslide re-election in what once looked to be a tough fight.

Early polling showed that it would be hard to grow Mayor Parker’s popularity, because it was as high as could reasonably be expected. Her personal favorable ratings were in the high 60s and her job performance ratings were in the high 50s. For an incumbent already elected twice, those were remarkably high ratings.

However, Houstonians were very open to a change in leadership. Attorney Ben Hall appeared capable of delivering a compelling message for change; and there was a real threat that he could spend millions of his own dollars in the campaign. An online summer message board study confirmed how difficult it would be to turn out a large number of new voters (new in terms of mayoral elections), underscoring the necessity of winning in the existing electorate and trying to shape it in Mayor Parker’s favor to the extent possible. Looking back, the campaign’s three greatest strategic imperatives were:

  • Protect Mayor Parker's image and popularity. Mayor Parker has consistently been very popular, both personally and professionally. The campaign had to protect that, and preserve her sterling reputation among the people of Houston.
  • Define Ben Hall. Ben Hall posed a real, credible threat to Mayor Parker going into the 2013 election. Houstonians’ openness to change and Hall’s personal wealth combined to make him a threatening challenger. To win, and especially to win without a runoff, Mayor Parker’s campaign had to define Hall on its own terms.
  • Create a more favorable electorate. The campaign would need to increase turnout among key pro-Parker constituencies, such as women and Latinos. Research in the spring showed that increasing turnout among these groups in a big way was likely not feasible and that Mayor Parker would need to win the returning voters, while trying to shift the electorate in her favor to as large an extent as is possible.

The campaign was successful in each achieving each of these goals. Our research showed that we could continue to buttress Mayor Parker, but her ballot numbers did not change much. The key was to protect the Mayor’s image. The campaign then needed to pivot to defining Hall so that he could not grow his base and to insure that undecided voters, who did not move over to the Mayor based on the positive messaging, would move to support her once Hall was disqualified.

Research played a key role in equipping the media, mail, online, communication, and field teams with the messaging and targeting advice they needed to win. The path to defining Ben Hall on the campaign’s terms was made very clear by analysis of survey data: the fact that Hall had failed to pay taxes for many years was a damning vulnerability for him. Similarly, polling identified the best field targets for making the electorate more favorable to Mayor Parker: Democratic women and Latinos. Survey data also underscored which of Mayor Parker’s many strengths to communicate to voters, such as her commitment to education in Houston.

Mayor Parker, the first out lesbian to lead a major city, ended the campaign with extremely high personal and professional ratings, her popularity did not take a hit from the negative campaigning on either side. Parker was able to strengthen her position by drawing a strong contrast with Hall and utilizing a truly innovative communications plan in which the campaign's television, online, mail, radio, and field programs integrated seamlessly. The campaign was also able to alter the electorate in ways that worked to its benefit, through expertly synergized field and online communications. A robust, innovative research plan helped make all of this possible and made sure that every strategic decision the campaign made was data-driven. On Election Day the campaign saw the results: a resounding win, with 57% of the vote, for Mayor Parker.

LRP Leading the Research Behind National Health Care Reform

herndon alliance

The Issue 
The Herndon Alliance is a nationwide non-partisan coalition of more than 100 minority, faith, labor, advocacy, business, and healthcare provider organizations. The Herndon Alliance is continually developing initiatives to maintain a new, values-driven, health justice majority supporting the goal of quality, affordable health care for all.

The Challenge 
The Herndon Alliance undertook an ambitious series of projects to study the underlying values held by various groups of Americans, identify supporting constituencies, and create initiatives that connect those constituencies with the goal of achieving affordable health care for all people in America by increasing the demand for change in a majority of Americans. Although efforts to achieve universal health care have been stymied in the past, with a new Presidential Administration, Americans now have a unique opportunity to make significant changes in the health care system.

The Outcome 
With the help of Lake Research Partners, the Herndon Alliance created four strategic initiatives that are now being used by partner organizations to redefine the health care debate at national, state, and local levels. The influence of this work can be seen in President Obama’s health care proposals and strategy as well as the work of state and local advocates across the country who, after years of frustration, are now making progress toward the goal of quality, affordable health care for all.

The Methodology 
Lake Research Partners conducted focus groups and national surveys that helped the Herndon Alliance break out of the existing health care reform debate and create a roadmap to a health values majority. Our research explored the values that activate and build support for a set of new health reform initiatives, as well as identified message themes that resonate. We continue to conduct qualitative and quantitative research to inform campaigns such as The Cost of Doing Nothing and Health System Change.

The Team 
Lake Research Partners (Celinda LakeDavid MerminRick JohnsonDan Spicer, Danna Basson, John NorrisZach Young
Herndon Alliance