The race for Congress in CA-11.
Incumbent Democrat Jerry McNerney, first elected in 2006 after years of work on wind energy, inspired to run for office by his son’s military service.
McNerney runs for re-election in a Republican-leaning swing district in the most challenging political environment for Democrats since at least 1994. Polling guru Nate Silver of the New York Times/538 blog gave McNerney only a 32% chance of victory prior to Election Day. Every other House Democrat with less than a 40% chance of victory lost their seat, most by wide margins. But while the public polling showed the race leaning toward Harmer, our internal polling consistently showed McNerney holding a narrow lead despite the Republican advantage in turnout this year.
Building on our in-depth knowledge of the district from the prior two cycles, we employed a baseline survey, a rollout poll, and several trackers. This research informed multiple facets of the campaign, including messaging, media, and targeting efforts.
We helped the campaign focus on McNerney's track record of delivering for the district-including the new veterans medical center creating 900 new jobs, writing and passing the Caring for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury Act, and funding for schools and infrastructure in the district. The campaign also highlighted his votes against the Congressional pay raises and donating his pay raises to local non-profit charities. This record helped reinforce McNerney's profile as an independent small businessman rooted in the district rather than as a creature of partisan Washington. The contrast with Harmer as a corporate lawyer for Wall Street banks and his radical agenda that hurt middle class families and public schools helped seal the victory.
Our polling spotted early the potential for American Independent Party candidate David Christensen to take a significant portion of conservative votes in the San Joaquin County portion of the district. Though Christensen had zero funding, a carefully targeted set of voters received messages that helped him take 5.1% of the vote, more than the margin of McNerney's victory.
McNerney was re-elected by the narrowest of margins against a formidable opponent, David Harmer, and a very well-funded negative IE campaign. California-11 is the quintessential swing district and the only district in California to change party hands since 2002.
Lake Research Partners (David Mermin and Daniel Spicer) worked collaboratively with the McNerney for Congress campaign team, media consultant John Lapp, and direct mail consultants Duane Baughman and Kevin Geary from The Baughman Company throughout the election cycle.
"LRP's research provided critical insight for my upset victory over Richard Pombo and my first tough re-election win in a Republican-leaning district. David Mermin learned my district and is always accessible to provide strategic and timely insights."
— Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA)