for County Commissioner
Gerald Daugherty has a saying about his home town of Austin - “it’s a blueberry in a strawberry patch.” The Republican County Commissioner knew he faced long odds of winning re-election in 2016 in one of the handful of toss-up districts in Texas. What was once a reliably Republican district when he first ran in 2002 has been trending bluer and bluer. 2016 was a nightmare for a Republican attempting to defend a seat in a highly-educated, upwardly-mobile district that saw little-to-no value in a Trump candidacy. [Trump received just 27.4% of the vote countywide, under-performing Mitt Romney by almost 9% from 2012.]
Adding to the degree of difficulty was the fact that Texas is one of only ten states that still allows straight-party balloting. This was a problem, not only for Daugherty, but for GOP candidates across Texas in marginal districts where polling showed many traditional, straight-party Republicans choosing to split their tickets.
Daugherty's only path to victory involved appealing to Clinton voters to split their ticket and vote for a local, down-ballot Republican, and we knew the only way to do that was with messaging that presented Daugherty as a non-partisan pragmatist, rather than an ideologue. We could not simply shout louder or attack our opponent, because we were messaging to Democrats, not just Republicans and Independents.
So we combined Daugherty's sometimes-annoying habit of geeking out on the minutia of county government, along with his straight-shooting manner of speaking and some neighborhood-specific issues in which he had won significant battles over the years, and combined them to create an ad campaign that highlighted the complexities of local government, while conveying Daugherty’s competence and commitment to addressing quality-of-life issues that cut across party lines.
Daugherty's TV and radio ads were a hit at home, and one of them also went viral across the country, and even internationally (see below). Most importantly though, as we approached the beginning of the early voting period, our internal polling showed the messaging was moving the needle in his district among Clinton voters, and the final results of the race proved that out.
Although Daugherty lost straight-party ballots (a majority of votes cast) by 8.97% as we feared, he won the non-straight party ballots by 18.22% and held on to his seat “in a landslide” by 3.56%, while Donald Trump lost the district by 17.98%. Daugherty not only out-polled the top of his ticket by 21.54%, there were 3,872 more votes cast in this county commissioner race than for Trump and Clinton combined; a staggering statistic for a bottom-of-the-ballot race.
Beyond the electoral success, the viral ad also turned Daugherty and his wife, Charlyn, into minor celebrities. With over nine million views online, it became the first local political commercial to ever crack the YouTube Leaderboard. It was featured on CBS News, The Today Show, CNN, NPR, MSNBC, Fox News, Ad Age, Time, Esquire, Forbes, Washington Post, L.A. Times and many others nationally and internationally. The ad was translated into several languages and even spawned a "sequel" of sorts for Casey Lucius, a long-shot Congressional candidate from California, who retained KC Strategies to produce it for her. Click HERE to view the Lucius ad.