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Paulette Jordan’s Run for the Idaho Senate: Promoting Data Infrastructure Where it's Needed Most

Idaho is facing the same mix of opportunity and frustration that troubles so many traditionally red states in the U.S. While there is a growing population of strong Democratic supporters in hubs like Boise, and Medicaid expansion passed in 2018 displaying general support of progressive policy, the state remains obstinately Republican, cycle after cycle. Paulette Jordan ran in 2020 to unseat Republican Senator Jim Risch, looking to prove that these trends in Idaho could be realized in the form of Democratic votes at the ballot box. The problem for a Democratic challenger like Paulette is that Idaho lacks the robust progressive political infrastructure that exists in other states with more frequent competitive statewide races. If the stage is going to be set for a Democratic statewide victory in Idaho, it requires the hard work of raising money, building talent, and investing in data infrastructure. The Paulette Jordan campaign was willing to take on these challenges, and brought in a Bluebonnet team to help. Paulette’s Bluebonnet team worked in all of these key areas, helping her to build a campaign strategy, find donors, and integrate voter contact data. In this case study, we’ll discuss the ways that the Paulette Jordan campaign Bluebonnet team supported their efforts.


“There’s a lot of potential in Idaho for progressive issues and we saw that evidenced by the passage of Medicaid expansion in 2018. Building on that momentum, our Bluebonnet team brought value to the campaign and helped strengthen our digital infrastructure in a truly substantial way.”

- Paulette Jordan

 

Win number


In the early stages of a campaign, it’s critical to build a well-grounded strategy for the campaign. Among the first things any campaign should do is to develop a win number by projecting the expected vote total for the upcoming election (for more on calculating win numbers, see our blog post on the subject). By understanding the patterns and trends in voting across the district or state, a campaign can set voter contact goals, allocate resources intelligently, and find critical areas of opportunity for the campaign. One of the first projects that Paulette’s Bluebonnet team approached was to evaluate and improve the campaign’s win number analysis.


In verifying the campaign’s win number calculations, the team found and rectified some incorrect statistical assumptions and were able to arrive at a number that the campaigns could be more confident in. Additionally, the team built on the win number analysis by looking at the counties that had significantly voted in favor of Medicare expansion. By cross-tabulating this information with the expected turnout numbers, the campaign could find and focus on the counties where there was a large number of potential supporters for her platform.






A map of the priority counties for Paulette's campaign


 

Donor research


Fundraising represents another critical early step in building a campaign, and Paulette’s Bluebonnet team was able to assist in this area as well. To help build a campaign message and build donor enthusiasm, the team researched and contrasted the typical donors of the Jordan campaign and the Risch campaign. Pulling this data allowed the team to highlight key differences between the Democratic and Republican donors, such as the average donation size (~$27 and ~$1000, respectively), the common demographics of donors (Paulette tended to raise from teachers and other grassroots donors, whereas Jim Risch raised a large portion of his money from PACs and wealthy individuals). These findings gave ammunition to the Jordan campaign’s grassroots messaging, and helped to raise additional money.


 

Data Integration from ThruText to VAN


Most campaigns use multiple software tools to manage voter communication and data collection. Though it’s good for a campaign to develop its technical infrastructure, there are often problems that come with using various tools. In Paulette Jordan’s case, the campaign was collecting large amounts of data through its voter outreach campaigns on ThruText, but was having trouble integrating the data back into VAN VoteBuilder. VAN relies on unique IDs to match uploaded data with the existing voter file data, but ThruText didn’t contain these IDs to match on.


To tackle this problem, the Bluebonnet team built a Python script to automatically match data when uploading to VAN based on the name and contact information from ThruText. By writing a program to go through a robust data matching process, the team was able to address VAN’s ID requirement and complete the data pipeline between campaign software.


 

Paulett’s campaign improved the vote margin for Democrats, and her commitment to building Idaho’s Democratic infrastructure laid the groundwork for more future success. States won’t suddenly flip in a single election, but over the course of years and through plenty of hard work we can make them increasingly competitive. Data is a cornerstone of future progressive victories in Idaho and every other state, and by helping campaigns to increase their capacity to collect, store, and use data, Bluebonnet is helping to build the foundations for success. The next time a Democratic challenger runs, that data will be readily available to them right from the start, allowing them to build upon the work of earlier cycles.



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