Florida’s 4th largest city, St. Petersburg, was having the first open-seat Mayoral election in 12 years. Our candidate, Ken Welch, was campaigning to become the first African-American mayor of that city.
Swing in vote share, from -8 points to +7 points.
Candidates defeated in the primary & general elections.
Win margin in the General Election.
Former County Commissioner Ken Welch was running to be the first African-American mayor of St. Petersburg. Despite his experience in local politics, Welch had only token opposition during his campaigns for County Commissioner, which meant a soft base of support for this highly competitive campaign.
While Ken was well-regarded and well-known, he started the campaign in second place, trailing the front-runner by 7 points in a field of 8 candidates.
Though Welch was no novice to politics, this was the first significant campaign challenge he had faced in his 16 years as County Commissioner.
In order to help elect Welch as mayor of Florida’s fourth largest city, we knew we had to connect him to the community and the voters. As a native of St. Petersburg, he had seen his community split and displaced by highway construction, and the city was struggling with a rash of gun violence.
Our strategy involved proactively telling Welch’s story as a product of St. Pete, demonstrating his efforts to stop violence and crime while fighting for inclusion.
From a branding perspective, we needed to separate Welch from his opponents by defining him as a serious policymaker versus the other, more partisan candidates. This framework revolved around Ken “doing his homework” on the important issues of the day, a concept echoed in the creative direction of paid media and direct mail.
Executing an aggressive vote-by-mail and turnout operation, we were able to overcome a 7-point deficit to win the primary. The paid communication, targeted voter contact, and “doing the homework” messaging took Ken from a 31-38 underdog to winning the 8-candidate primary field with 39% of the vote.
Ultimately, Ken Welch cruised to a 60% victory in the general election and became St. Petersburg’s mayor.
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