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Painting a District Red in a Blue State

The Majority Strategies team shares how a combination of digital, mobile, and mail helped a Republican challenger face the uphill battle against an incumbent Democrat in a blue state swing district.



Mary Beth Carozza, a Republican State Delegate, ran for Maryland Senate District 38. As a Delegate, Carozza represented a portion of the district and would face two-term Democrat Senator Jim Mathias who had won this swing district twice even in Republican wave years, 2010 and 2014, against well-funded, well-qualified challengers. 

Mathias was a former popular mayor of Ocean City and State Delegate himself before being elected to State Senate. Carozza had served one term in the House of Delegates after a life-long career in public service in the Bush administration, on Capitol Hill, and as a deputy chief-of-staff for Governor Bob Ehrlich, the last Republican governor in Maryland. Both Mathias and Carozza had a base in and around the Ocean City area and both had family small business backgrounds. 

Senate District 38 is a three-county swing district that elected both Republican Governor Larry Hogan and President Trump by significant margins, but also elected local Democrats often, including Mathias. 

The Challenge:
Carozza had a few obstacles to overcome: She had low name ID and was not well-known in the majority of the Senate district having only represented a portion of it in the House of Delegates; Mathias had a strong group of Republicans supporting him that also supported the Republican Governor and Republican Congressman; Mathias was viewed as a conservative Democrat and previous attempts in 2010 and 2014 to define him as a liberal had failed. 

The Plan:
We needed to build upon Carozza’s already outstanding grassroots, door-to-door efforts with a targeted multi-medium approach with the goals of building name ID, highlighting Carozza’s GOP credentials, and attacking Mathias’ record. Using digital, mobile, mail, and TV, we were able to effectively and efficiently target the voters who we could persuade and activate in support of Carozza’s candidacy. 

The Solutions: 

Digital and Mobile:
Because Carozza faced no primary challenge, we used the run-up to the June 26th primary to begin targeted Facebook ads aimed at Republicans who voted regularly in general elections but not always in primaries to build her name identification and shore up her conservative and pro-Hogan credentials. Post primary, we needed to launch a more extensive Facebook and mobile campaign to target swing voters including independents, a subset of Democrats, and Republicans. 

We started the mail program early, supplementing the digital ads that we were already delivering to our targeted universe online. We delivered 12 mail pieces, both positive and contrasting pieces, throughout the campaign. 

Despite ads by the campaign as well as the Senate Republican Caucus, Carozza was outspent nearly 2-1 on TV. Still, since we used her TV ads on Facebook as part of our digital efforts, we achieved greater reach. 

The Results:
On Election Day, Mary Beth Carozza won a resounding victory, winning 53-47% on a night when other targeted Republicans were losing or barely holding on across Maryland. She won two of the three counties in the district and came 10 votes shy of picking up the third county which she had not represented as a Delegate. Carozza broke even on early voting – unusual for Maryland Republicans. 

Because of this win, Republicans netted one seat in the State Senate in Maryland, one of only four chambers in the country where Republicans picked up seats. 

Contact the Majority Strategies team to get started on your voter contact plan today.