A lot has already been said about the race in HD76, so let’s get right to the numbers.
Contributions and Expenditures (up to 8 day before Report):
Elisa Tamayo raised $91K and spent $60K. Claudia Ordaz-Perez raised $136K and spent $133K. That alone tells a lot of the story. Ordaz more than doubled Tamayo’s expenditures Though it must be noted that Tamayo also had about $34K in In-Kind Contributions. For analytical purposes, an in-kind contribution doesn’t carry the same weight as a monetary donation, as oftentimes in-kind contributions are used to fluff up finance reports, but that’s a topic that deserves its own blog post.
Though we won’t know the expenditures of the final 10 days of the election until the July 15th report (What happened to the 8 day after report?), we do know that in the last days Tamayo raised $19,500. So Tamayo had over $50K to play with for the last ten days of the campaign. My most optimistic guess is she spent $30k of that. Most likely on blockwalking, mail, texting service, poll sitting, salaries. That would be super impressive to suddenly have the capacity to pull that much activity off in such a short time. But even if the Tamayo campaign did all that, it was clearly too late. You can be sure that the Ordaz camp did not slow down it’s GOTV efforts after the 8th day report. Ordaz also raised an additional $15K in the final days.
Ordaz did $29,586 in Paid Blockwalking. Tamayo did $6,338. The difference in Paid Blockwalking is the number one reason why Ordaz won by such a large margin. Tamayo did pay an additional $1800 to Evan Carcerano, which was categorized under blockwalking, but my understanding is he had more of a supervisor position and was mostly at the campaign office. But even if that $1800 was for actual blockwalking (which I’m sure very little, if anything was), Tamayo is still not even close to hitting as many doors.
$22,360 for Tamayo. Ordaz did $31,756. There is also an in-kind mailer for Tamayo for $10,000. Tamayo appeared to have sent three mailers at an average of about $7k a piece. So most likely that $10k is a bit of fluff from Texans for Insurance Reform. Direct Mail usually isn’t charged at a clean even number like $10k. And who knows what the messaging was and what kind of universe they sent it to (I never saw it). Ordaz, on the other hand, sent out four mailers, all four charged exactly $7939.12. So that tells us Ordaz was hitting a wider target in the mailboxes. It also tells us Ordaz hit the exact same mail universe four times. Tamayo actually wasn’t terribly behind Ordaz in mail. But one mailer for Tamayo was significantly smaller than the others, and another was an in kind mailer done by an outside organization. Ordaz clearly gets the check mark in the mail category.
Ordaz $20k. Tamayo $4k. This is another category in which Ordaz heavily outspent Tamayo. Ordaz spent a cool $12k on consulting services from Forma Group. Ordaz also spent $8k on Juan Garcia as her Field Director. Long time and talented consultants Mike Apodaca and Winston O’Neil made a combined $3,950 on Tamayo’s campaign. Ordaz didn’t spend $16k more than Tamayo on consultants because her’s were more talented. It’s that Ordaz bought more of Forma’s and Garcia’s attention and time. Because of this, more mail and blockwalking got done for Ordaz. If managing Tamayo’s campaign was Apodaca’s full time job, it is very likely $30k in paid blockwalking would have happened, and that would have made the election results much closer. Forma and Apodaca have been around for a long time, but Garcia has been quite the up and comer the past few years, and he has proven to be a consistent winner. This demonstration of a monster field program clearly shows Garcia is one of El Paso’s most capable Field Directors.
Other notable Expenditures:
If you worked or volunteered on either of these campaigns, no doubt you were hooked up with good food and beverages. Ordaz did $1,603 and Tamayo did $1,427 in what I call Volunteer Appreciation. Basically food and drinks for the ones knocking on doors and making phone calls. For campaigns with these large budgets, this is a good expenditure. You have to take care of your volunteers and staff. These are the folks on the front lines contacting voters directly and having person to person conversations with them about why they should vote for you. You want these campaign team members that are busting their butts for you feeling good while they speak to voters, because voters will remember tone and enthusiasm much more than they will talking points. Volunteer Appreciation will be the difference in how many people you have flaking on you, and every campaign encounters plenty of flakes. Good food, with verbal and sincere appreciation from the candidate, can drastically reduce your flake rate.
Tamayo’s single biggest expense was to Mosaic Strategy Group (based in D.C.) for Paid Phones. The expenditure was for $12,913. Paid Phones is actually a great expenditure for a campaign with a large budget. An answered phone call by a voter is the second most powerful thing a campaign can do to mobilize a voter (next to a door knock, of course). Here’s the thing though. You lose a lot of that effectiveness when you are outsourcing it to an out-of-town firm. My wife received one of these calls. After confirming my wife’s name, the paid caller stated Elisa Tamayo was running for State Representative and if they could count on my wife’s vote. My wife asked the caller why she was supporting Tamayo. The caller responded, “I don’t know. Honestly, I was just hired yesterday, and I live in Washington D.C.” I mean, damn. What a terrible response. Sure, maybe this was an isolated incident, and maybe the caller was caught off guard and learned how to respond next time she was asked, but still, there should have been a script for this caller to easily go into her talking points. It is always much better to have your in house Field Director handle your paid phones. Your campaign should also hire locals to make these calls. In Mosaic’s defense though, it is likely they would respond that the purposes of these calls were to simply ID Voters, not to persuade. In a large budget campaign like this one, paying a firm to ID voters isn’t a terrible idea. It can really help let you know where you stand, and can help shape different voter universes for your campaign. But this is only useful if done early in the campaign. In this case, I would say Tamayo should have had this done in late November. Also the decision to hire an out-of-town firm to make phone calls late in the campaign speaks to the lack of capacity of Tamayo’s campaign management team.
There was no TV for either candidate, and only Tamayo elected to do Radio in which she spent nearly $2k. Ordaz spent an insane amount on Website and Graphic Design, over $8k. Josh Dagda was kind enough to do Tamayo’s website for free, listed as an in-kind contribution of $3k.
And now everyone’s favorite: the signs. I always tell my candidates, if we already knocked it out of the park with blockwalking and mail, and we still have money left over, then yeah, sure, go nuts and buy all the signs you want. Ordaz did just this spending $5,400 on signage. Tamayo spent less than $1k, but was in-kinded about $3k for signs. Ordaz also spent another $1,600 on some kind of mobile billboard.
Variables not in Campaign Expenditures:
This race is yet another example of how endorsements are meaningless in determining election results. Time and time again I see candidates put way too much emphasis on endorsements. If everyone is endorsing you, it is not a reason to get comfortable (not that Tamayo did). You still have to campaign. And if your opponent has all the endorsements, stop stressing about it, and trying to figure how you can get them back on your side. It doesn’t fucking matter. Not at all. Trust me, voters don’t give a shit about endorsements.
When you’re up against Strong Name ID, one strategy is to create controversy. Some of Tamayo’s supporters tried this by filing ethics complaints that were quickly dismissed. They got the headline they were seeking which was “Ethics Complaint Filed Against Ordaz-Perez”, but Ordaz handled this well with her responses, and the story quickly died ending the controversy. Tamayo still could have used the headline for a Negative Mailer against Ordaz but elected not to. Negative Mailers are a controversial tactic, but I find them largely successful, and do believe this would have knocked a few points off Ordaz. But the reality is that candidates do not live in an election bubble. They have to live in the real world, and politics is a long term game. Not going negative may have cost her some percentage points in this particular election, but it was probably the smarter choice when considering her longevity as a viable candidate.
I know Tamayo was very proud of how many individual contributions she got compared to Ordaz who received large contributions from billionaires Paul Foster and Woody Hunt. I think that is something Tamayo should be proud of, but this is also one of those things that isn’t going to affect election results. What affects election results are expenditures. For winning a particular election, it doesn’t matter how you got the money, what matters is if you have enough to get your message out to voters. There are very few voters who would actually let their vote be affected by who is contributing to a particular campaign.
Claudia Ordaz-Perez’s Strong Name ID and tremendous blockwalking efforts were too much to overcome by first time candidate, Elisa Tamayo. Even though Tamayo was heavily outgunned in the three major categories (blockwalking, mail, and management), she still did enough to get her message out to voters in HD76. I myself got knocked twice by her campaign (2nd time was the day before election day). But voters were not given enough to separate her from Ordaz. To insiders, there are major differences between Tamayo and Ordaz. But to your ordinary voter, they are pretty much the same candidate in every category that you can categorize a candidate, with only one major difference.
Ordaz had already been on the ballot three times and won in landslide victories each time (for City Rep, which covers part of HD76). Voters had never heard of Elisa Tamayo before. Without a major difference, the Name ID candidate is going to win most races, even with a subbar campaign. But in addition to being the Name ID candidate, Ordaz also out campaigned her opponent. I think most local pundits, including myself, had this race as 52%-48% that could land on either side of the coin. Besides rumors of poll results, I also thought so because I thought Tamayo had done enough blockwalking and mail to get her message out efficiently (in most races, it would be enough), and because there was a lot of news coverage on this race. But looking at these finance reports, and remembering Ordaz’s Strong Name ID in the valley, it all makes sense.
The major mistake the Tamayo campaign made was waiting so long to kick in paid canvassing. It should have started early and started strong. There were a lot of facebook posts of selfies with elected officials and community leaders claiming they were spending their Saturday blockwalking for Tamayo. But trust me, the amount of doors actually being knocked on by them, or by any volunteer for that matter, is minimal. It just can’t compare to paid canvassing.
Claudia Ordaz-Perez has undoubtedly established herself as one of El Paso County’s most influential, and she did it by working hard and smartly utilizing all of her campaign resources. Her political power and influence will continue to grow over the next several years.
Despite falling short, Elisa Tamayo reminds us that there is still reason to run, even if it’s a long shot. You give the voters a choice, and make the favorite work hard for those votes, by asking the tough questions and keeping them accountable on the issues. Tamayo did exactly that, and she should be very proud of the effort she put forth as a first time candidate against an established one. If Tamayo so chooses, she too will be an elected official in El Paso one day, and probably one day soon. In her next campaign she will be carrying a candidate’s most powerful weapon, Name ID.