Jacksonville City Councilman Robin Lumb has been chairman of the Republican Party of Duval County since December. When he came in, he stood down for re-election in At Large Group 5, choosing instead to focus on getting Republican candidates elected in March and May.
Lumb brought a unique skill set to that endeavor: vast experience in consulting, including direct mail and other targeted contact experience, that allowed him and the local party to marshal their resources to grab Lenny Curry‘s coattails at the top of the ticket.
The fruits of that labor might not at first have been evident to those outside the party structure. Lumb found the party’s “hands were tied” in the run-up to the March primary, except for “endorsed candidates” and those in races where only one Republican participated.
Soon enough, those situations worked themselves out, the First Election was over, and the road to the runoff was in sight. And Lumb had a plan. He went to his data guy to ascertain who likely voters would be in municipal elections, and they ranked them on a scale of 5 to 1, with 5s being “most likely.”
Then they set their target for “mid-propensity voters who didn’t vote in March.” Lumb and his team devised a “strategy for reaching out” that included “targeted digital and direct mail” toward GOP voters, but also “high-propensity Independent voters and soft Democrats.”
Local party efforts were key, Lumb said, because five of the seven non-mayoral campaigns had no professional campaign management.
Thus, the Duval GOP coordinated its volunteer effort into a greater effort to energize turnout and maximize resources, driving “volunteer and paid walkers” into “high-concentration areas” where the Republicans could maximize their efforts.
“At the end of the day, this moved the needle in Sam Newby‘s race, as well as in District 2 (where Al Ferraro beat the well-financed Lisa King),” Lumb said. “It all came together.”
The coattails at the top of the ticket, nurtured at such events as April’s #UniteJax, helped. What was clear, though, was that the GOP’s micro-targeting paid dividends, reversing gains the Democrats made in 2011 in many areas.
The local GOP won precincts in minority-access districts too, which surprised some observers. Lumb addressed that contention.
The outreach was not geographic, he said. Rather, it was directed to a “voter profile,” predicated on the “psychology of what drives the individual voter,” especially as related to “midpropensity voters who did not vote in March.”
That seems a direct contrast to the Democratic strategy. They spent a lot of energy attempting to reconstitute the coalition that got Brown elected in 2011 by reaching out to the “Bishop Democrats” and driving base turnout with ads alleging that Lenny Curry would “turn back the clock” and so on. The Republicans used direct mail more repeatedly and effectively than the Democrats did, and Lumb’s explanation of the strategy behind it explains why it ultimately worked.
One of the big success stories, the election of Newby over Ju’Coby Pittman, who had out-raised him by almost a 20-to-1 margin, was a surprise to many, but not to Lumb.
“We thought Sam would do well if Lenny did well,” he said, stressing that the key was outreach to receptive Democrats and independents, “getting the message in front of voters.”
“Republicans have shown a great deal of support for conservative black Republicans,” Lumb said, citing Jennifer Carroll, Glorious Johnson, and Art Graham as examples of that “tradition.”
Newby was also helped, Lumb said, by being the founder and chairman of the Florida Assembly of Black Republicans, a role that led to him getting a lot of buy-in and good will from Republican regulars.
“Clearly a lot of Republicans voted the straight party ticket,” Lumb said.
Despite what could be framed as a mandate, Lumb, who just spent four years on city council, noted that “politics in Jacksonville is pretty nonpartisan. There are no party caucuses in city council, and the party plays no role in policy making.”
While politics may be nonpartisan, some Republicans, most notably Jimmy Holderfield and Bill Bishop, famously endorsed candidates from the other party after they were eliminated from their respective races in the First Election. Will the Duval GOP reach out, especially to Bishop, who mortgaged a huge chunk of his political capital in an attempt to deliver Riverside for Alvin Brown?
Lumb said there’s “nothing to say” to the dissident candidates.
“They’re clearly done with the Republican Party, and we’re done with them,” he said. “Bill Bishop will never be mayor.”
Bishop’s move, he said, was “shortsighted, and not honorable.”
Given the apparent permeability of the Republican Executive Committee Loyalty Oath for at least a few people, the local party is going to take corrective action going forward, meeting individually with every candidate, and ensuring that they understand the “grand compromise” of party politics, which involves supporting the nominee even after a contentious primary.
The Duval GOP is well-positioned for 2016 and beyond. Lumb brings an understanding of politics on all levels to his role, and combines it with a clear understanding of how Jacksonville works. How will the Duval Democrats respond? Given that Curry has strong ties with many Republicans in the 2016 field, GOTV efforts for Republicans will be in full effect in November 2016, and the Duval GOP will be at the forefront of the action.