How to beat an incumbent: Melanie Sojourner vs. Bob Dearing a case study


Political newcomer and now Senator-Elect Melanie Sojourner pulled off what may have been the marquee race for Mississippi Republicans in the 2011 cycle and it is a race worth closer examination.

Mississippi’s Senate District 37 is centered around Adams County but also includes Franklin, Amite and Pike Counties. Without the smaller more conservative Counties, Dearing would have certainly held on to the seat he has held for 32 years but with the right mix of Media, Message, Grassroots and Political Environment Sojourner surprised the pundits by pulling off a slim 451 vote win.

The region’s largest newspaper “The Natchez Democrat” opined after the win as follows.

“Maybe it is time to retire the expression, “All politics is local.”

The former House Speaker Tip O’Neil coined this phrase way back in the 1930s when he was just a political newcomer.

More than 80 years later it seems that the opposite is true. Take the District 37 Senate race between incumbent Bob Dearing and his challenger Melanie Sojourner.

At times, Dearing must have felt like he was running against the entire state GOP rather than a candidate with little or no political experience.

As Dearing’s campaign received help from local celebrities like NFL great Joe Fortunato and former Natchez mayor Tony Byrne, Sojourner’s supporters inundated mailboxes with attack ads associating Dearing with President Obama, state attorney general Jim Hood and former governor Ronnie Musgrove.

Whatever local message that Dearing tried to promote was smothered by a well-oiled machine intent on unseating the 32-year incumbent at all costs.

In the end, Sojourner, the political rookie, edged out Bob Dearing, the seasoned veteran, by 451 votes.

Sojourner shined in Franklin, Amite and Pike counties. In those three counties, she outperformed Dearing by 1,300 votes, yet was soundly defeated in Adams County, where only 39 percent of county voters cast ballots in her direction.”

After 32 years of being elected by overwhelming margins Senator Bob Dearing was mostly caught flat-footed by a scrappy upstart campaign that was able to nationalize even a State Senate race on the banks of the Mississippi River.  President Obama’s negatives had grown and larger and incumbents (even popular ones) became vulnerable.

The first shot fired in the race came from the Republican State Leadership Committee who rolled out this ad on local cable and radio:

The “Attack Lite” tone of the ad fit well with the overall narrative of the Sojourner campaign who was running on a Senator Dearing is a nice guy but it’s time for him to go narrative.

Officially the Sojourner campaign shortly followed the RSLC on air with a purely positive introductory ad called “A Special Place” Produced by RedPrint Strategy and focusing who Melanie is and why change was needed.

On the ground the organizing by both sides hit a fever pitch around 2 weeks out with the Democrats finally convinced that Dearing was vulnerable and the Republicans beginning to smell victory.  Voter’s mailboxes were packed full of flyers from both sides and from the MSGOP.  The New-Media battle was unbelievably one-sided as Sojourner capitalized on her youthful appeal and built a very effective activist network online where as Dearing staked his entire campaign on his accomplishments of a 32 year record and pushed it out using only the most of traditional methods, Radio and Direct Mail.

With the entire GOP engaged and running on change theme with Dearing running solely on past accomplishments,  Sojourner was victorious by a slim margin of 451 and the results were not finalized for nearly a week.

So what did we learn, in the end defeating an incumbent comes down to:

1. Dynamic Challenger

2. Campaign and Outside Resources

3. A Compelling Narrative

4. Message Discipline

5. Political Environment

6. New and Traditional Media

Senator-Elect Melanie Sojourner built a strong team, put together the resources, kept great message discipline and took advantage of outside resources and a favorable political environment to pull off and unlikely upset.  Although beating a popular and entrenched incumbent is never an easy feat the Sojourner vs. Dearing contest in SD-37 2011 provides an interesting study for political newcomers who are thinking about challenging incumbent legislators.


Corey Stapleton “That kind of Governor”


Team RedPrint and 8112 Studios headed up to Pryor, MT a couple weeks ago to film ads for Corey Stapleton for Montana Governor.  We had the great opportunity to film on the Double Spear Ranch and the first installment came out very well, it’s called “That kind of Governor”

Shot on Canon 5d Mark 2 edited on Apple Final Cut Pro 7


Access to public assets must be preserved – Editorial –


Access to public assets must be preserved – Editorial –

Access to public assets must be preserved

Coast cities fighting Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann over control of their harbors and marinas have attracted public attention. While we sympathize with the cities, we believe that Hosemann has the better argument.

Hosemann’s proposed leases with the cities — which would cost them nothing — would still permit them to oversee harbor development and profit from it.

But as the guardian of more than a million acres of state-owned land, Hosemann has a duty to preserve public access to public property. Because South Mississippi’s municipal harbors and marinas sit on state-owned tidelands, Hosemann “is committed to preserving these areas for generations to come.”

We like the idea of putting long-term preservation ahead of short-term gain, even if part of the profit would help finance local governments.

As residents, we are accustomed to the status of our waterfronts. But we should never cease to marvel at how easy it is for us and our visitors to get to our beaches and piers and boat ramps. We should appreciate that a curtain of condominiums has not blocked the view of the Mississippi Sound.

Why then would we ever give our cities the right to allow exclusive properties to encircle our public harbors and marinas?

Hosemann’s aggressive effort to do his duty as he sees it is rocking quite a few boats along the Coast. But his is the clearest and strongest voice being raised for the preservation of public assets and unencumbered access to them.

This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board, which consists of President-Publisher Glen Nardi, Vice President and Executive Editor Stan Tiner, Opinion Page Editor B. Marie Harris, Associate Editor Tony Biffle, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Flora S. Point and Marketing Services Director John McFarland. Opinions expressed by columnists, cartoonists and letter writers are their own.

Read more:

Republican Political Consultants: RedPrint Strategy Online


The online presence for RedPrint Strategies LLC an Austin, Texas and Arlington, Virginia based political media and consulting firm has gone live.

See it all here: new venture and new company offering new media and web, as well at TV, mail. phones and polling.

Facebook Fan page can be found here: RedPrint Strategy Facebook

Still Tweeting at: Twitter

Hope you enjoy.

Casey Phillips

South Dakota bill would require all citizens to own a gun


Learning how to blog on iPad, not easy but not impossible with the wordpress app. Pretty cool, so for my first test I give you the coolest article of the year from my home state of South Dakota. It makes me homesick. Keep up the good work legislators, feel free to balance the budget though if you get any extra time.

Written by
Jonathan Ellis, Argus Leader

Five South Dakota lawmakers have introduced legislation that would require any adult 21 or older to buy a firearm “sufficient to provide for their ordinary self-defense.”

The bill, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2012, would give people six months to acquire a firearm after turning 21. The provision does not apply to people who are barred from owning a firearm.

Nor does the measure specify what type of firearm. Instead, residents would pick one “suitable to their temperament, physical capacity, and preference.”

The measure is known as an act “to provide for an individual mandate to adult citizens to provide for the self defense of themselves and others.”

Rep. Hal Wick, R-Sioux Falls, is sponsoring the bill and knows it will be killed. But he said he is introducing it to prove a point that the federal health care reform mandate passed last year is unconstitutional.

“Do I or the other cosponsors believe that the State of South Dakota can require citizens to buy firearms? Of course not. But at the same time, we do not believe the federal government can order every citizen to buy health insurance,” he said.