Tom Taylor Campaign
Democrat in Utah's 4th District
A Politically Turbulent Time
At the end of 2016, many people in the United States were experiencing a frustration with the political system that they had never felt before. Even in Utah, a reliable conservative stronghold, the recent radical shift in political discourse left many feeling unsettled and worried for the future. As a Canadian, I was not allowed to vote or to donate money, but I felt the need to do something. I met Tom Taylor at a protest calling for a fairer treatment of immigrants and refugees, and volunteered my graphic and web design skills for his campaign.
Soon, we had established a collaborative project in Google Drive, a dedicated chatroom for volunteers, a brand and style guide with brand colors and typefaces, and a script with an objection-handling flowchart for volunteer door-knockers and phone-callers to guide their conversations. Another team member designed the double-t logo and I created a website that was search engine optimized, mobile-responsive, illustrated, informative and spam resistant, quickly putting Tom on top of Google search results for phrases like "utah democrat tom". We were ready to go.
As a lifelong Utahn with a PhD in engineering, Tom was passionate about bringing political leadership to his home state that was more than just corporate control and rule by top campaign donors. We worked together on a slogan that would capture what his campaign was all about -- bringing the common people together, ready to work towards a shared goal of changing the system from the ground up -- while also including some of Tom's unique character as a hands-on kind of guy who was ready to roll up his sleeves and do what Utah needed. We settled on something short, active, and strong: Let's Build.
Voters in Utah are typically skeptical of anyone proclaiming themselves a liberal, progressive, or Democrat. To build a base of support, we needed to demonstrate the ways in which our values aligned -- not on divisive social issues like guns or abortion, but on the distorted economic policies that were keeping workers poor while stuffing the pockets of the rich. The word 'freedom' is so often used with reference to the military or deregulation -- why, we asked, didn't it apply to the people who had no choices when it came to the opportunities they could not afford? We launched a series of promoted posts on social media talking about what true freedom represents, a theme that would be picked up in Tom's speeches and appearances in public and in interviews on local radio. What is true freedom?
In early filings for the primary race, Tom was doing well above what would be expected for the size of the campaign. Despite coming in third in overall fundraising, the campaign tied for first in cash-on-hand because his competitors had spent so much on their websites and social media presence. This left us more able to spend on events and luring people out with the promise of free food.
However, everything changed when Ben McAdams, the Salt Lake County Mayor, entered the race. An experienced politician with strong name recognition and an established following, McAdams immediately became the frontrunner for the nomination. In Utah, primaries are decided by caucus, and established politicians possess a decisive advantage among the small group of delegates from each party. Focus shifted from courting conventional delegates to pushing the conversation in a progressive direction -- if McAdams was going to win, we wanted him to reach the motivated voters who were tired of centrist compromises. Medicare for all, an ambitious pillar of the Taylor platform, was something we hoped McAdams would adopt in his own.
As expected, McAdams was selected at the convention, bringing the Tom Taylor campaign to an end. Nevertheless, we ran well and made an impressive impact on a minimal budget, showing that for grassroots organizers, social media and great digital design can make an enormous difference.