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FWIW Virginia: With 61 Days Until Virginians Vote, How Are Campaigns and Outside Groups Talking About Workers’ Issues?


From FWIW Virginia:

With the long Labor Day weekend behind us, the last leg of the 2019 election in Virginia has begun. While Virginians enjoyed their Monday off, many campaigns were hard at work actively pushing out messaging online commemorating Labor Day.

How are Virginia campaigns and outside groups in the commonwealth talking about workers’ issues leading up to Election Day? We take a look in this week’s edition of FWIW Virginia.

But first…

2019 by the numbers

Here’s how Facebook spending by Republican and Democratic party committees and candidates in the most competitive districts compares since the primary election.

Here’s the top 10 political ad spenders in Virginia’s legislative elections on Facebook:

Days left until the general election: 61

Deep Dive: You betta WERQ

While some candidates have focused their attention on culture war issues to rile up their base, campaigns and outside groups on both sides of the aisle have spent big money pushing persuasion messaging around kitchen table issues.

On the Democratic side, outside groups like Progress Virginia and Family Friendly Economy have been running digital ads around kitchen table policies that benefit workers, like paid family and medical leave.

Both groups have spent 2019 running long-term, issue-oriented digital persuasion programs on a scale not currently matched by any Virginia-specific outside organizations. Longtime readers of FWIW Virginia likely recognize both organizations from their frequent appearances in the top weekly spenders in Virginia, and Progress Virginia and Family Friendly Economy have been the top-spending outside groups on Facebook.

   While many of the ads run by both Family Friendly Economy and Progress Virginia are still exclusively focused on persuasion, Progress Virginia has begun running ads focused explicitly on turning Virginians out to vote. This shift towards voter turnout is a break from the ads Progress Virginia ran earlier in the summer, which didn’t include any turnout messaging.

   One of our top spenders this week, the Virginia Democratic Party, through their Take the Majority brand, is running persuasion and name ID boosting digital ads for candidates in their competitive House of Delegates and State Senate elections. Many of these ads focus on middle and working-class messaging around kitchen table issues, featuring copy like “she’s working to help all Virginia families get by.”


On the Republican side, the Koch-funded, anti-union group Americans for Prosperity has begun running ads to boost the name IDs of Republican candidates in competitive races. Of course, they don’t mention that the “policies that help improve [Virginians] lives” are opposing Democratic efforts to repeal Right to Work and make the minimum wage a living wage.


Spotlight: HD 85 – Alex Askew (D) v. Rocky Holcomb (R)

For our district spotlight this week, we’re taking a look at HD 85, where Democrat Alex Askew is facing former GOP Delegate Rocky Holcomb.

Source: Virginia Public Access Project

HD 85 is based in Virginia Beach and is a toss-up at the statewide level. The district split 47-47 in the 2013 gubernatorial election, voted for Gillespie 49-48 in 2014, and favored Clinton 48-46 in 2016. The district has moved slightly to the left since 2016, voting for all three statewide Democrats in 2017 and delivering 57% of the vote to Kaine in 2018.

However, the district sent a Republican to the House of Delegates until 2017, when Democrat Cheryl Turpin won by just 389 votes over GOP incumbent Rocky Holcomb. With Turpin now running for State Senate, Democrat Alex Askew is now running against Holcomb, who is taking another shot as his old seat.

Askew’s campaign has spent over $2,600 on Facebook ads this election cycle dedicated to persuasion and list building. The campaign started buying ads in earnest in early August, running a series of static and video ads around issues like the environment and public education.

On the Republican side, Holcomb’s campaign hasn’t run any ads on Facebook, ceding a small early persuasion edge to Askew in an election that could come down to less than a few hundred votes.

Thanks for reading and make sure to sign up for weekly updatesfollow us on Twitter andemail us with ideas of what you’d like us to dive into next.

– The team at ACRONYM

P.S. Here’s a sign-up link for our national FWIW newsletter and you can find today’s issue here.


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