Invest in PHX
The Invest in PHX campaign challenged conventional wisdom, aggressively defined the opposition and transcended partisan politics – bringing together voters from the four corners of the city to defeat two controversial ballot propositions.
Project: In September of 2018, the Phoenix City Council voted 6-2 to move forward on the construction of the voter-approved South Central Light Rail extension into South Phoenix. The vote came on the heels of an aggressive yearlong anti-rail effort by some South Phoenix business and property owners, funded by out-of-state anti-transit opponents, that generated significant media attention and put the voter approved extension in jeopardy. For a moment, people believed the $1 Billion Light Rail project was safe.
However, the same out-of-state funded, anti-transit groups continued to work behind the scenes and organize another light rail fight. Working every step of the way to conceal their involvement from the public, leaders of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club drafted a city charter amendment that would accomplish their anti-rail goals and paid signature gatherers to qualify it for the ballot. Their proposal would not only stop the South Phoenix light rail extension, but would stop two other voter-approved extensions and forever ban Phoenix from investing in any type of rail project. After qualifying, this anti-transit proposal would appear on the ballot as Prop 105.
Light rail opponents made several clever moves to improve their chances of an electoral win. They put the item on the ballot in August, a month known for low turnout elections, assuming that low turnout would result in a higher percentage of conservative older citizens casting votes. They also added a second initiative to the August ballot which was designed to draw in libertarian and conservative voters. This second initiative, Prop 106, purported to tackle the city’s pension debt while forcing elected officials to surrender their own pensions, hoping to invigorate anti-government activists
Further complicating the challenge, Phoenix supporters of light rail had voted YES three previous times to fund and extend the system. For the first time, a “YES” vote on the ballot proposition would kill light rail. A “NO” vote was required to protect light rail.
No wonder as election day approached, conventional wisdom held that anti-rail forces had momentum and had finally put together a winning strategy.
Strategy: Resolute oversaw coalition building, campaign strategy and messaging, supervising all consultants, and managing day to day operations to drive the campaign to a win. The result was a disciplined, research-based campaign that deployed advanced predictive modeling, innovative voter contact strategies and highly localized mail and digital messaging.
The Invest in PHX campaign challenged conventional wisdom, opting to directly confront both propositions at once, jointly messaging a “NO” on 105 and “NO” on 106 despite concerns that the popularity of pension reform would hurt light rail. The campaign used advanced modeling to predict higher than normal voter turnout, a direct contradiction to what most pundits and the opposition believed would happen.
The campaign narrowed messaging to just a few points based on research, replacing commonly used “transit means economic development” arguments with messaging that focused more on the ways light rail helps individuals. The campaign didn’t shy away from aggressively defining the opposition, working to unveil the previously hidden leadership of out-of-state backed special interest groups, knocking the opposition off their preferred messaging, and making their interference into the decisions of Phoenix voters a center piece of the campaign.
Invest in PHX made it a priority to directly communicate with voters from all areas of the city transcending partisan politics and brought together business leaders and labor; neighborhood groups and elected officials; non-profit organizations and industry leaders; and community groups from the four corners of the city to defeat two controversial propositions on the ballot. More powerful than the sum of its parts, the coalition successfully rallied their constituents and volunteers into a massive in-person voter contact program that resulted in meaningful conversations with tens of thousands of voters – an impressive feat during a Phoenix summer.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego took the public lead as the face of Invest in PHX and proved a driving force in the fight against Propositions 105 and 106, making their defeat a top priority shortly after taking office.
The campaign also drew vigorous support from other Arizona and Phoenix elected officials involving every living former Mayor of Phoenix including U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton (D-9th), a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-7th); and Phoenix City Council members Debra Stark and Laura Pastor who served as Invest in PHX Co-Chairs.
Outcome: For the second time in less than a year, Phoenix faced-off against a well-funded, highly orchestrated, effort to kill light rail projects. And won.
After unprecedented high-profile news coverage for a local off year transit campaign –including appearances in the New York Times, Washington Post, and even a full segment on Netflix’s Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj— on August 27, 2019, Phoenix voters shattered August election turnout records and soundly defeated both the anti-rail Prop 105 and the so-called pension reform of Prop 106.
The victory was unprecedented with both propositions going down in all eight city council districts regardless of geography or political composition. The scale of the Invest in PHX win sent a clear message to city and regional leaders that voters will fight for smart investments in their community’s future and that well-funded, well-organized transit-killing efforts can be stopped.
- Campaign Management
- Message Development
- Coalition Building
- Community Engagement
- Media Relations