In 2017, Danica Roem, a transgender woman, and local journalist decided to challenge Bob Marshall, a 26-year incumbent, and author of Virginia’s transphobic “bathroom bill” for his seat in the House of Delegates. She faced an extremely challenging political environment given the tenure and profile of the incumbent, the low turnout of an off-year election, and the difficulty of breaking through and increasing her name recognition in the shadow of a hotly-contested race for governor.

For Roem to succeed, she needed an aggressive, targeted digital ad effort to supplement her cable television ads in the costly D.C. media market. Because of the relatively small size of the electorate (just over 22,000 votes cast), Roems digital campaign needed to turn out Democrats who were less likely to vote in off-year elections while also persuading voters in the middle to back her campaign over the longtime incumbent.

Rather than focus on voters already supporting Roem or those who would never back a Democrat, DSPolitical focused on persuadable voters by harnessing the power of Catalist’s proprietary Vote Choice Index which uses historical voter turnout statistics to assign scores that measure a voter’s propensity to support Democrats.

DSPolitical also worked closely with the campaign’s media team to efficiently reach Democratic voters that could be relied upon to vote Democratic in an off-year general election with digital advertising across all devices. We targeted just over 16,000 individuals who were registered to vote in the district and were modeled to have a medium to a high likelihood of voting for a Democratic candidate. Also targeted were strong base voters who were less likely to vote in off-year elections. These strong supporters would be critical to expanding the map enough to win.

The compelling creative coupled with the precise targeting and focused engagement paid off. On Election Day, Roem ousted the anti-LGBTQ incumbent by a margin of nearly 10 points and became the first openly transgender American to serve in a state legislature. Her victory also helped bring Democrats within a single vote of winning a majority in the Virginia General Assembly.

DSPolitical won the 2017 Reed Award for Best Online Targeting for a State Legislative Campaign.