When Texas Congressman Will Hurd surprisingly announced his retirement, it was expected the race for the 23rd Congressional District would be one of the most contested in the nation. Even with Democrats pouring more than $6.5 million into the race, Tony Gonzales was able to safely keep the seat Red by drawing a stark contrast between himself and opponent Gina Ortiz Jones with killer creative and consistent messaging.

The Challenge

Texas Congressional District 23 is one of the most challenging districts to canvas, both on the ground and online. It includes over ¾ of the US-Mexico border, covers nearly 60,000 square miles, and encompasses 29 counties. The largest counties were of course, the easiest to target, but the key to winning this race was to win the small counties. In the Republican Primary, Tony narrowly won by 45 votes. Despite Tony taking the more densely populated areas, His opponent spent more time in the rural counties, and won almost all of them, and they almost won him the primary. Lesson learned.

In the General Election, Tony faced opponent Gina Jones. Jones had already run an unsuccessful campaign for TX-23 when she lost to Will Hurd. This time around, she was heavily funded by outside donors and special interest groups. She raised less that 1% of her funding in District 23 yet had $6.5 million in the bank. Jones also purchased an enormous amount of ad time on broadcast and cable networks, and Gonzales did not have the money to match in volume.

The Solution

We had to focus on the image and define the glaring contrast. Messaging focused on two key points: A) Tony is on the ground, talking to families, completely devoted to District 23. B) Gina Jones lives in a luxury DC condo and is disconnected from the district. With less resources but a stronger support network, we hit Jones hard with digital, creating the hit site WhereIsGina.com with a complete branding and social media package – we never passed a creative opportunity. Most importantly, our language had to be strategic and incredibly nuanced. We walked a fine line between “Republican” and “Trump Supporter” by pushing the message: Tony is a proud Republican and has nothing but respect for the president. He is supportive of the party but does not blindly support the president – his district always comes first. Combined, our digital strategy proved successful.

WhereIsGina.com

We created the sub-campaign “#WhereIsGina” to brand the opponent as disconnected from the voters, a “Pelosi-Puppet” bought and paid for by the far left. This campaign and accompanying creative was received with unmatched enthusiasm. We successfully crafted a message and image that was perceived by the audience as satirical and lighthearted, while at its core, it was a strategic, scathing attack on the opposition. It was a negative campaign in disguise. Not only were we able to critically attack the opponent’s image, but we were also able to add value to our client’s – the good-hearted guy with a sense of humor.

The Results

Texas Congressional District 23 was one of the most contentious districts in the 2020 election. The opposition was funded from wealthy donors outside the state of Texas, however the underdog came out on top. By leveraging the opponent’s weaknesses, we created and pushed a crafted, critical image of the opponent and presented an antithetical image for our client – the classic good guy vs. bad guy. Needless to say, Tony Gonzales won the election in District 23, successfully keeping the seat for the Republican party.