Elevating & Winning Secretary of State Races for Our Democracy
Democratic Secretaries of State
The 2022 midterms fundamentally changed the trajectory of American elections. For the first time in our nation’s history, extremist election deniers were elevated, supported and funded in their quest to blatantly overrule the will of the people for political gain. What were once sleepy, apolitical, lesser-known positions soon emerged as the most consequential races in the country, with dire ramifications for the future of American democracy. With these problems came a variety of communications obstacles. Mainstream media outlets historically focused on congressional races and statewide contests for the top of the ticket. Hundreds of campaigns throughout the country would be jockeying for airtime as Democrats were blamed for rising inflation. The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State had only raised $2 million throughout the entirety of the 2020 race, with no permanent staff or infrastructure to facilitate media engagement, fundraising, or candidate support. And if a single Republican election denier won a Secretary of State race in a swing state, it would set the stage for a constitutional crisis.
Prior to any DASS staff hires, Fenton crafted a political and earned media strategy with a three-pronged approach; to oversaturate the media market, clearly define our foils as existential threats to American democracy, and offer our candidates as the stewards of free and fair elections. Throughout 2021, we aggressively engaged key reporters and news desks to educate them on the importance of upcoming Secretary of State races. By elevating an unprecedented spike in political violence and the disturbing radicalism of election denying candidates, we built relationships with journalists, educated the public on Republicans’ extremism, and effectively denigrated our opponents before a single primary began. With this new and robust communications infrastructure, we proceeded to use state-specific developments throughout 2022 to enforce an overarching theme: the midterms were going to dictate the future of American democracy.
We successfully convinced editors and reporters to view Secretary of State races as paramount – securing over 200 print and broadcast placements in 12 months to dominate the national conversation, elevate the issue of democracy and connect our candidates to the American public. As the political director of ABC News pointed out: “Just months ago, DASS was nowhere to be found – but thanks to Fenton – Democratic Secretaries are everywhere with no matching effort on the Republican side”. Our work activated an entirely new donor base for pro-democracy candidates, fueling DASS’ record $30 million fundraising haul and wins against election deniers in every single swing state. Reporters from The Washington Post to Axios noted that they “couldn’t have done [their reporting] without Fenton” as we “were responsible for injecting the issue of ‘preserving democracy’ into the media ecosystem.”