A chat with Patrick Mara (R), Former Candidate for DC Council

By Henri Makembe on 06.10.09

Patrick Mara (R)Patrick Mara (R)

 

Last week, I had the chance to seat down with Patrick Mara and talk to him about use the technology during his run for DC city council last year.  Patrick ran for an at-large seat on the city council. He won the contest in the primary against the sixteen year incumbent Carol Schwartz but lost in the general last fall.

During the campaign, Patrick relied heavily on email to communicate with voters of the District.  According to him, his list grew close to several thousands names and included some democrats. During our conversation, I was not able to discern whether or not he followed an active strategy to grow his list online or if he had a communication to plan to walk the voters up the ladder of engagement . Regardless, he seems to have been successful using email.  He used Constant Contact to power his email list and was happy with the vendor.

For online fundraising, Patrick used PayPal and collected between $20,000 and $30,000.  According to DC’soffice on campaign finance (see links
to Mara’s filings at the end of post), Mara raised a total of $230,989; making the amount he collected online anywhere between of 8.65% and 13% of the total raised. While, I wasn’t able to get the skinny on his online fundraising plan, he mentioned borrowing a couple of emails ideas from the Obama campaign with some success.

Patrick Mara Supports at a Parade

On the social media front,¬†Patrick mainly used Facebook.¬† He has both a¬†private profile¬†, with 885 friends, and¬†politician page¬†, with 208 fans (he is one of them).¬† He also ran targeted Facebook ads with some success ‚Äďtargeting members of the DC‚Äôs gay community.¬† He mentioned that efforts were so targeted that he missed some voters that were of his mold ‚Äďheterosexual fiscally conservative but supportive of the gay community.¬†His ads help bolster is list and the number of volunteers. By the end of the campaigns, he had 60-70 volunteers on the trail with him every weekend. Patrick is also on LinkedIn but did not actively campaign on the platform.

While he recognized the value of a blogging, Patrick opted not to blog during the campaign.  As he explained it to me, he did not want pinned down on certain issues in the primary when talking to the Republican base during the primary that he knew he had to pivot away from during the general.  That being said Patrick did conduct blogger interviews and received endorsement from several district blogs (on both side of the isle).

At the end of our conversation, Patrick mentioned a couple of things he would differently.

  1. Run Google Ads ‚Äď he wasn‚Äôtaware of¬†their effectiveness at the start of the campaign.
  2. Blogger outreach –¬†While he received some endorsement from bloggers, Patrick never sought them or took advantage of them.¬† It‚Äôs only after the election that he realized blogs could be another way to engage voters where they already are.
  3. Twitter –¬† He has rectified
    that mistake and you can now follow him on twitter (although he needs to work on his conversational style in this medium)

Now that the campaign is over, Patrick is still sending some updates to his list and is contemplating starting a blog to educate voters about the issues facing the District and what the city council and other activists are doing to address them. He has no intention of attacking past or potential political rivals of the blog, if he does start one.

One thing that Patrick did make sure to point out is that his campaign was focused on meeting the voters in person. He canvassed for countless hours in all parts of the city and attended a great number meetings and events.  His online efforts were only to compliment what he was already doing offline though he did appreciate when people mentioned that they had seen ad on Facebook.

Patrick Mara’s Fillings (all links are to PDFs)