Each month in our newsletter, we will profile an ActBlue candidate whose campaign and supporters are creatively using ActBlue to communicate, organize, fundraise, and mobilize support from Democrats across the United States. By providing specific examples of candidates who have been successful on ActBlue and telling you how they did it, we hope we spark your creativity and inspire you to make fundraising pages that solicit contributions in new and interesting ways.
In this month’s newsletter, we spotlight a young, charismatic, and progressive candidate whose popularity as a state Senator was the catalyst for his U.S. Senate bid. His soaring fundraising numbers have exceeded expectations and continue to break barriers, instilling fear and panic into the GOP and attracting national attention.
No, this month’s candidate is not Barack Obama.
It’s Oklahoma state Senator and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Rice.
Rice is challenging Republican incumbent Senator Jim Inhofe, one of the most conservative members of the Senate. And he’s doing it by taking advantage of everything ActBlue has to offer, from harnessing ActBlue’s online tools to engage his supporters, to working alongside independent fundraisers from across the country who have united on ActBlue to support Democrats, to pointing to public totals on ActBlue to demonstrate his viability in the race.
Besides being one of the busiest candidates on ActBlue, we chose to profile Andrew Rice because he is showing that by using new tools and technologies, and by turning his donors into fundraisers, we can fundamentally change the kinds of candidates we send to office.
With 24 fundraising pages on ActBlue, Andrew Rice has raised over $113,000 from nearly 2.500 supporters. Democracy for America, prominent liberal bloggers, and Democrats from all over the country have come together to ensure that this is Senator Inhofe’s last year in office by creating ActBlue fundraising pages for Rice.
To truly appreciate the magnitude of a political newcomer entering a U.S. Senate race against an entrenched and staunch Republican and shaking up the political scene in a red state, let’s take a closer look at Senator Inhofe and Andrew Rice.
Senator Inhofe has all the credentials to make a liberal’s blood boil, but in the traditionally red state of Oklahoma, we know it won’t be easy for Democrats to capture his Senate seat. Senator Inhofe has called global warming the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people"; he is the recipient of the "Most Outstanding Conservative U.S. Senator" award, presented by the Human Events Newspaper and the American Conservative Union, and received an "A+" grade from the National Rifle Association. A tenacious supporter of the Constitutional ban on gay marriage, Inhofe has told gay rights activists that, "due to the possibility of a conflict of agenda," he doesn’t hire staffers who are openly gay. Seeing red yet? That’s why in Oklahoma, we have to ActBlue. Andrew Rice’s relative youth, charisma, integrity and dedication to progressive ideals puts him in stark contrast to Senator Inhofe. Rather than run an "Anybody but Inhofe" campaign, however, the Rice team has shown Oklahomans that they should vote for Andrew Rice not just because he isn’t Jim Inhofe. They launched an impressive campaign that introduced Andrew as a deserving candidate in his own right, and brought national attention to an important senatorial race.
THE CANDIDATE: ANDREW RICE
Andrew Rice was not on an inevitable path toward politics. The Oklahoma native is a Harvard Divinity School graduate who has done humanitarian work in Sri Lanka and Thailand. After producing a documentary film about an HIV hospice in India that was run by an ex-convict, Rice moved to New York to continue his career as a documentary filmmaker. It wasn’t until 2001, when his brother was tragically killed in the 9/11 attacks, that Rice’s career path took a dramatic turn. Incensed by the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war, Rice became a staunch advocate of open government and policy reform. After returning to Oklahoma and creating the Progressive Alliance Foundation, Rice made a bid for an Oklahoma state Senate seat in 2005 and won the election with 70 percent of the vote.
Rice was only a state Senator for six months before people started encouraging him to run against Senator Inhofe. During his short tenure in the state Senate, Rice has focused on issues affecting children and families, specifically health insurance and tax breaks for struggling families. In the fledgling stages of his U.S. Senate campaign, Rice proved his viability by raising over $28,000 on ActBlue and bringing in a total of $300,000 in the first two months of his campaign. This support gave Rice the momentum and credibility to attract the endorsements of prominent national organizations like the Sierra Club and powerful blogs like Blue America. ActBlue has remained an essential tool for the Rice campaign to mobilize such powerful netroots support. Together, these prominent bloggers have raised over $55,000 for Rice from 1,600 donors on ActBlue.
Andrew Rice has become a prominent presence on liberal sites other than ActBlue. He is a blogger for the Huffington Post, and has appeared twice on the Blue America site to answer questions and discuss his view on the Iraq War, health care, tax policy, and abortion. In both online sessions, people from states other than Oklahoma posed question to the candidate, and encouraged each other to visit Democracy for America’s ActBlue fundraising page for Rice, aptly titled, "Beat a Republican Extremist."
THE CAMPAIGN ON ACTBLUE
Rice has held and attended events that simultaneously shed light on Senator Inhofe’s blunders while highlighting Rice’s record as a progressive Oklahoma state Senator. The most recent example of this inventive strategy is the cupcakes challenge Rice issued to Senator Inhofe in the beginning of April. For the past three years, the Oklahoma City Community College has hosted the Bake Sale for Body Armor to raise much-needed funds to protect our troops. Rice contributed to the worthy cause this year and challenged Senator Inhofe and other members of Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation to join him in his support. This event prompted bloggers to spotlight Inhofe’s deplorable voting record of continually opposing funds for veterans and troops, and remind voters that the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America group gave Inhofe’s voting record a "D-" grade.
The Rice campaign has also used this balancing strategy to solicit contributions from donors across the United States. To counteract Senator Inhofe’s own fundraising efforts, the Rice campaign created an ActBlue fundraising page called "Everyday People’s 5k…x2". On the page, the Rice campaign encouraged donors to "match just ONE special interest check given to Jim Inhofe by those who know he will make good on a lifetime of service to them only," and set a deadline to raise an extra $5,000 in less than one month.
While popular bloggers have raised tens of thousands of dollars on ActBlue by endorsing Rice and asking their readers to contribute to his campaign, people who are not professionally affiliated with the Democratic party or the Rice campaign have taken matters into their own hands and created fundraising pages for the Oklahoma Senate candidate. Progressive Pilots for Andrew Rice, Yellow Dogs for Rice, and Independent Okies for Rice, are all pages created by individuals and make up only a few of the 24 ActBlue pages made for Rice. One of these exemplary funding pages is titled, "Expand the Map!" and was created by a blogger known as ‘Senate Guru.’ The "Expand the Map" page has collected over $3,500 for Rice from more than 60 donors from Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Texas, and of course, Oklahoma. While many ActBlue fundraising pages feature only one candidate, Senate Guru’s page is a great example of how multiple candidates can be grouped together on one page to support a common purpose.
Senate Guru told ActBlue that he created this page to "expand the map of competitive seats" in the Senate. The Senate Guru explained that
[g]reat candidates, particularly those in red states, like Andrew Rice, Larry LaRocco [ID], and Rick Noriega [TX], can be competitive and offer voters an alternative to the rubber stamp Republicans their states currently endure – all they need are enough resources to get their messages out to the voters and counter the spin put out by the GOP. And that’s why ActBlue is so important – because it facilitates the ability of a Missourian to help an Oklahoma State Senator oust an anachronism like Jim Inhofe.
As Senate Guru and many other page creators recognize, Democratic candidates need out-of-state donations to make their states blue. According to the Rice campaign, 35 percent of their donations have come from donors outside of Oklahoma. By building a national Democratic infrastructure, ActBlue is empowering individuals to come together and truly make an impact on a national scale.
ACTBLUE TURNS A RED INCUMBENT GREEN WITH ENVY
The efforts of the Rice campaign and his supporters are paying off. After Senator Inhofe touted the $30,000 he raised online over the entire month of March, the Rice campaign reported that they raised over $68,000 online in the last five days of March, and $46,477 of that came from ActBlue fundraising pages. On March 31, the last day of the quarter, Rice got a huge boost and brought in $43,000. As Karina Henderson, the campaign’s web manager, points out, Rice brought in 150 percent more online on that one day than Inhofe did in all of March. The fact that a first-term state Senator from Oklahoma can so dramatically outraise an entrenched Republican represents what ActBlue is all about and what we’re trying to do.
Undoubtedly feeling threatened by Rice’s soaring funds, Senator Inhofe is now using his challenger’s online success to try to mobilize and encourage his own supporters. In a message to his cohorts in the beginning of April, the Inhofe campaign recognized the "fundraising potential"
of the Democratic netroots efforts and Andrew Rice’s ability to attract out-of-state donations.
Without Rice’s nationwide support converging on ActBlue, Oklahoma’s incumbent wouldn’t be feeling such pressure. By participating in events such as the Bake Sale for Body Armor, issuing challenges to the incumbent, generating buzz on the Internet, and using ActBlue to set specific goals and turn donors into fundraisers, the Rice campaign has made Andrew Rice a viable and competitive candidate. In a state where 66 percent of voters supported President Bush in 2004, electing a Democratic Senator could be a formidable challenge without the robust and national support system that ActBlue has made possible.
The work is not over for Rice or other Democratic candidates in competitive states, however. To help get Democrats like Rice elected, create a fundraising page today for the candidates of your choice and start acting blue.