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Democrats in Texas may not have won a statewide race since 1994, but last Saturday, Democrat Annise Parker won a run-off election with 52.8% of the vote to become Mayor of Houston, America's 4th largest city. 

While both run-off candidates happened to be Democrats, Annise Parker was the only one who was part of ActBlue's municipal candidate pilot project, which includes Houston, raising $18,350 through ActBlue for her campaign. A large portion of those funds came from the grassroots efforts of local, state, and national Stonewall Democrats who were interested in supporting an openly lesbian candidate and were able to track donations through their branded ActBlue partnership.

We congratulate Parker on her election as she becomes the highest ranking openly gay person elected as Mayor of a major American city. Her victory is bigger than that, though, as she is also the first candidate in decades to win without the backing of traditional establishment players and the city's business interests.

Annise Danette Parker was elected mayor of Houston on Saturday, winning her seventh consecutive city election and becoming both the first contender in a generation to defeat the hand-picked candidate of Houston's business establishment and the first openly gay person to lead a major U.S. city.

Parker, Houston's current city controller who first emerged in the public arena as a gay rights activist in the 1980s, defeated former City Attorney Gene Locke on an austere platform, convincing voters that her financial bona fides and restrained promises would be best suited in trying financial times. Parker, 53, will replace the term-limited Mayor Bill White on Jan. 1.

Her victory capped an unorthodox election season that lacked a strong conservative mayoral contender and saw her coalition of inside-the-Loop Democrats and moderate conservatives, backed by an army of ardent volunteers, win the day over Locke, a former civil rights activist who attempted to unite African-American voters and Republicans.

The current Houston City Controller and former Councilmember, Annise Parker has been elected 6 times in Houston and is rooted in civic activism. She commanded a dedicaded volunteer army which helped her secure victory in the run-off in face of last minute attacks on her sexuality, which has hardly been an issue in the prior year long campaign. 

And as noted in an article by Politico, her election in Houston is a reflection of a larger trend in politics, where high growth, diverse cities are leading Democrats back to power even in traditional Republican counties and states. 

But the election of Annise Parker in Houston makes clear that the Charlottes and Houstons are now at the forefront of American political change, while the shrinking and declining big cities of the Northeast and Rust Belt are bringing up the rear.

"Houston is your post-racial, post-ethnic future of America," said demographer Joel Kotkin. "It's a leading-edge place."

ActBlue is there to help those candidates get out on that leading edge and connect with a diverse and growing community of small donors. It's a powerful force which is evident even in Texas where Annise Parker recognizes the impact this election has beyond her city. 

“Tonight the voters of Houston have opened the doors to history,” she said. “I acknowledge that. I embrace that. I know what this win means to many of us who thought we could never achieve high office. I know what it means. I understand, because I feel it, too. But now, from this moment, let us join as one community. We are united in one goal in making this city the city that it could be, should be, can be and will be.”

“Hear me: The city is on your side,” she said. “I learned about the problems and the needs and hopes of our city at the neighborhood level. I understand what needs to be done to move us forward. … I promise to give to citizens an administration of honesty, integrity and transparency,” she said. “The only special interest will be the public. We are in this together. We rise or fall together.”

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Amassing the financial resources you need to run for office
can be difficult. You need to hit your list, get that money, flip that money
into advertisements, paychecks, and all the other things that make a campaign
tick. The time window for all of that is extremely short. At the same time,
national and state campaign finance laws also require that you capture a
tremendous amount of information about your donors.

You’d think the breakneck pace of campaign season and data
analysis would be in opposition, but they’re not. In fact, knowing your list is
key to producing the financial returns you’ll need to run a successful
campaign. If you don’t take the time to find out who is supporting you, you’ll
end up leaving a lot of money on the table come Election Day.

Donors are investing in your campaign, and doing your due diligence is a great way to signal that you don’t see them as an
undifferentiated mass of walking wallets. Jesse Greenberg, a Chicago-area political consultant, summed it up well in a post on social media in politics:

Earlier this summer, I attended a campaign
event for Debbie Halvorsen, a congressional candidate in Illinois’ 11th
district. I registered and paid my contribution through ActBlue. This
online transaction called for my email. It surprises me
that today I received, not one, but two letters from the Halvorson campaign
soliciting me for funds. As a “supporter” I’d like to be listened to and
clearly their direct mail piece doesn’t indicate they are listening.  If I
used ActBlue to register for an event and make a donation, doesn’t that mean
I’m more likely to respond to online communications rather than direct
mail?

I’d like to amplify that a bit. I’m a 20-something who works
in Democratic politics. It’s what I do every day. But if you, theoretical
Democratic candidate, USPS me an envelope asking me to send you a check, I
won’t even know what to do with it. I pay my bills, my rent, and just about everything
else online. Established media empires are crumbling because folks my age don’t
buy newspapers anymore. Asking me to write you a check and take it
to the post office is very, very unlikely to produce a response. Even if I do
mail you a check, the costs you incur for direct mail solicitations—staff time,
printing, postage and processing—are astronomically high compared to sending me
an email.

ActBlue allows you to sidestep those costs and makes it easy for you to see who your donors are. When donors sign up for a free ActBlue Express account, they have the option to click a box that appends “donor prefers email” to their contributions. As a candidate, all you have to do is look for that little tell in your contribution reports and make sure you communicate with them via email.

Encouraging your donors to sign up for free ActBlue Express
accounts
also provides a number of other advantages to your campaign. While
donating through ActBlue is always faster than writing and mailing a check,
ActBlue Express stores all their donor information. That means that when they
get your email, all they have to do is enter their password and their donation
is on its way to you at digital speed. That means more conversions per email,
and more money in your war chest.

Making use of the tools at your disposal isn’t about being hip, or new media savvy. It’s about winning. As Obama for America demonstrated, the payoffs for campaigns that are ahead of the curve in this area are
enormous.

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