Last Sunday I came home from picking my kids up from camp and found a palm card on my doorstep from a Democratic legislative candidate. It always surprises me when a Democratic candidate leaves something at our house or knocks on our door because my wife and I are Republican Primary voters. The political pollster and data modeler in me just assumes that the Democratic Party’s voter models are predicting that my wife may be a persuadable voter for some reason. When I looked at the bio piece I was somewhat surprised and impressed that one of two messages included was the candidate’s experience making the community safer and protecting families.
Now it is important to note that this candidate is a former deputy district attorney and prosecutor who has “fought for victims in hundreds of cases”. He could have just intended to inform voters of his experience putting bad guys away for a living. However, with the recent attacks in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, Orlando, Dallas and now Baton Rouge, it is clear from our survey research that Colorado voters have a growing concern about their family’s safety. We have seen this issue move up the “issue matrix”, especially among Republican Primary and unaffiliated women voters. Without question, the issue of “family safety and security” is becoming a bigger and bigger priority that voters want addressed. Candidates from both major parties would do well to focus on this issue whenever possible.
Our focus groups among unaffiliated women voters back in April found that the second most important issue to them was national security. These women had strong concerns that their families could be attacked or harmed. They described their views of the national and local security environment as “the calm before the storm”, “we have let our guard down” and “what happened over there (Paris and Belgium attacks) could happen here”. We also found that these women did not blame a particular person or political party, and believed that state, local and federal agencies needed to work together more effectively. The bottom line is that voters in Colorado would like to hear something from candidates and incumbents this fall about how they intend to keep their families safe from random violence and terrorism. Regardless if you are a Democratic or a Republican legislative candidate, talking about the issue of family safety and security will earn voter support.
Finally, it is notable that the legislative candidate’s bio piece did not mention that he was a Democrat, which is a smart move when you are knocking on the door of a Republican Primary household, and especially considering the unpopularity of both major parties. However, it was evident to me that he was a Democrat when his second message was “fighting for local schools and making sure teachers have the tools they need to create great learning environments.” That kind of rhetoric is right out of the Colorado Democrat playbook for legislative campaigning 101.