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This Election Was Personal For Me

I’ve been involved on the periphery of political campaigns since 1970 when I stood beside my parents as they volunteered on campaigns in Oregon. During the 1985/86 campaign I had my first taste of staffing a campaign when I led the statewide volunteer effort for Senator Bob Packwood. I did this because I believed in him and what he had/could do for Oregon.

As a communications professional I have always believed I cannot compromise my own beliefs or standards for any client or organization. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t worked so openly on a political campaign since 1986. But this year was different.

After my friend and Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski lost the Republican primary I joined thousands of Alaskans who encouraged her to stay in the race. We heard the pundits and the political experts who said it was a long shot and she couldn’t do this. We fought on fueled not only by Lisa’s commitment but also our belief it was time once again to show that Alaska is different.

I took a break from my own business and joined the write-in campaign as a volunteer member of the communications team. Wow! What a ride. It’s not over yet but we’re feeling pretty good about the chances to make history. I worked closely with Kristin Pugh Bundy, Steve Wackowski and others on the communications team to make sure our candidate’s belief in and commitment to Alaska, her positions and wonderful personality were out there for Alaskans to see.

Our challenges were greater than other campaigns because we also had to teach Alaskans how to complete a write-in ballot. However, the stakes for Alaska were high and we could see the momentum building. Alaskans were enthused and motivated to help with this race like nothing I have seen in my nearly 20 years living here.

The last time a write-in candidate won a statewide office was 1954…also the last time the San Francisco Giants won the World Series. The Giants won Monday night and “Write-In” won Tuesday night.  Sometime before Thanksgiving, we hope Lisa Murkowski is the name replacing “Write-in” for Alaska’s history books.

In the next week, I’ll be posting additional thoughts about the election more related to communications. As you can imagine, social media added an entirely new dimension to the campaign. Working titles for upcoming posts include:

  • Your Mother Would be Embarrassed That You Said That
  • Liar, Liar Pants on Fire
  • Freedom of What?

Who knows. I might add more to the series. What would you like to see?

By |2018-03-18T23:00:24+00:00November 4th, 2010|Strategic Communications Planning/Counsel|7 Comments

About the Author:

Mary Deming Barber, APR, Fellow PRSA, runs a strategic communications consultancy where she helps clients understand how to integrate new media into traditional communication programs. Mary has counseled clients in Tacoma, Anchorage, San Francisco, Oregon, and Colorado for nearly 40 years working with a variety of food organizations, several agencies, and as a key team member on two successful US Senate campaigns. 


  1. Kristie Aylett, APR November 5, 2010 at 8:49 am - Reply

    I wish every election inspired such passion and advocacy. I loved following Lisa’s campaign through your posts and watching as the national news media — from news networks to morning shows to the Comedy Channel — embraced the underdog aspect of electing a write-in candidate. And yes, I do now know how to spell Murkowski (and even draw it, thanks to Stephen Colbert).


  2. Shonali Burke November 6, 2010 at 5:35 am - Reply

    Mary, I watched your and Jeri’s Facebook posts about the campaign, so it was interesting to read about Ms. Murkowski’s ascendancy in the mainstream media. Even though I’m not an Alaskan, I’ll be following along to see if her name will indeed replace “write in.”

    Will you be doing a post on the entire campaign strategy, tactics and results, and lessons learned? That would be really interesting.

    And as far as post titles go, I vote for “Liar Liar, Pants on Fire.” Should make for some interesting content!

    • mary November 6, 2010 at 10:10 am - Reply

      I will do that as well Shonali, maybe as something of a wrap-up. It is, however, a good story in total as well…we hope. Absentee ballot counting starts Monday. “Write-ins” will be counted beginning Tuesday and expected to last three to four days.

  3. Margaret Nelson, CCBW November 6, 2010 at 7:45 am - Reply

    It was “personal” for many of us. I, too, engaged for the first time ever. As for the next of series, I’d like to see: Palin, and why she is polarizing the Alaska electorate.

    • mary November 6, 2010 at 10:08 am - Reply

      Great idea Margaret. I wonder if you would like to write that as a guest blogger.

  4. Ann Wylie November 9, 2010 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Mary, Mary, I love your contrarian politics, communications & blog posts. I feel really lucky to have seen you a couple of times when you were working on the campaign, so I’m especially happy to get the debrief here. I’d like to learn more behind-the-scenes stories: struggles, strategies, successes. Of course, I like, “your mother would be embarrassed to hear you say that.” Bring it, Sistah!

    • mary November 9, 2010 at 4:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks Ann. I am adding a post that will get into some of the strategies and such. But — hey — we didn’t have any struggles! Some of those may come out in the first few posts. If they don’t I can certainly address them in a final post as well.

      And, today the absentee vote count started. Tomorrow they begin counting the “write-in” votes.

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