Jeff Brandes’ re-election campaign finds a fifth gear for race against Judithanne McLauchlan

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State Senator Jeff Brandes has kept his campaign strategy this election under wraps and it’s not unintentional. That’s until now.

Brandes announced that his targeted grassroots campaign has reached 50,000 voters in his district since January through a massive boots on the ground campaign. This month alone, the campaign has knocked on some 35,000 doors.

“I think grassroots is just a wonderful way to start and then you build upon that foundation,” Brandes said.

The campaign’s data-driven efforts have utilized webElect to compile stats on not just how many voters have been reached, but also how many yard signs have been handed out and overall support for the incumbent Republican. Of the 50,000 voters reached so far, just over 10,000 have indicated that they either already have or will vote to re-elect Brandes.

Part of the reason Brandes’ campaign has been a grassroots powerhouse is its attention to the entire district. There are three campaign offices in St. Pete, Seminole and Tampa. On any given day there are 10-15 volunteers hitting neighborhoods to gather support. At its peak, that number soared to as many as 60 people. And Brandes himself has joined the efforts and it’s no easy feat.

“You have to be prepared for the 45 minute conversation at the door,” Brandes said of his campaign conversations with constituents.

During those long talks on front porches and in driveways, Brandes said many voters are concerned about pressing issues like rising flood insurance rates and improvements to public education.

“Generally when we’re talking to voters they’re really focused on what we’re working on and what we’ve been working on in Tallahassee,” Brandes said.

Brandes says he’s given them a laundry list of efforts aimed at making life easier, and more affordable, for families in his district.

Brandes is running against popularUSF St. Pete professor Judithanne McLauchlan. While Brandes has been consistently leading in the polls against his opponent it’s not by much. Most polls show Brandes leading by only about 6 points. That’s something Brandes sees changing now that word about his powerhouse campaign is out.

“I think everything we’re doing culminates in a great strategy to win,” Brandes said.

In addition to tracking the number of doors knocked, the Brandes campaign has also been able to track 965 yard signs distributed in the field. Each office competes against one another each day for the number of signs handed out.

With less than a month left before the election, Brandes is focused on reaching voters who have requested a vote-by-mail ballot.

“We’re bringing stamps to doors, whatever we can to get them to mail them in,” Brandes said. “Not having a stamp is sometimes the one thing keeping [voters] from turning those votes in.”

Going forward, Brandes said everyday is Election Day and plans to continue grassroots efforts. His campaign manager is blocking out a couple of hours each day just to speak with constituents at their homes. They’re also moving forward with campaign mailers with positive messages as well as television ads.

Brandes also has a large funding advantage. With nearly $700,000 raised so far, Brandes has almost as much money left in campaign cash as his opponent has raised throughout the entire campaign. McLauchlan has only brought in about $250,000 and spent $230,000.

When asked what other campaign strategies he has up his sleeve, Brandes said, “we’ll let the surprises surprise you.”

Disclosure: Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises, LLC, the holding company of Extensive Enterprises Media, LLC, which owns this website.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.