Right to farm
About this Project
Nothing is certain in politics, but three issues facing Oklahoma voters in November 2016 were about as close to “sure things” as political pundits had ever seen.
Everyone knew Donald Trump would carry Oklahoma. Everyone knew State Question 792, which updated Oklahoma liquor laws, would easily pass. Everyone knew State Question 777, which prevented new regulation on the agricultural industry, would also pass.
Well, two out of three ain't bad
Donald Trump indeed won our state with 65.32 percent of the vote. As expected, State Question 792 received a huge majority, 65.62 percent, of the vote. But, political observers were shocked when State Question 777 failed, receiving only 39.71 percent of voters’ support.
Deemed “Right to Farm” by its powerful proponents, the ballot measure created a constitutional amendment that would have required state and local governments to show a “compelling state interest” before passing laws or regulations impacting farming and ranching practices.
State Question 777 was sure thing because among its supporters were some of the most powerful political and grassroots organizations in Oklahoma, including the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma Pork Council and the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association. Additionally, language almost identical to State Question 777 had previously been adopted in other states. In fact, those pushing the proposal had never lost an election when attempting to enact these changes.
Our firm was hired to provide earned media support to the Oklahoma Stewardship Council in its effort to defeat the state question. Our allies included the Sierra Club and the Humane Society of the United States, both organizations which tend to be unpopular in a state with a rich farming heritage and a historic economic reliance on the agricultural industry.
Polling in September 2015 showed a steep climb for our cause. In a statewide poll, only 14 percent of respondents, which included likely voters for the general election, said they would vote ‘No’ on the measure. We had a long way to go.
Undaunted, we began a year-long educational and grassroots campaign to turn the tide on State Question 777 with concise and persuasive messaging that was delivered strategically and repeatedly.
We developed messaging to highlight the proposal’s flaws that was tailored to appeal to numerous audiences, including economic, governmental and environmental. We armed our spokespeople with counter-messaging designed to blunt the impact of our opponents’ sound bites.
Our statewide outreach plan included one-on-one meetings with community opinion leaders, letters to the editor and op-eds from supporters, newspaper columns and interviews with newspapers, online publications, TV stations and radio outlets across the state. We hosted news conferences in our state’s two largest media markets and visited newsrooms and editorial boards all over Oklahoma.
We highlighted our opponents’ missteps and were quick to respond to attacks. We issued dozens of news releases, statements and advisories.
At every turn, we and our allies outlined the clear drawbacks of the measure. By the end of the campaign, we tallied 338 media hits statewide in support of our client’s effort to defeat State Question 777. Ten Oklahoma newspapers, including the state’s two largest, editorialized against the measure.
Voters heard our message and rewarded our effort on election night. More than 60 percent of voters came out against the measure, delivering a sound defeat to a proposal that many considered a sure thing.
Client: Humane Society of the United States
Tags: Political, Farming, Animals, Water Quality
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