Problem: Multi-decade incumbent Dr. Frank Minyard announced that he would not seek election in the 2014 New Orleans municipal elections. The office had become entwined in a series of damaging disclosures and scandals related to the handling of cases after the floods post-Katrina. Additionally, the office was widely known to be poorly managed and notoriously short on funds. Coroner staff member and mental health specialist Jeffrey Rouse announced he would run for his old boss’ position. Rouse had never run for office nor been in political life before. His status as a member of a controversial office, although not involved in the death investigation aspect (Rouse headed the well-regarded mental health unit) complicated the politics of his run.
Winning Solution: WIN Partners crafted a strategy focused on playing up Rouse’s well-regarded resume as an effective mental health officer precisely suited to confront the city’s ongoing mental health crisis. Though not initially well-funded, WIN focused paid media efforts at burnishing Rouse’s reputation as a mental health expert and framing the election around his credentials. After a strong primary finish, first-time candidate Rouse catapulted to a narrow, citywide victory on the strength of WIN print, TV, and digital media. Throughout the race, WIN polling accurately predicted the horserace and guided message strategy.