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Coalition Campaign was “Half-Hearted and Incompetent,” says Rival Consultant

Alexander Russo | March 18, 2013

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Referencing the recent District 4 primary between Kate Anderson and Steve Zimmer, StudentsFirst head Michelle Rhee last week boasted that  the Coalition for School Reform effort she helped fund “came within three percentage points of unseating an incumbent, union-backed Board member – something that would have been unthinkable just a couple of election cycles ago.”

But not everyone reflecting on the primary election results has been so sanguine.

Former Democratic state lawmaker Glorio Romero recently blasted Mayor Villaraigosa for over-reaching in his unsuccessful attempt to unseat Steve Zimmer.

And last week an email letter describing the Coalition-funded primary campaign as “half-hearted and incompetent” began circulating among Los Angeles education insiders.

“Their messaging and GOTV [get out the vote] strategy had no correlation to the actual likely voters for the Election,” claims the letter, addressed to former Mayor Richard Riordan and written by political consultant Brian Ross Adams. “They had no strategy for Hollywood and the more liberal Westside districts).”

Adams, who helped Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom unseat State Assemblywoman Betsy Butler last year, says he offered his services to the Coalition and to candidate Kate Anderson, and was eventually invited to help the political arm of the California Charter Schools Association run a small online ad campaign.

He also claims authorship of the YouTube video contrasting Steve Zimmer’s claims of independence with his 2009 pledge of support for UTLA.

Thus far, representatives from the Coalition for School Reform and SCN Strategies, the campaign consulting firm that ran the Coalition’s campaign, have not gotten back to us.

The full letter is below.

Previous posts:  The Zimmer Attack Ad That Never WasCampaign Consultants Win — Either WayHow Steve Zimmer *Really* Won; Behind the Scenes: Campaign ConsultantsCandidates & Coalition Pick Consultants

Dear Mayor Riordan-

It was nice to speak with you the other day.  As I mentioned on the phone, I believe the Coalition produced a half-hearted and incompetent campaign for a number of reasons (some tangible, some intangible).
To summarize:
1.  They produced only 1 TV commercial (see attached script) and spent the bulk of their money airing the commercial until it became so redundant as to be comical.  I kept on waiting for the next harder hitting ad.  It never came.  They ran the same commercial for over a month on MSNBC- sometimes more than 3 times an hour.  It wasn’t even effective.
2.  Their mail program (see attached examples) was poorly designed and didn’t ever speak to the issue at hand- that Zimmer was bought and sold by UTLA. From what I am told, from someone who works for Shallman (who did mail for UTLA), the Coalition used consultants that were afraid to take on the union as they need to do business with them after the election.  They were compromised hired guns.
3.  The field program was a joke.  The head of the field program gave interviews before the election bragging about their data driven field program that used iPhones and collected mass amounts of voter data. (interview here:
Soon after the election, I tweeted at this same man asking him what his projected turnout was and what happened to the voters they had identified?  He hadn’t seen the precinct by precinct results yet (he asked me to send to him), didn’t know what their projections were, and, overall, had an attitude of having not a care in the world. Another high-priced hired gun with NO SKIN IN THE GAME.
4,  Their messaging and GOTV strategy had no correlation to the actual likely voters for the Election (they had no strategy for Hollywood and the more liberal westside districts).
I know a sham when I see one, and the Coalition fits the bill.
I have more information if you want to talk more.  For the record, I did a quick search on Zimmer when I was working for CCSA and found a video of him at an UTLA rally screaming “I stand with my union” and chanting “UTLA, UTLA”. Why this video wasn’t used by the Coalition is frustrating because it exposes Zimmer’s lie that he was an independent voice on the Board.  I made a site about it:

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