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It wasn’t a victory speech that let Sacramento know Steve Hansen was the top vote-getter in the race for City Council District 4, it was a victory tweet – but what would you expect from a candidate whose campaign was propelled to success on a digital platform in a new-media world?
"We're done...for now. thank you," he tweeted.
Hansen finished the primary election Tuesday with 2,317 votes – 28.5 percent of the total.
He will have his work cut out for him in the runoff however, as he finished just 86 votes ahead of architect and political veteran Joe Yee who had 2,231 votes (27.5 percent). Phyllis Newton, meanwhile, received 1,798 (22.19 percent) and Terry Schanz finished with 1,213 votes (14.97 percent). The top Land Park candidates – Yee, Newton and Schanz – together tallied 5,242 votes, or 2,925 more than Hansen, the one candidate from the central city. If Yee can bring in Newton's and Schanz's supporters, he will have the advantage in November.
A lot can happen between now and then, and it would be wrong to count Hansen out. While Newton was the most prolific fundraiser in the race - bringing in $150,000, Hansen came in second with $130,000, according to the Sacramento News & Revew. Hansen has on his side an enthusiastic core of young supporters and volunteers (think Obama 08) and a web savvy campaign. Both factors were evident on election night.
On Tuesday his headquarters was a hive of activity, buzzing with the energy of nearly 70 volunteers who, in addition to making phone calls and going door to door, also utilized Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Maps and texting.
(Image by: Melissa Corker) Hansen’s volunteer corps was a kaleidoscope of people who represented a broad cross-section of Sacramento: from the student representative on the Sacramento City Unified School District board to the elderly funeral home director, the mid-30s law school graduate to the 10-year-old neighbor who helped by watching Hansen’s dog when he was out walking precincts.
All that new-media savvy appeared and volunteer enthusiasm paid off as election night poll results started pouring in and Hansen had earned a spot in the November runoff as one of the top two vote-getters in the District 4 race.
(Image by: Melissa Corker) Earlier in the day, 62-year-old funeral director Howard Papworth sat on a sofa in the front room of Hansen’s Midtown Victorian home-turned campaign headquarters, making phone calls to voters, keeping notes and updating lists of Hansen supporters.
Papworth said he first got involved in politics during the 1960 election for John F. Kennedy, and he feels a similar “vibe” from the Hansen campaign.
“City Council needs a Steve Hansen – very badly,” Papworth said. “He’ll bring fresh ideas, which is what we need.”
While Papworth made calls from the living room, other volunteers scattered around the house and out onto the front porch worked on smartphones or laptops, posting to Facebook or Tweeting about campaign activities, or pouring over maps of the district.
(Image by: Melissa Corker) Thomas Dodson, 35, is a tall, slender, serious-looking young professional and a social media consultant by trade. Dodson sat in a comfy-looking antique rocking chair in Hansen’s crowded den, uploading the latest video message from Hansen to Facebook. Dodson said it would be the third video of the day – but not the last.
“We are sharing the stories of what’s happening here,” Dodson said between Tweets and texts. “I want everyone to know what’s going on behind the scenes after they see him out on the street and knocking on doors.”
(Image by: Melissa Corker) At 6 p.m., campaign volunteer Roy Westfall, 36, hurried out the door on his way to polling places to do some poll checking. He took with him lists of known Hansen supporters to compare against public lists at the polls that indicate which voters have already stopped by their polling places.
The data compiled by Westfall and other volunteers was funneled to Hansen’s lead campaign coordinator and longtime ally, Jameson Parker. The fit 23-year-old (who could articulate campaign data like a Jeopardy champion) stood in front of a 4-foot-by-6-foot wall chart with his iPhone in hand to receive minute-by-minute updates from the poll checkers.
“I’m looking for what precincts we need to spend a little more attention on,” Parker, 27, said as yet another text update buzzed his iPhone. “Where there is a low turnout, we focus our volunteers even more.”
(Image by: Melissa Corker) The hallmark of Hansen’s campaign was his reliance on innovative technology and social media to reach out to voters.
That technology included an Internet platform created this year (and beta-tested by the Hansen campaign) called rally.org, which Hansen said was designed to use social media for fundraising and allowed him to connect directly with donors.
There was more to Hansen’s strategy than just a digital approach, though.
He also applied boots-on-the-ground tactics, such as voter list checking at polling places and sign waving at busy Midtown and downtown intersections to keep the attention of likely voters.
By the time the polls closed at 8 p.m., Hansen and his team had put in more than 12 hours of nonstop election day activity.
(Image by: Melissa Corker) He was joined for the election party at Headhunters video bar on K Street by more than 150 well-wishers and supporters, including Alkali Flat Neighborhood Association President Luis Sumpter, City Councilman Jay Schenirer, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon and a large contingent of LGBT community leaders.
Upbeat tempo music played over the sound system as poll results were broadcast on eight large flatscreen TVs above the bar. The crowd reacted with increased chatter as ballot returns put Hansen in second place behind Yee – and then applause broke out when Hansen pulled ahead and held a scant 1 percent lead.
As the clock struck 11 p.m., nearly 86 percent of precincts had reported, and Hansen was the frontrunner with 136 votes separating him and Yee. It was clear Hansen made the cut and would compete with Yee in the runoff election in November.
The only thing left to do was Tweet.
Final vote count from the District 4 race:
Steve Hansen 2,317 28.59
Joseph Yee 2,231 27.53
Phyllis A. Newton 1,798 22.19
Terry Schanz 1,213 14.97
Michael Rehm 207 2.55
Neil Davidson 161 1.99
David A. Turturici 159 1.96
Editor's note: This article orginally stated that Steve Hansen is from Midtown. He is in fact from Alkali Flat. We regret the error. (Thanks to Sacramento Press user "Zen" for pointing it out.)