We Won, and We Won Right

By Tate Hausman, Technology Director, John Hall for Congress Campaign

Tate Hausman is an online strategy consultant for progressive campaigns and organizations. He directs dotOrganize, a project that supports progressive organizers with better tech tools and strategies. Tate has served as online director for two congressional races (John Hall, Donna Edwards) and associate online director for one gubernatorial race (Arianna Huffington), and he ran an online / offline urban voter project in 2004 (Slam Bush).

Tate spent two years as Director of Strategy at Free Range, a top progressive communication and design firm, where he specialized in groundbreaking viral marketing campaigns like The Meatrix and Store Wars. His online career started at AlterNet, where he served as managing editor during that site's explosion into one of the country's top independent news sites.

Hausman managed a volunteer phone bank using Popvox in his role as Technology Director of the John Hall Campaign.

You should have been there.

About 500 jubiliant supporters crowded the room, cheering on my victorious candidate, John Hall, after we learned that he had won a seat in Congress by the thinnest of razor thin margins.

The John Hall campaign was the race that shocked the nation. Nobody took it seriously. No one saw it coming. Until 10:30 pm on election day, we were still considered “leans Republican” by all the experts. The New York Times called our win “the biggest surprise of the night.” AP called it “stunning.” Our pollster, Mark Watts, who has worked on scores of tight elections, told me that “John Hall is the #1 upset in the country.”

How did we do it? With people power. With thousands of small donations. With thousands of volunteer hours. [...]

In the past week, my role shifted away from tech and into the fray of organizing. Instead of just being the Home Team captain, I stepped up to run the entire phone program. [...] I know I’m biased, but in my opinion, it was phones that put us over the top. Commanding a grassroots army of about 450 volunteers, my program made 120,000 calls in four days. The scale was almost absurd. The results were obvious — high turnout in Dem districts, and high break of independents to Hall. The program worked.

Moving from Tech Director to “Field Organizer: Phones” was a perfect metaphor for my vision of Democracy 2.0. I made the jump from online to offline organizing. My “virtual” activists turned into real people, making real voter contacts that really won an election. Technology supported a vibrant, kick-ass field program.

There’s a lot of praise to throw around in a victory like this. Tremendous credit goes to all my 22 phone bank captains who worked so hard for me, mustering our army of over 450 phone bankers. [...]

But the real question for a campaignster like me is, does the Internet deserve credit? The pundits are already saying a resounding YES. In an effort to wrap our story into a tight media packages, the New York Times ran a short piece that credited YouTube and Dem bloggers for undercutting Kelly. Others point to John’s high-profile Colbert Report interview, stressing that every incumbent who Colbert interviewed won re-election (Sue Kelly refused to appear, and when John appeared in her place and delivered a brilliant performance, the netroots went bananas.)

Even before Colbert and the “Run, Sue, Run” video we had a strong netroots base. Our local Take19 crew tirelessly pounded on Kelly. Howie Klein (Down With Tyranny) and John Amato (Crooks & Liars) were pushing money and supporters towards John since before I arrived on the campaign. Matt at MyDD paid us a good visit and bumped us. We got our share of Kos posts (129 “John Hall” tags as of right now, the same as Rahm Emanuel and Mike DeWine). Talking Points Memo blew up the NRCC robocall story on our behalf, and helped make their dirty trick into national news.

All this netroots support makes sense, because John was a natural netroots candidate — a straight shooter, very progressive, smart as a whip and not afraid to engage on the issues.

But in the end, it was down-home, strategic, grassroots field campaigning that put us over the top. The web helped us organize, helped us pull the operations together on a shoestring, and drew in hundreds of volunteers. But the technology supported the strategy, not vice versa. The web helped us make better, stronger, more real world connections with a larger group of people, who won this race with their passion and participation.

If that’s not Democracy 2.0, I don’t know what is.

November 9th, 2006
Article edited for length. See the complete article at


Who is using Popvox?

Here are a few of the non-profit organizations and campaigns who have used Popvox:

  • California Nurses Association
  • Casa of Maryland
  • Citizen Services, Inc.
  • Connecticut Citizens Action Group
  • Connecticut SEIU 1199
  • John Hall for Congress (NY)
  • Ned Lamont for Senate (CT)
  • O'Malley Brown for MD (Governor)
  • Peter Bielenson for Congress (MD)
  • SEIU Maryland/DC
  • Shelley Mayer for State Assembly (NY)
  • US Action campaigns involving many local organizations


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