Doug Peterson: Nebraska Attorney General

When Lincoln attorney Doug Peterson announced his candidacy for Nebraska Attorney General, he faced several significant hurdles. He was a political rookie who had never held or sought political office before. In the Republican Primary, he squared off against three seasoned opponents, each of whom had a stronger fundraising base. In addition to those challenges, he faced a very narrow timeframe to launch, build and win a campaign, as he had less than 100 days until the date of primary election.

Shortly after Peterson announced, he retained Aaron Trost of the Singularis Group as his general consultant and media strategist. Trost put together a campaign plan that emphasized Peterson’s strong suit – his 28 years of legal experience, including stints as a county prosecutor and assistant attorney general. Peterson’s campaign highlighted the candidate’s experience at every campaign appearance, in every volunteer phone call and at every earned media opportunity.

While Peterson was gaining momentum on the ground, he still faced a tremendous disparity in fundraising. Moreover, several third-party groups also weighed in and advertised heavily on behalf of some of front-running candidates. When all of the outside money in the race was included, Peterson was outspent by well over a 10-to-1 margin and his campaign had a very limited advertising budget. In order to win, he needed to make a compelling argument to the voters that would break through the clutter.

Trost’s media plan featured a TV ad of Peterson going face to camera and stressing the importance of his experience directly to the voters. Also in the marketing mix was a targeted direct mail and phone plan to carefully selected voters in crucial counties. The marketing plan was executed in the final 10 days and Peterson surged at just the right time. On Election Day, Peterson captured 36% of the vote in a four-way primary, beating his nearest opponent by over 10 points.

In the General Election, Peterson continued to stress his legal experience and continued to barnstorm the state. Peterson’s campaign again faced limited resources, with much of the political establishment wary to invest, based on the assumption that Peterson would win. Once again, the Peterson campaign conducted a targeted advertising campaign devised by Trost and won the General Election by a 2-to-1 margin over his Democrat opponent. Peterson won all 93 counties and his margin of victory was one of the highest in Nebraska history in a contested, open-seat race.