Alaskans for Bristol Bay Action

The Fish Party

Using Alaska’s greatest resource to cut through political division

The challenge

The 2022 midterm elections in Alaska were a bellwether in national politics. Vying for a seat in the U.S. House, Democrat Mary Peltola faced a strong challenge from the Trump-backed former Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin. If elected, Peltola would be the first Democrat to hold this seat in close to half a century. Meanwhile in the Senate, centrist Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski’s seat was tested after Trump had famously vowed to campaign against her.

We knew the combination of open primaries and ranked choice voting provided an opportunity for both candidates to appeal to voters outside of their base, and that both would need to pull in voters across party lines to win. Working with the political action committee, Alaskans for Bristol Bay Action, our team shaped a bipartisan narrative to set Peltola and Murkowski on a course for victory.

The idea

Leveraging years of experience in Alaska politics, we developed a unifying theme that would rise above divisive partisanship and resonate with every Alaskan: vote for candidates who put fish first. In Alaska, fish are a vital resource, upon which jobs, culture, and families depend. Armed with this insight, we built campaign elements that tied the new Democratic candidate, Peltola, with Republican Sen. Murkowski under a “Fish Party” banner. This frame helped create a permission structure for Alaskans to cross party lines and vote for the ticket that would best support the state’s critical fisheries.

The work

True Blue Strategies created a targeted, multi-channel campaign that would inclusively frame the candidates’ fish-backing credentials throughout the election. A “Join the Fish Party” spot centered the narrative, which ran alongside videos, banner ads, and a profusion of matching leave-behind materials, swag, and yard signs, which were quickly and organically showcased on front yards and street corners around the state. Digital placements were targeted to reach persuadable audiences across the political spectrum, each carrying a powerful message, compellingly displayed, that resonated with every Alaska community.

As millions of advertising impressions connected with the exact audiences who needed to hear the message, polling shifted toward our candidates. In a state with only 600,000 registered voters, our campaign earned 20 million ad impressions, over 9 million completed video views, and drove 8,400 visitors to our campaign website to learn more. Stock of our “Pro-Fish, Pro-Alaska” yard signs ran out just days after they were released. Online results confirmed what Alaskans were showing us: we’d creatively engaged our audience and shifted the narrative. Publications around the country praised our daring strategy to turn away from partisan framing.

It’s a strategy that diverted from the party-line ads that flooded the airwaves nationally this cycle. Alaska’s combination of open primaries and ranked choice voting opens the door for candidates to campaign to a broader base of voters, not just those in their party.
November 23, 2022

The impact

Both candidates won, and made history. Peltola flipped a seat held by Republicans for nearly half a century, becoming the first Alaska Native – and woman – elected to a full term in the House. Murkowski was the only Senate Republican who voted to convict Trump at his impeachment trial. Both wins were seen, at the state level, as an embrace of bipartisanship in recognition of Alaska values, and nationally, a blow to Trump in the midterms.

True Blue Strategies won national recognition for this work, including Overall Candidate Best in Show for both the Republican and Democrat divisions.

AAPC Pollie Awards
Campaigns & Elections
Reed Award