Case Study

Beth Bernstein for South Carolina House District 78

South Carolina Representative Beth Bernstein may have won her seat in 2012 by double digits, but that doesn’t mean the campaign was easy.

Bernstein faced off against Republican incumbent Joan Brady, who had served in District 78—a swing district in Columbia—since 2004.

Brady appeared near the end of her tenure, though. Only 27 percent of voters believed the district was heading in the right direction, while 47 percent believed it was moving in the wrong direction. Even GOP voters seemed disillusioned with the incumbent, as only 39 percent said they would re-elect Brady.


After analyzing polling, we targeted a universe of 8,608 households with at least one person who voted in the 2008 or 2010 general elections; minus hard Republicans; plus new registrants with eight pieces of mail.

Our strategy called for framing Bernstein as the District 78 candidate who understood the needs of the common voter, would focus on ethics reform and improve the state’s economy and schools.


Our strategy was to expose Brady as out-of-touch with her constituents and reveal her questionable ethics practices and opposition to major ethics reform legislation. Additionally, we tied her to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s unpopular agenda with District 78 voters.

At the time, Haley had low approval ratings—only 31 percent of those polled thought she was doing a good job, and 67 percent said they thought she was doing a fair or poor job.  Our mail introduced Beth Bernstein as “the clear choice for honest ethical leadership,” setting up a contrast with Joan Brady’s questionable ethics practices and her close affiliation with Governor Nikki Haley.

The five messages we included were:

  • Transparency in government and ethics reform
  • Job creation and economic development
  • Education reform so our children have the opportunities they deserve
  • Joan Brady’s ethical practices and her vocal support of the Haley agenda means more of the same at the State House
  • Beth Bernstein: honest, ethical leadership for District 78

Voters responded well to our messaging and contrasts by hitting the polls Nov. 6, 2012 and electing Bernstein with 56.3 percent of the vote.