Bobby Bright was elected as a Democrat in an R+16 (Republicans had a 16 point advantage) district in 2008. His campaign is an excellent case study in how to steal your opponent's base voters.
Bright became the Congressman from Alabama's second district, split between a large part of Montgomery and the more conservative wire grass region in southeastern Alabama. He had previously served as the Mayor of Montgomery for nine years, a great place to start. Having a background in elective office is important to running for something higher.
After winning the primary, Bright faced Republican Jay Love for the open congressional seat. Here's what Bright did to win, from the Almanac of American Politics (paraphrasing):
Bright served as a deacon at the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, and espoused nearly identical political views to Love. He was pro-life and supported giving President Bush a line-item veto. He touted his conservative beliefs and independence from Democratic leaders. He pledged to join the "blue dog" coalition of conservative democrats in the House. He was the first congressional candidate to feature Sarah Palin in one of his televised ads.
When Love tried to tie him to Nancy Pelosi and national democrats, Bright had popular, southern, conservative democrats come to the district to campaign for him. He also received a few prominent local Republicans endorse him.
Bright won the race by 1,790 votes, less than 1 percent.
Bright fit his district. If you run a good campaign and are a good fit for your district, voters will sometimes excuse that you're running for the wrong party. It's becoming more and more difficult as voters tend to vote straight-ticket in higher numbers, but it's possible.
If you are a republican in a democrat district, look to this race as a blueprint for how to win. Serve some time in lower office with a good voting record and emphasize your independence from the national party.
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