Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Stealth Campaign for a Stealth Candidate

Although her name was on the Texas Republican primary ballot as a candidate for US President, there was no evidence of a campaign for Elizabeth Gray.

So, as a little social media experiment, I decided to launch a campaign for her. How much interest could I generate in voting for this mystery woman? 

First, I wrote a blog - In Search of Elizabeth Gray, Candidate for US President  - I've written over 300 blogs in the past three years. I write it pretty much for my own pleasure, and if anyone else reads it and likes it that's a bonus. I post sporadically and I've never tried to promote it. Most of my blog posts get fewer than 10 page views. A couple have passed 100 views. The original Elizabeth Gray blog is up to 3,376 views at last count. 

Part of that curiosity was probably sparked by another blogger – Ballot Access News - who wrote about me searching for information about Elizabeth Gray: Texas Blogger Rick Adams Goes in Search of Elizabeth Gray, the Most Obscure Candidate on the Republican Texas Primary Ballot.

Later, another blogger in the Big Bend area (which I’ve always wanted to visit) picked up the thread. “It seems that Gray is a total mystery. Rick Adams, who writes a blog called ‘lovinglifeineurope’ and describes himself as ‘mildly obsessed’ with learning about her, says that neither the editor of the Taylor Press or the Republican chairman of Williamson County knows anything about her except that she apparently had the $5,000 needed to pay the filing fee. She is evidently a phantom candidate.

I was getting more media coverage than the candidate!

I even received 17 comments on my blog, which almost never happens.

Someone calling themselves “Sbird” wrote, “I voted today and Ms. Gray's name on the ballot was the only one that didn't repulse me (because I know nothing of her.) So I voted for her. Yay for the underdog.”

“Unknown” said: “I like the sound of her name, and that's as good as any other criterion for picking people in this crazy election cycle.”

On election day, there was a kerfuffle at one of the voting sites: “I voted for a man for President on my automatic voting machine, and then I did a ‘review’ of my ballot. There were two people that were checked, and one was Elizabeth Gray, that I did NOT check. I had to have the ‘judge’ help me undo my votes, and start over.” (For the record, I had nothing to do with the voting machine malfunction.)

The most interesting was from “Interestedaswell”:  “My mother's name was Elizabeth Gray and I was as surprised as anyone to see ‘her’ name on the ballot! She passed away 5 years ago, but was a college professor … and was a wonderful Woman! Thanks for those who liked her name enough to vote for her (-: One odd thing is, she had family long ago in Taylor, Texas.”

A couple of comments, one quite vulgar, took the ad hominem approach of calling Ms. Gray’s supporters fools who were “wasting” their votes. Guess they didn’t read my later blog: 

I wrote a couple more election blogs:

You, Too, Can Run for President

In Search of Elisabeth Gray - the Most 'Obscure' Candidate for US President

The Unsolved Mystery of Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Gray

But then I went further. I created a Facebook page: Elizabeth Gray 4 President 2016. (Carefully noted as an unofficial fan page - I was not presuming to speak on behalf of the candidate as I did not know her positions.)

I also created a Twitter page: #ElisabethGray16. (ElizabethGray16 was taken).

And since I had no photos of Ms. Gray, I used a clever little program called Bitmoji ( to create an avatar image of what she might look like - blue hair for the spry septuagenarian, a 'grayish' skin tone, and a sassy red dress.

The Facebook results were rather disappointing. There were 636 page views but only 8 people who "liked" Elizabeth's page. You can't very well get a message across to the masses with only 8 regular followers. 

Twitter, on the other hand, was much more responsive. Over the course of the brief campaign, #ElisabethGray16 "followed" over 600 other Twitter accounts. Many of them appeared to be folks who were politically engaged - fans of Trump, Cruz, Hillary, etc. I followed numerous Texas and national Republican accounts, RealDonaldTrump, even Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Wolf Blitzer. I sent direct messages from #ElisabethGray16 to Wolf and CNN, lobbying them to include her in the February 27 debate - after all, she was the only female candidate on the ballot who was still apparently in the running. I encouraged people to vote and tried to stimulate concerns about NSA surveillance, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, Social Security, etc. - issues I would hope that RealElizabethGray would be concerned about. Overall, I posted about 50 Tweets on Elizabeth's behalf over several days.

More surprising, 206 Twitter accounts followed #ElisabethGray16. Many of them were not accounts I had followed on her behalf but came from folks who had stumbled across her. A few of her Tweets received likes, re-Tweets, and responses.

Many of Liz's followers were legitimate: NYC 4 Trump, Conservatives 4 Bernie, a candidate for Congress in Vermont, the Oregon Republican League, a nano technology executive, AngryAmerican97 (of 300 million), CorporatePigs29 (apparently a billionaire), Patriot Mash, Just-a-Texan,, Texas Newz, and Davy Jones in the UK.

There were a few businesses trying to pitch products by piggy-backing on my candidate's “popularity.” And then there were the sex-kitten trolls. #ElisabethGray16 chose not to follow them back.

All this with a few hours of effort. What effect might it have had if I launched the campaign sooner, maybe created a website, maybe some opinion polls on issues?

People are clearly hungry for an outside, non-traditional candidate this year, and Elizabeth Gray is as outside the Washington Beltway as you can get (or so I assume, since I really don't know anything about her).

So now Elizabeth Gray's Presidential candidacy has come to an end. A footnote in history. The first known non-campaign.

I've been thinking, though. What about Elizabeth Gray for Supreme Court Justice?

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