By Michael Layer
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Hilltop Public Solutions, a campaign management group, is unveiling a new office in St. Louis for better outreach in the Midwest. While Hilltop has offices around the country, the strategy group but has been looking to widen their base in traditionally red states with large rural populations.
Hilltop has tasked Ryan Hawkins, an Oklahoma native, to head the St. Louis office. He believes that his background gives him a unique connection to conventionally Republican populations.
“I’m a red state Democrat. There’s a tendency to say that [Democrats] have an uphill battle [in rural areas in red states,] but I disagree with that. I think that everything that our party stands for is everything that I grew up with,” Hawkins said.
Before joining Hilltop in July, Hawkins had been doing outreach for Democratic causes for over 10 years. He worked as the Regional Finance Services Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and founded Winding Creek Group, a telephone voter contact services group for Democratic campaigns, with its headquarters in Chesterfield, Missouri. He feels his background gives him the ability to turn red districts blue.
“We want to take care of the sick, the elderly and the poor; we want to make sure kids have a great education; and we want to make sure that our [rural, Midwest] life – and the way we do things – is not taken for granted… I love being able to talk about what our candidates believe in and get away from the misconception that you can lump every Democrat together,” he said.
He feels that his moderate views can help Democrats appeal to the rural midwest. Hawkins mentioned that close races in safe red states – like in Montana, Georgia, and Missouri – and wins in Oklahoma signal a gradual shift in Midwestern politics.
At Hilltop, Hawkins’ strategy is suited for individual candidates. For candidates, he feels that Democrats have been held back by convention and laments tough losses in 2000 and 2016.
“My expectation is to provide excellent campaign strategic advice tailored to each individual campaign… There might be a time when you need to zig as opposed to zag. That’s some of the work I’m hoping we can bring to the table,” he mentioned.
A large part of Hawkins’ work is centered on connecting with voters in small communities who feel abandoned by liberal elites. In order to change that perception, he’ll advocate for candidates to talk to rural communities so that his candidates can say, “Hey, I’ve got some of the same concerns.” By getting to know individual voters, he feels his candidates will be in the best position to “make it to where it’s not scary to talk about [Democratic policies regarding certain issues.]”