In yet another example of his unconventional approach to connecting with voters, Josh Newman’s campaign to regain his seat in the California State Senate announced that the campaign’s trademark “Better Senator” ice cream truck has exceeded 10,000 ice cream sandwiches distributed to voters. Launched in September of last year, the campaign’s “Better Senator” ice cream program has been a resounding success, establishing a lasting connection with voters and facilitating discussions about voters’ priorities and concerns in the lead-up to the March 2020 primary.
In 2016, Newman, a US Army veteran and businessman, surprised the political establishment as a political newcomer by first finishing ahead of a better-connected and better-funded Democrat in the primary, and then prevailing over a well-established Republican in the general election, in what proved to be the closest race in the entire state during that cycle. During that campaign, Newman deployed a series of low-cost but effective non-traditional campaign elements that, despite their low cost, allowed him to connect with voters, who are increasingly inured to or put off by standard campaign tactics. Those campaign elements included the use of a remote-controlled blimp, campaign staff dressed in a bear costume on high-traffic intersections, and a yard sign program playing on the well-known phrase “Hello Newman” made famous on Seinfeld, (and which was recognized with a “Pollie Award” as best yard sign in the country by the American Association of Political Consultants).
Newman’s narrow state senate 2016 victory, which made him the first Democrat to hold the seat in more than three decades, ultimately left him politically vulnerable when, in 2017, the Legislature passed SB-1, which raised gas taxes and vehicle license fees to make investments in the state’s crumbling transportation infrastructure. Following its passage, Newman was singled out and targeted by Republican interest groups for a recall effort that ultimately cost him his senate seat when it appeared on the ballot in the June 2018 primary, this despite an otherwise pragmatic, problem-solving approach that produced a range of successful legislative efforts and programs and earned him praise across both aisles for his work ethic and willingness to engage with all sides on a wide range of issues.
In his efforts to once again represent the 29th Senate District, Newman is employing the same offbeat and engaging methods that served him well in his first campaign, this time with a fully outfitted ice cream truck, emblazoned with campaign information, drivers and staff outfitted with old timey Good Humor-style starched white shirts, hats, and bow ties, and the tagline, “You Deserve a Better Senator…Ice Cream Sandwich.” Since its launch in late September of last year, the “Better Senator” truck has been making the rounds in the 16 cities across the three counties of California’s 29th Senate District (LA, Orange, and San Bernardino), engaging residents through the time-honored principle that the best path to a voter’s head is through their stomach. This past week, the campaign distributed its 10,000th ice cream sandwich to a voter at Harry M. Dotson Park in Stanton.
Reflecting on the milestone, Newman said, “I’ve gotten a lot of attention over the past few years for what’s considered an unconventional approach to politics and campaigning. But all of the seemingly whimsical concepts—the blimp, the bear, and now the ‘Better Senator’ ice cream truck—are actually a means to a sincerely serious end: connecting with voters to make a very simple but important point, that their voices should matter, and that the many challenges facing our state are all solvable if we’re willing to move beyond the current politics-as-usual and toward finding practical solutions.”
Having now crossed the 10,000 sandwich barrier, the “Better Senator” ice cream campaign is well on its way toward the campaign’s goal of over 100,000 voters served between now and the general election in November.
This article was released by Josh Newman for Senate 2020.