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Ben Quintana

Boise councilman-elect on social media, touch-points and drinking from a fire hose

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Ben Quintana is opening one door and closing another, literally. As he walks through the front door of Boise City Hall as the city's newest councilman-elect, he's getting ready to lock up and turn in the keys to his BODO campaign headquarters. BW sat down with the 33-year-old Quintana in his headquarters, now silent, on the day after he convincingly won election to Boise Council Seat 2. The room was cluttered with half-empty wine bottles, snacks and stacks of notes. The walls were covered with charts, maps and a giant white board listing phone calls made, doors knocked on and campaign fliers mailed out. The room was a hodgepodge reminder of a campaign that resulted in Quintana securing 9,227 votes, more than both of his opponents combined.

Only 17,000 Boiseans showed up at the polls on Election Day.

That's too low. We really hoped to engage more citizens; these local elections are so important. I hope I can increase those numbers in the future.

Would you have run your campaign any differently if you anticipated a higher turnout?

I ran to win. I didn't care who was running against me--strong opponent, weak opponent, low turnout, high turnout. I stuck to my plan, going 100 mph, not caring what the turnout was going to be. I did a lot of social media, trying to bump up those numbers.

How much did social media play into your victory?

During Election Day, my tweet stream really lit up. On Facebook, we watched anywhere from 75-100 people change their profile pictures to me and our campaign. That's a digital yard sign.

What resonated most with voters?

The economy. The unemployment and underemployment is way too high. People need to see more opportunities.

Can a councilman do something about that?

Absolutely. We need to be a city that welcomes entrepreneurship, focusing on innovation and creativity.

What do you do between now and the day you'll be sworn in?

Prepare. It's an informal process, but I have already been contacted by Council President Maryanne Jordan. I've already been reviewing the budget and the city's comprehensive plan. It will be like drinking from a fire hose for a while.

A two-year term isn't long. In pretty short order, you're going to need to decide on whether you'll be running in another election.

I have full intentions of running again in two years. I really think this is going to be the best place for me right now. I'm excited, but I'm going to take this day-by-day.

I would be remiss if I didn't ask you about some of the numbers on your big white board on your wall.

We ended up making about 6,000 calls in the final four days of the campaign. We canvassed a total of 9,000 homes and knocked on 2,500 doors.

There's a science to all of this.

There is. It goes back to my marketing plan. How many contacts do you have to make before someone remembers you? Some people had their doors knocked and received a flier, plus received a telephone call from us, but I was still calling all the way up to 15 minutes before the polls closed. Even with three to four contacts, sometimes it's the sixth or seventh touch-point.

Were you surprised at how convincing your winning margin was?

There was no polling, but as I was making calls and knocking on doors in the final days of the campaign, I rarely heard my opponents' names mentioned. After thousands of touch-points, I was very confident I was going to win. I didn't know by what margin, but I was pretty confident.

Your wife Christine was pretty instrumental to your election.

Words can't describe how much time, effort and support she provided. On her birthday, Sept. 28, I was planning on a special dinner, and she said, "No. My birthday present will be you winning. You go knock on doors and I'm heading to the office to enter campaign data." Who does that? I can't imagine a better partner.

You owe her a birthday dinner.

We're going out tonight to celebrate. I don't know how I'm going to pay her back, but I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying.