Heard on the Hill

Reps. Stivers, Harper and Carter Come Out on Top in House GOP Digital Challenge

Members lead most people to a website promoting the GOP’s vision for a tax overhaul

Rep. Steve Stivers has his pick of prizes after winning the GOP Digital Challenge. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Three House Republicans — Steve Stivers of Ohio, Gregg Harper of Mississippi and Earl L. “Buddy” Carter of Georgia — proudly accepted first, second and third prizes, respectively, for participating in the party’s Digital Challenge.

Every member of the conference had until Oct. 2 to drive traffic to a website promoting the GOP’s vision for a tax overhaul, fairandsimple.gop. Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who has led eight of these challenges, decided to make the landing page the home of the GOP’s framework for fixing the tax code.

“Tax reform is our top priority because it will help create jobs, grow our economy, and put more money in the pockets of hard-working taxpayers,” said Stivers, the first-place winner. “I saw this as a great opportunity to communicate with my constituents about how tax reform can help all Americans — individuals, families, and businesses.”

The challenge kicked off the week of Sept. 11. The winners brought roughly 20,000 visitors each to the site. Almost 7 percent of visitors became email subscribers.

To entice people to visit the site, the members used social media, email, and videos and graphics on their websites, as well as blogs and op-eds.

[‘Very Competitive’ House GOP Conference Takes the Digital Challenge]

Carter was motivated to do well in the challenge because, “First of all, my staff and I like to win,” he said.

The Georgia Republican added, “Second, we were motivated to do well in this challenge because the subject is something that is very important to residents in the First District of Georgia. I truly believe we need tax reform, and this was a fun way to share our plan with constituents and get their important feedback.”

The prizes were also a big incentive. The three members now get to choose between a Facebook Live kit, a teleprompter, an Amazon gift card and —most coveted of all — a set of steak knives.

“The first year I had kind of an off-the-wall idea to present steak knives as the third prize,” McMorris Rodgers told HOH at the beginning of the challenge. “In my mind, it was kind of the dud prize. Now this has continued, and it’s almost like the members want to come in third so they can [win] steak knives.”

Every year, the challenge changes, encouraging members to use different forms of technology and to be innovative.

“I’m willing to try most new ideas that come my way when it comes to technology,” Carter said. “It’s important to learn new ways to connect with constituents.”

McMorris Rodgers’ office provided training sessions with representatives from Google Analytics before the challenge to show offices how to track user actions and how tracked links are vital to their efforts.

Carter said his staffers attended a session.

The topic surrounding the challenge also shifts each year to align with the Republican agenda. Last week, the administration and congressional Republican leaders unveiled their framework for tax legislation.

McMorris Rodgers also announced a new bonus round that ends Oct. 17, so other members have two more weeks to get involved.

“I encourage everyone to continue learning more about the exciting framework released last week at fairandsimple.gop,” Stivers said.

Harper did not respond to requests for comment on his second-place win.

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