Emanuel Pleitez ’05, chief strategy officer at Los Angeles-based technology company Spokeo, is a candidate in the city’s mayoral race. With primaries scheduled for today, The Daily spoke with Pleitez about his motives in running for mayor, his platform and strategy and how his campaign has been influenced by his time at Stanford.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): Why are you running for mayor of Los Angeles?
Emanuel Pleitez (EP): I’m running because quite frankly I was uninspired and unimpressed by the slate of candidates who were running before I decided to run. I felt that not only me but also a number of people through all of Los Angeles felt the same way. Now that I’ve decided to run, that sentiment has continued to be a driving force of my campaign. At the end of the day we’re not the candidates who are not addressing the issues that are most pressing to the city. There are a lot of things that I went through — that I know a lot of families are still going through — and I feel the urgency to address the issues now.
TSD: Of the seven-point plan of issues on your platform, what is the most pressing issue in Los Angeles that you wish to solve or work on? Why?
EP: The most pressing issue is the fiscal problems that Los Angeles faces, [and] specifically the pension-bought liabilities [that] are increasing every year as a percentage of the budget. Addressing that will be able to solve our budget issues and make sure that we’re investing in those communities, and the way we address it is by reforming the pension system.
I’m proposing a pension buyout plan that would allow us to give municipal workers — the ones that folks of power have promised very nice retirement benefits — some upfront amount so they can actually have something for those promises and then move everyone over to plans that are defined contributions and allow them to have a more stable retirement plan going forward.
Number two, which is my number one issue for the long run, is investing in education and training, not just for young people but for their families as well. At the end of the day, the foundation of any economy has to still be the workforce, and so my number one plan is to have skilled workers in LA.
TSD: You’ve been credited for unique campaigning strategies, including running and biking across Los Angeles to introduce yourself to voters. Can you talk about what prompted you to take on this specific campaign effort and what that experience entailed?
EP: My campaign has executed strategies where we reach out to voters in a more direct and personal way than any other campaign. We started with having a 30 [person]-plus community organizer staff that was actually speaking to voters face to face at their doors six to seven days a week since July. That was coupled with phone banking and social media efforts that allowed us to continue reaching out in a very personal way. Not only is that a better way to reach voters, but also it’s more efficient and a better use of our resources.
This latest effort of biking and running 120 miles across Los Angeles was the finishing touch on that kind of campaign where I was actually throughout all the major streets in almost all the neighborhoods greeting voters face to face … They knew that I was doing it because we are getting the traditional media attention, and our social media attention was there as well so it allowed me to engage people in a very personal way.
TSD: What other unique campaign strategies have you used to both raise funds for your campaign and to stand out among the other candidates?
EP: Because of our email marketing campaign and our donor base — which is much younger than the other candidates’ and in much smaller donations — we’ve actually had 80 percent of our donations through online contributions which is unheard of in any campaign to have it that high.
To reach the voters, to do it the right way, you need to combine old traditional media with the newer social media so that you’re actually engaging people on multiple platforms. Because we have many more platforms, we’ve trained our organizers not just to be ‘organizers’ — as more traditional campaigns would have field organizers go out there to recruit volunteers and talk to voters — but actual content creators that propagate content through various channels that is relevant to actual voters.
For example, I have a central Facebook page but also a page for each of the neighborhoods throughout the city, which had less likes but we were able to engage voters in a very direct way about their neighborhood. That was coupled with someone going off to knock on someone’s door and that night becoming their Facebook friend and getting them to like their neighborhood page so then we continuously generate content for those voters through those means.
TSD: How would your work experience at Spokeo and your time at Goldman Sachs and McKinsey and Company shape your mayoral responsibilities?
EP: I know how to use data better … in terms of managing big data and creating products that allow us to get our services better to Angelenos. In terms of finance and capital market roles, I understand at the end of the day how we can leverage any type of capital wherever it’s coming from so we can invest into the communities most in need, and leverage the capital markets that are looking to LA for potential equity opportunities into enterprises in LA. From my McKinsey experience, I understand how to dig into any company’s operations and develop strategies to help them grow.
TSD: How has your Stanford experience and the connections you formed at Stanford played a role in your campaigning?
EP: A lot of my friends from Stanford, folks I worked with at El Centro Chicano, folks from my business fraternity, have come through in huge ways in terms of contributing to my campaign, volunteering for my campaign and just being supportive in general. My Stanford friends are the backbone of my supporter base for my campaign.
TSD: Do you anticipate winning?
EP: Yes, absolutely. You have to go in with a winning game plan and we’re executing it.