Fans of the White House television drama “The West Wing,” which ran from 1999-2006, instantly recognize the phrase. It signaled the start of snappy dialogue over an issue or crisis confronting the fictional Democratic president or his staff.

When Bridget McCormack started her campaign for Michigan Supreme Court, she confided to her younger sister that straight-ticket voting was her biggest election concern because it typically led to a 25 to 39 percent drop-off in voter participation on the nonpartisan part of the ballot that would include her race.

Her sister, Mary McCormack, is an actor whose credits include the role of Deputy National Security Adviser Kate Harper on the last three seasons of “The West Wing.”

Little sister’s solution? “Walk and Talk,” a voter-education ad that doubled as a campaign ad for Democrat McCormack.

Bridget%20McCormack%20-%20West%20Wing%20Ad-1
Bridget%20McCormack%20-%20West%20Wing%20Ad-2
Bridget%20McCormack%20-%20West%20Wing%20Ad-3

Web video created by McCormack for Justice

Actor McCormack first approached West Wing alums Allison Janney and Bradley Whitford with the idea. Cast members Martin Sheen, Richard Schiff, Joshua Malina, Janel Moloney, Lily Tomlin, and Melissa Fitzgerald also volunteered.1

Borrowing the show’s format, the four-minute ad “Walk and Talk” laid out candidate McCormack’s dilemma:

“If people fail to realize a straight-ticket vote doesn’t count in non-partisan races, if they just casually vote the party line, then their interests will continue to go unrepresented,” Sheen, reprising his role as Democratic President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet, said in one scene.

The ad also included a plug for candidate McCormack, who had been the target of negative advertising for her work as founder of the Michigan Innocence Project and as co-counsel for a Guantanamo Bay detainee.

“Bridget has spent her entire career fighting for justice for ordinary people, for families with sick kids, for victims of domestic violence,” said Whitford, reprising his character Josh Lyman, deputy chief of staff. “She’s fought to free innocent men and women—and get the actual criminal behind bars.”

The ad, which went viral online with more than 1 million views on YouTube, cost McCormack’s campaign a mere $5,000. Some credited it as a possible factor in her finish as the top vote-getter in the Michigan Supreme Court race.2


West Wing Meets the Michigan Supreme Court Notes

  1. David Haglund, Blog, The West Wing Is Still Teaching People About Democracy, Slate: brow beat blog, Sept. 20, 2012, http://www.slate.com/…; Roxanne Roberts & Amy Argetsinger, Blog, How Michigan Judicial Candidate Bridget Mary McCormack Got ‘The West Wing’ Cast for Her Campaign Video, The Washington Post, Sept. 20, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/…; David Eggert, ‘West Wing’ Cast Reunited to Urge Voting in Nonpartisan Races, Help Supreme Court Candidate Bridget McCormack, MLive.com, Sept. 20, 2012, http://www.mlive.com/….
  2. Cotton Delo, Blog, Michigan Supreme Court Campaign Credits Facebook Ads with Margin of Victory, AdAge, Dec. 4, 2012, http://adage.com/….