I just got off a conference call with former DNC Chair Howard Dean; Democracy For America’s (DFA’s) Purple to Blue Project Director Nick Passanante; 86th House of Delegates district candidate Jennifer Boysko; 87th House of Delegates district candidate John Bell; and Virginia House Democratic Caucus Executive Director Jody Murphy. The purpose of the call was to discuss the launch of DFA’s Purple to Blue project (“a new effort to win state legislative house and senate chambers”), and also to introduce DFA’s first two Purple to Blue candidates in Virginia – Boysko and Bell. This marks the beginning of “a national, multi-year effort to win state House and Senate chambers,” this year “focused on elections in five key ‘purple’ districts currently represented by Republicans in Virginia’s House of Delegates.” Here are my notes, cleaned up a bit, from the rest of the call. Also, don’t forget the event tonight with Howard Dean for Jennifer Boysko and John Bell!
Right now, there’s a radical, right-wing agenda going unchecked at state level. Elections for state legislatures are critically important. We need to win back state house and senate districts across the country. In 2013, the focus will be on Virginia’s House of Delegates (Lowell’s note: currently, Democrats hold just 32 out of 100 seats). DFA is targeting five key purple districts currently represented by Republicans. This will be a robust, layered campaign, highly data driven, microtargeted, $750,000 in just these 5 districts on targeted mail, media, etc. This will send a powerful message to Republicans, that if you continue to wage war on women, voting rights, etc., we will defeat you at the ballot box.
This effort is just the beginning; we are looking forward to 2014 races in PA, MI, IA, as well as 2015 State Senate races in Virginia. We will announce the other three targeted Virginia districts over the 2-3 weeks; making those decisions now. People who live outside these districts can help by chipping in a few bucks, volunteering on phones/doors, using the Call Out the Vote program.
The plan is to stretch every dollar to go as far as possibly can. We’ve run our field program multiple times in the past, including in the WI recall effort. We’ve gotten so good at it that we see a higher than 50% contact rate with door knocking. Those are unheard-of numbers in terms of contacts, in large part due to microtargeting. Mail/media: working with Pivot Mail – Joel Rivlin, Dean Levitan, etc. – which runs highly targeted and data driven mail programs. We won’t just send out blanket mail pieces, but ones that are really tailored to each individual in the district. Also, targeted media – cable, etc.
This really is of national importance, not just in Virginia. The radical tone set by extreme right winger Ken Cuccinelli is spreading elsewhere. The recent anti-abortion bill in ND, for instance, started in Virginia with Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli has a record of defunding Planned Parenthood, promoting discrimination against LGBT Virginians; in general, he’s way outside the mainstream of Virginia, “antediluvian” views, I actually wondered if he was sane….we call him “Crazy Ken.”
We’ve got a real opportunity to change the legislature in Virginia, although we can’t just hope to do it in a single campaign – will take time. As I like to say, the longest journey begins with a single step; there’s lots of work to do, seats to pick up in the Virginia legislature. If we had a legislature that made some sense, and didn’t pass all this extreme legislation, we wouldn’t have the threat of a Gov. Cuccinelli and a rubber stamp legislature.
This will be a tough governor’s race. What DFA can do, as well as grassroots organizations everywhere should do, is to focus on state legislatures. Part of the problem is gerrymandering by Republicans – cheating in elections, essentially – plus voter ID laws to suppress Democratic votes. Virginia happens to have some terrific candidates running this year. We need to stop the right-wing extremism. This isn’t about left vs. right, but about sane, normal Americans taking on the extreme right wingers with their bizarre ideas.
Virginia is not a right-wing state any more, it’s a thoughtful, middle of the road state. We’ll be doing this all over the country, will expand to the entire country. In 2005, Tim Kaine started a wave that took back the country for the Democrats in 2006 and 2008, so it really all does start in Virginia. This is about what’s standing up for what’s right for America, for the real America…
A little money goes a long way in these state legislative races. Anything that anybody gives would be really helpful. This is how you win national races, make our country stronger and better, by focusing on the grassroots, on taking back state legislatures, Virginia and other states back, then building towards 2016.
Jody Murphy: Thanks to Governor Dean and to DFA for their involvement; their help will be crucial, can’t thank them enough. This effort is so important in Virginia, because our caucus is in a super minority, which hampers our ability to stop this crazy legislation – on women’s reproductive health, restricting people’s right to vote, etc.
We have several good candidates running across the Commonwealth. These seats are seats we can win running on progressive values and progressive issues, these are not right-wing seats. Specifically, we have several seats in NOVA we can make a real play in. Several seats in Hampton Roads. In rural areas, we’ve done a good job of getting candidates who really represent their areas/districts. Today, we’re talking about John Bell, Jennifer Boysko – phenomenal candidates. These two seats are real opportunities for us to make pickups. Their opponents are just rubber stamps for current governor and right-wing legislature. Tim Kaine won 19 seats that we currently don’t have in the House of Delegates.
Republicans have been so far out of the mainstream, with outrageous right-wing legislation – especially attacks on women’s health – and the grassroots is responding to that.
Jennifer Boysko (86th district vs. Tom Rust)
I am thrilled to be on this call to have you supporting me in my race. I was Gov. Dean’s state director in 2003, created his grassroots strategy throughout the state. My district is an interesting one, the most Democratic-voting district in the state that still has a Republican incumbent. Tom Rust has only been challenged twice with a significant race. The first time was someone with very little money who still won 47% of the vote. The second candidate had no deep community roots. I’ll bring both money and deep community roots to the race. With proper funding, community grassroots support, we can win this race. I have a strong campaign team. Knowing DFA and Howard Dean have my back, I know we can do it. I look forward to being the 20th woman in the GA.
My opponent voted for the TRAP bill (to shut down women’s health/reproductive clinics in Virginia). On transportation, I would have voted for transportation bill, given that it was up or down vote. However, I have a disagreement with the alternative fuel vehicle tax – our air quality is poor. Would have preferred gas tax to simply be indexed as opposed to moving a component of it to sales tax, or taking funds from education/human services. Tom Rust turned into a different person this year. In the past, he voted against immigrants rights, education, cut childcare subsidies, voted against emergency contraception.
John Bell (87th District vs. David Ramadan)
Thanks to DFA, to Governor Dean for this wonderful program and terrific support. I’m a retired Air Force officer, almost 26 years in the service working with people from different backgrounds, including on finance/budget issues. I’ve also been a volunteer in the community, coaching boys’ tennis. Community involvement is very important to. Having the right priorities – everyday issues that affect families in their everyday lives. Standing up for the rights of others. Standing up for reproductive rights, marriage equality, all citizens being treated fairly. Transportation gridlock is very important as not just a business issue, but also one that hurts families (time they’re stuck in traffic). This campaign is going to talk about moderation, common sense approaches. David Ramadan is extreme, out of touch. This is an Obama/Kaine district.