Home 2019 Elections The Obama Playbook is Winning in Rural Virginia — Right NOW

The Obama Playbook is Winning in Rural Virginia — Right NOW


by Kellen Squire

When I launched my campaign for the House of Delegates here in central Virginia, I knew from the get-go the only path we had to victory was on the ground. To be fair, I’m a veteran of OFA in 2008, so I’m not exactly unbiased when it comes to campaign strategy. But running against a friend of the Trump family in the Trump Winery district, with a war chest that’d make most federal candidates blush, I didn’t really see another realistic choice.

Back to basics, grassroots, precinct-organized, neighbor-to-neighbor contact. On the ground. In person. Going where people live, talking to them- LISTENING to them. Building a better world from the ground up. That strategy underpinned every single decision we made, because we knew there’d be no angry commercial that’d win us this election. No hit-piece mailer would bring us over the finish line. No; in this David versus Goliath contest we have, we knew the only way to make a difference would be replicating- and going beyond!- Obama’s playbook in 2008 and 2012.

It hasn’t been easy. Our kickoff canvass was scheduled for August 12th, and, well… was cancelled, for obvious reasons. Our district is rural, so rural as to have been previously written off as uncanvassable by both parties – nobody has even attempted going into our territory since the Obama campaign. And because of it, the voter data is out of date. Unreliable.

That “independent voter” on your walk list might turn out to be a blue-haired old lady who won’t even open the door, and tells you she’d “vote for a pedophile over a Democrat” (yes, that’s an exact quote).

And it’s not just the data- the other side is scared! Intimidated by an ER Nurse with no previous political experience, I guess, and so they lash out. We had an enthusiastic supporter (“I’ve never been this excited about (a candidate) before!”) offer to put a large sign up on a major thoroughfare, only to call us back later, almost in tears, because one of our opponent’s supporters took a bolt cutter to it.

It’s hard work. But it’s work that has to be put in, because nobody else has been out here doing it- and it HAS to be done. The consequences for our country otherwise are dire.

And we’ve made amazing strides. Enormous. Because our campaign is truly a grassroots-driven, people-powered one. We’ve built our strength on the now over two thousand unique donations, coming $10, $27, and $58 dollars at a time. We’ve been pushing through with a volunteer organization that far exceeds the entire coordinated campaign for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General in our district. We had almost five hundred Democrats show up in rural Fluvanna county last weekend, something you’d have been laughed out of the room for suggesting was possible even a year ago.

Without that grassroots strength, we’d be nothing. Slapping the chairman of the Virginia Republican Party into speechlessness on healthcare reform? That’s easy. Shaking your career-politician opponent so hard he refuses to show for the biggest debate in the district? Piece of cake. And even going to these doors, even the hardest of them, is easy, because I believe in our message- the progressive ideals we’re fighting for- I believe in them, and why they’re important for every single Virginian. But, y’know, I get threatened, assaulted, insulted, cursed at, spit at, bit at, and more in the ER every day I work…  and still smile and take care of every single patient to the best of my ability, without exception. That’s what nurses do, so applying it to canvassing isn’t a problem.

22154550_10213904666439269_8107219720087745345_n.jpgOur office in Fluvanna County. 

But I’m just one person. I can only get so far. Without the folks we’ve had standing behind us… we’d be nothing.  From the retiree on a fixed income who donated $1.50 because that’s all she could afford, to the veteran who wears his Army hat and knocks doors every single weekend, to the college student who registered at home just so she could vote for me, our strength comes from our people.

It’s that strength that’s built us to be able to hit forty-thousand doors, not to mention thousands of postcards, phone calls, hand shakes, and conversations. We’re on track to exceed the penetration of any campaign in our part of Virginia, ever. To blow even the Obama campaign out of the water on organization in our area- we’re doing something no other campaign- state, local, or Federal- has ever done in our part of Virginia. And we’re not only going to power our own win, we’re going to power Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, and Mark Herring to the best outcome a coordinated Democratic ticket has ever performed in our district.

Join us. We need your help. Donate today– every single dollar goes to getting our voters out and to the polls, and pushing not just our message, but that of the entire ticket in Virginia. Volunteer today- make phone calls, come knock doors with us, write post cards, help us get the word out about what we’re doing here in Charlottesville. Scottsville. Ruckersville. Lake Monticello. Elkton. Earlysville.

Because we’re not just building a campaign here in central Virginia. We’re building a movement. And even beyond our campaign here in November, we’re building for the future, for the campaigns that come after us. To that end, we’ve promised any progressive that runs in our footprint again– from school board to Senate- gets our field organizing information without precondition.

Those of you who are old hands at elections know how stunning that is- campaigns have been known to sell that information, sure, but they usually guard it jealously. Not me. I’m not selling it, I’m not seeking any favors, it doesn’t matter if it’s my endorsed candidate or not. Whatever we can do to help retake and rebuild our country from the folks who need to go, immediately, I plan to do.

And I won’t stop- I won’t quit fighting for Virginia. Not until folks have jobs that’ll actually put food on the table for their families. Access to the education programs that’ll prepare them for those jobs. Healthcare coverage that will make sure they won’t go bankrupt if they get sick, that they can seek in the community they live in. And until we ensure that every Virginian has accountable and responsive leadership by ending partisan gerrymandering and enacting robust campaign finance laws.

Because nurses don’t quit- and neither do Virginians.

Thank you!

Kellen Squire is an emergency department nurse in Charlottesville, Virginia, running for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 58th District this fall. Donate to, volunteer for, or get the word out about our people-powered campaign, today!


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Dad, husband, Christian, outdoorsman, perpetually undercaffeinated ER Nurse. Common sense populist/progressive; heroes are Smarsh, Wellstone, Perriello, and Howell. A progressive in VA is anyone who believes in life after birth! Keep the Big Boys Honest! People Before Party!