The Art of Retail Politics

By Michael Harris

Congratulations, you’re a Precinct Committeeperson! Like many of us, you got fired up after the election, found your Legislative District and said “sign me up!” You just had to DO something!

PCs are the bedrock of the party. When you hear about the “ground game” of a campaign, that’s YOU. You mobilize people. You spread the word. You’re the “go-to” in your community circles. That all sounds fine, but how do you get to that point? How do reach a level where you can pick up the phone or send an email and get 100 people heading for the door?

It all comes down to building relationships. And relationships all come down to a few simple things.

When you’re first starting out as a PC, you might be tempted to ask people for things. Don’t. Let’s face it, we are all turned off when people come out of the blue and hit us up for anything, no matter how small it is. Instead, try offering things.

When you introduce yourself, tell people you are there to make sure people in your neighborhood are up to date on what’s happening in the party, and, more importantly, that you can keep the party up to date on what matters to them. You’re their voice. Offer to provide regular updates via a newsletter, coffee visits, or whatever forum works best for your area. People are hungry for information and reassurance that somebody is, in fact, doing something. Feed them!

That’s the first step. The second: keep doing it. Show up and be consistent. People trust others that do what they say. Make small promises and keep them. Do it again.

Once you’ve built a relationship and credibility, you can start asking questions. What do they think? What do they need? What are they worried about? Don’t promise to solve their problems, but let them know you’ll pass them on and find out more about options.

If you’ve gotten to this point, you’ve built trust and rapport with people in your precinct. The next ingredient: Fun. Find something you can celebrate together and make that the theme. Host a small party or picnic. The precinct that plays together, stays together.

Building these relationships takes time. It may feel frustrating that you’re only reaching a few people at a time. But an incremental approach will pay off when the time comes. You will know who you can count on to volunteer, to donate, and to bring others. You will know what will get people to go to the ballot box and what will keep them away. You’ll know when a candidate is going to resonate or fall flat. And you’ll know you can pick up the phone and mobilize them all when the time comes.

It’s a strategic choice to build intentional relationships. But these people are in your care. You are a PC! You are the bedrock. Because you bring the people.

White Mountain Roadshow

By TJ Cuddy

You would never guess how many Park-and-Ride locations exist throughout the East Valley, until you ask a group to meet at one. The proposed departure time found candidates and campaign staff scattered among multiple locations. The calls, texts and reroutes were fast and furious and, after a short while, the group assembled at a single location. The trip was officially underway.

Our roadshow carpool consisted of Outreach team members TJ Cuddy and Sarah Meaney, along with an all-star cast of candidates and surrogates including Arizona Democratic Party Vice-Chair Karyn Lathan, Arizona Attorney General candidate January Contreras, U.S. Senate candidate Deedra Abboud, campaign staff for Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates Kathy Hoffman and David Schapira.

In an effort to expand our operations into the rural communities of Arizona, events and meetings have and continue to take place in Pima and Pinal Counties. But this Roadshow was aimed at bringing our message to Navajo County, a rural county in the northeast that spans across Legislative Districts six and seven. AZ Blue 2020 Outreach organized a team of candidates, campaign staff and ADP officials to bring a group of exciting and engaging speakers to the White Mountain Indivisible and White Mountain Democrats groups in Pinetop-Lakeside.

The event was the definition of a collaborative win/win, with all parties involved as beneficiaries. A meet and greet prior to the general meeting afforded candidates and Outreach team members the opportunity to meet local dignitaries, party officials and county elected officials. White Mountain Indivisible arranged catering for the meet and greet and coordinated with the president of the White Mountain Democrats to organize the joint meeting. During the course of the meeting, we were able to discuss the reasons for AZ Blue 2020’s formation, the organization’s mission, guiding principles and plan for success. Outreach team member TJ Cuddy gave the AZ Blue 2020 PC Recruitment Presentation. Candidates, eager to spread their message and garner support among all Arizona communities, gave their stump speeches and took questions from the audience of about 35 attendees.  

Despite the disjointed beginning to our journey, the roadshow was an overwhelming success. Leaders from the Northern Arizona groups were appreciative of the outreach effort and look forward to future opportunities to connect with groups from around the state.  The candidates were grateful for the opportunity to engage with constituents in an often overlooked area of the state. AZ Blue 2020 was able to recruit several new PC applications for the Navajo County Democratic Party and connect several new PCs to AZ Blue 2020’s mission to empower PCs with tools, resources and best practices.

Our rural areas are important and deserve to be represented in the discussion of voter rights, education and healthcare. It is by connecting these communities to the issues and giving them the road map to create change that AZ Blue 2020 will achieve the goal of turning Arizona blue. AZ Blue 2020’s mission is to continue to facilitate the success of the party across the state by raising people.

Stay connected to AZ Blue 2020 for more reporting as we continue our roadshow across the state of Arizona. Send us an email at info@azblue2020.org if you want our Outreach Roadshow to visit your community.

It’s Not Hot

By Candice Eisenfeld

I am dripping wet, my feet sloshing around in flip-flops. My bathing suit is sticking to my skin and my damp hair is smashed, gathered inside my straw sun hat. I’ve packed my zippered coverall, three-gallons of ice-cold water and…petitions.

This is not a day at the beach. Instead, I am going to man a table set up on a sidewalk, outside a bookstore, in the Phoenix summer heat. The Save Our Schools initiative requires over 76,000 legal signatures by July 31st. I won’t allow greedy lawmakers to eliminate more funding from our already struggling schools while they profit from their investments in charter school enterprises.

I arrive promptly at 4:50pm to relieve the two volunteers there since 1pm. They are a couple in their 70s. I expect them to peel themselves from their sweaty metal folding chairs, thank me for alleviating their heat-induced misery and make an escape to somewhere air-conditioned. Surprisingly, they seem to have lots of energy after four hours with no break. They don’t leave. In fact, there is no sign of misery of any kind. Some people stop to sign the petition and the couple engages. They begin to talk animatedly, guiding the political conversation like expert navigators. It’s the most fun I’ve had all day.

These two are resolute activists. I discover they have been fighting for democratic values for decades. During our discussion, I finally ask how they survived the heat of the day. The woman answers simply, “It’s not hot.”

I am inspired.

Making an Impact

By TJ Cuddy

3:00 PM Sharp!

The notification posted at 11:00 AM on the Facebook group page. A call for volunteers; help wanted! Short notice and calls to action are common themes in activist circles. Bureaucracy may move as slowly as molasses, but the accelerated pace of politics seems to have only increased with each passing day of the Trump administration. Today’s event and corresponding call for volunteers is indicative of the continuing narrative of haste and help. This time, however, the call to action was mine.

During my Monday morning email catch-up, I skipped the emails from the Arizona Democratic Party with the intention to revisit them later. Monday evening ticked by and the email blasts remained unopened. Tuesday morning, while catching up on podcasts, I heard mention on the Rachel Maddow show of a Town Hall meeting being hosted in Tucson. Tucson!?! I scrambled back to my inbox to find the Arizona Democratic Party email from the prior day. An event with national press coverage would be an amazing opportunity to spread the message of AZ Blue 2020 and promote involvement in the Democratic Party.

Backstory: Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally (R AZ-2) has received a lot of heat since the inauguration of #45. Her vote for repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act was upsetting, but her refusal to meet with constituents was a capstone on the frustration.  The Pima County Democratic Party asked Representative Ruben Gallego to stand in as a surrogate for the AWOL McSally by participating in a Town Hall meeting to discuss the vote cast by Representative McSally in favor of the AHCA. And I had found out about with about 24 hours notice.

The AZ Blue 2020 mission of engaging democratic voters and converting them into Precinct Committeepeople has found resonance in the activist movement in Arizona. The Women’s March, Tax March, Science March and May Day marches have proven to be effective recruiting grounds for expanding the Democratic Party. The Gallego event in Tucson would undoubtedly be an opportunity to engage with a new audience outside our usual area of activism. The call to action was necessary and immediate.

John Ainlay, AZ Blue 2020 Outreach Team Lead, is always excited to get involved in an effort and took no time to answer the call on this one. Sarah Meaney came along to handle media duties and engage in some face time with Tucson voters. And one final addition rounded out our road crew, AZ Blue 2020 Founder Richard Gooding, who literally showed up in the last minutes before our prompt 3:00 p.m. departure.

Being on the road, with this group, on this trip, provided the first real opportunity we had to get to know each other outside the confines of a large group or structured meeting. We were able to spend time strategizing and discussing the direction of the organization. The conversation meandered from training opportunities for Precinct Committeepeople, all the way to rural outreach efforts. Altogether, the drive leant itself well to productive conversation and the sharing of good ideas.

When we arrived at Rincon High School in Tucson, the event was filling up fast. Despite limited time, we were able to put stickers on several hundred of the attendees over the course of a half hour. We struck up conversations with a number of committed Democrats and were able to engage them in conversations about becoming Precinct Committeepeople.

The Arizona Democratic Party, the organizers of the event, ran out of sign-in sheets, a consequence of underestimating the people’s interest level in the event. Estimates floating around the venue indicate around 500 people were in attendance. Being a part of these events allows one to witness firsthand the unprecedented political engagement of ordinary people.

Prior to leaving Tucson, our makeshift road crew made a point to stop at La Salsa, a Mexican food restaurant.   We chatted with patrons and employees, sharing our enthusiasm at the event’s success. AZ Blue 2020 mounted up and headed back to the Phoenix metro area, tired but certain we had made an impact.