Parties with a Purpose

By Ginna Martin

As a brand new PC, I poured over my walk list and the info it provided on my neighborhood. The excitement of seeing all those D’s gave me goosebumps.

Although I am just beginning my new job as a PC, I remind myself I am already a connected Democrat within my district.
I have hosted two candidate parties for Kathy Hoffman. The first house party was a “Meet the Candidate” event. I invited like-minded friends and neighbors. We shared our disdain for the current political climate and all agreed to turn those feelings into action. Kathy Hoffman picked up some donations, as well as volunteers.

The second house party was to support Save Our Schools Arizona (SOS). SOS advertised a meet-up at my home as a petition drop-off site with a notary available to shore up the process. We can now all celebrate that organization and its successful and impressive undertaking.

House parties are my favorite way to contribute. It is a casual atmosphere and well received. People like to be reminded they are not alone in their politics and more importantly, it provides a safe space for people who want to get involved somehow, but maybe don’t know how.

I am hosting another house event soon to introduce another local candidate, Chris Gifillan, LD 20 House Candidate.
My goal is to create a house party that multiplies into additional house parties, kind of like a pampered chef party. Anyone who hosts the next party brings in their friends, family, and neighbors. It’s a great way to spread the message.

Finally, I am also making calls for AZ Blue 2020. This has been an amazing experience. The calls to folks who signed up for more info at “We the People Summit ” are literally starving for more information and direction. The best part is, I can point them in that direction. As my mother use to say, “Many hands make light work.”

Let’s get together and get this done!

One Vote Per Precinct

By Morris Seeskin

In 2008 my wife and I, both lawyers in Oak Park, IL, signed up with the Obama campaign to assist with voter protection. We were assigned to a highly Democratic precinct in Gary, IN (Lake County). At the precinct, poll workers checked in voters using hard poll books with voter registration materials but the original poll books were kept at the county building.  The books used at the polling location were compiled before the registration period ended and consequently, meant the precinct books contained incomplete and/or possibly incorrect information. This affected anyone who registered after the precinct books were created, voters who had recently moved and properly reported the move, and those who had changed their name and timely reregistered.  If an apparent problem turned up at the precinct, poll workers were instructed to call the central office to verify eligibility based on the more complete original records.

By the time the polling place opened, a line had already formed. The line fluctuated throughout the day as people came and went. It was never under an hour wait until sometime after the nominal closing time. As a result, the poll workers were busy all day. The central office hot line was overwhelmed so incoming calls almost always got a busy signal. Poll workers didn’t have the “luxury” of repeatedly dialing the central office as the line began to move more and more slowly. Left to their own devices, the workers offered the voters provisional ballots. Unfortunately, provisional ballots are not even looked at unless the voter physically goes to the central office to establish their right to vote.

My wife and I decided to take on the task of calling the central office over and over again, as many as 20-25 times for a single voter. Once connected, we handed the phone to a poll worker. By the end of the day, approximately seven people got real ballots instead of provisional ballots because of our work. We left believing our efforts had accomplished little… until the next day. The election results estimated Barack Obama won Indiana by ONE VOTE PER PRECINCT.

Never underestimate your power to make a difference, no matter how incremental and tedious it may seem.

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.

We the People

By Sarah Meaney

The We the People Summit was created to unite people from all levels of political involvement and areas of the state in one place for one day of learning and activism. Organizers collected panels of experts to educate the public on a multitude of topics from creating sustainable organizations to the history of social and political movements. It was to be a day of impact.

Walking into the convention center, past the line forming at the door, I could see tables covered with name tags for the nearly 1,500 people in attendance. I grabbed my lanyard and name tag and headed to the AZ Blue 2020 tent. There was the team in matching blue shirts, displaying our new PC video under the big blue tent.

Shortly after I arrived, the slow and steady stream of people began. They grabbed coffee and milled about in a dull roar of conversation. Many of the people who passed were familiar allies, but the number of new faces was what had us most excited.

I began stickering people and striking up conversations. There were people from Yuma, Lake Havasu, the Democratic Party, the Green Party, current legislators and candidates. People came from all over the state with all different backgrounds.

In between stickering, I stopped at the Progressive Voices podcast table and chatted with Scott and Cara. While there, Athena Salman talked about her experience as a first year representative.

The corridor emptied as the first sessions began. I attended a session with OFA and got some valuable tips for sustaining a group’s members and creating consistent messaging.

Back in the corridor, I continued stickering and promoting visits to the AZ Blue 2020 tent. I stopped by the Save Our Schools Arizona table to talk to fellow volunteers and was asked by Dawn, head of communications, to film a short tutorial about why I support SOSAZ and the SB1431 referendum. That was an easy ‘yes’. I changed my shirt, the SOSAZ tee folded and packed in my backpack, alongside camera equipment and lots of business cards. After the video tutorial, some people stopped me to crack jokes about the ‘uniform’ change. I changed shirts a couple more times that day.

At the next forum, I learned about 501(c)¾ organizations and the tax rules associated with each designation. Fun stuff. After learning how to avoid tax evasion charges, I attended the Leaders’ Lunch. The founding members of many groups were in attendance. The creator of ResistBot spoke, along with AZ Resist and SOSAZ members.

I skipped the afternoon sessions to rejoin the AZ Blue 2020 team back at our blue tent. We received lots of traffic. Jodi signed up six new precinct committeepersons and a number of attendees signed up for our newsletter. We had many groups interested in scheduling AZ Blue 2020 for presentations and even secured a spot on a future Zod and Drea podcast.

Before the last session was over, the AZ Blue 2020 tent was visited by Deedra Abboud, as well as CD8 Candidate, Brianna Westbrook. Ms. Westbrook recorded us live on Periscope while Tricia Sauer interviewed.

When the final session of the day ended and the last bit of traffic filtered out of the corridor, our team packed up and headed to dinner. We stopped at my favorite downtown spot, Carly’s on Roosevelt. We ate, drank and shared our experiences from the day. It really was a day of impact.

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.

Man with a Mission

By Gene Smith

I became a PC for the opportunity to get involved in my community. Voting every election was not cutting the mustard and I wanted to increase my civic engagement. I attended a meeting with like-minded citizens, equally frustrated with the state of affairs and it was here I was first introduced to the role of a PC. The importance of dedicated and trained PCs was immediately evident and AZ Blue 2020 drew me in with their enthusiasm.  By becoming a PC, I would be a positive influence in my community. I signed up on the spot.

This decision opened the door to a world I never anticipated and the benefits are continually unfolding. Long story short, by becoming a PC and attending my monthly LD meetings, I met a candidate and am now his Campaign Manager. Together, we are going to unseat Trent Franks. Together, our positive impact on our community grows. Together, we increase our level of civic engagement.

In addition, the evolution of this journey has allowed me to contribute skills accumulated over a lifetime of work and experience. The versatility of these experiences has led to a new nickname, “the Swiss army knife”. It has been an extremely rewarding experience to use my varied skill sets as problem solving tools. For example, the most common question I encounter in my new role is, “What is a PC ?” Fortunately, one of the tools tucked inside this “knife” is the ability to make videos. Using my video experience, I was able to make a training video answering that very question. The mission is to teach new PCs the duties of the position, explain how to engage people in conversation, and share the Democratic platform in an attempt to counter false rhetoric and propaganda.

This is my calling.

IDK, OMG…WTF?

People, can we talk about the acronyms, please!?!? As new PCs, we are all experiencing a learning curve with the lingo, particularly the never-ending list of acronyms. So, with that in mind, we have put together a list of commonly used abbreviations. Most are PC specific. Some we’ve run across because PCs come from many different backgrounds and bring their own jargon with them. And some, well, some are here just because we KIR.

PC: Hopefully this is a short way to describe you. And if not, what are you waiting for? It means Precinct Committeeperson. Also relationship builder, community guru, and Party Superhero.

LD: If you spent much of high school in a small room with five of your closest friends pouring over, amassing and then filing news articles, it means Lincoln-Douglas. But in our circle, it’s short for Legislative District.

CD: It used to mean that thing that came after cassettes but before mp3s. Now it means Congressional District.

ADP: Arizona Democratic Party. More pull than a county, less pull than national.

OMG: A natural response appropriate for a myriad of situations. Ex: “OMG! Did Ducey talk to anyone in Michigan before signing SB1431?” or “OMG, Jeff Flake was so dismissive at his Town Hall.” or “OMG! I just recruited my first PC!”

ADLCC: Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. I think this one wins for most syllables in a title. We appreciate this acronym.

GOTV: Get Out the Vote. The opposite of the multisyllabic ADLCC, there are only four syllables in the whole phrase, but who wants to type all those little words every time?

SMH: The appropriate response for when you ask a person to sign a petition to Save Our Schools (SOS) and they respond they “don’t do” politics…Shaking My Head.

ALEC: Cue Darth Vader’s theme music. This stands for American Legislative Exchange Council.

SOP: Standard Operating Procedure. As in, “Launch the SOP to reach and engage PCs and potential PCs so we have a ready and willing army of volunteers come 2018.”

VAN: Not the “stranger-danger” kind, not the “soccer-mom” kind, but the Voter Activation Network kind. Full of more tidbits of info than Cheerios in the backseat of a minivan.

LOL: The sound that unwillingly escapes you when, as a PC, you meet other like-minded people who have been living in your neighborhood for years unbeknownst to you. Short for Laugh Out Loud. Not to be confused with LMAO, which is used when listening to Trump describe his inauguration numbers.

PAC: Political Action Committees. These groups pool money to spend for or against candidates or issues. AZ Blue 2020 is a PAC made up of small, individual donations from a group of grassroots organizers looking to impact growth in the ADP.  PACs get dicey when funded by large corporations trying to leverage money for influence.

IEC: Independent Expenditure Committee. Also known as Super PACs. *sigh* We like them when they’re for our candidate or issue but not when they’re not. Can we all agree there’s just too much money in politics?

AHCA: Abbreviation for Tax Cut for the Uber Wealthy. I know, it’s weird they got the letters wrong…

WTF: The abridged version of what silently goes through your mind when you encounter a voter who supports the current administration and it’s policies. What we actually say? “Thank you for your time. I’ll remove you from our list.” Because, ICYMI, when they go low, we go high.

 

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.

Making Social Media Social

By Danielle Pollett

I’m a new PC. I’m untrained. I’ve never canvased, never volunteered anything beyond my dollars to a campaign. I’ve lived in my neighborhood for nearly a decade, yet never been contacted by a local Democrat. I didn’t know my Congressional or Legislative District until a couple months ago. I certainly didn’t know the latter is split between two different counties. (Seriously, why? Isn’t the job hard enough without having to coordinate data from 2 different County Recorders?)

It’s common knowledge here in Arizona; many neighborhoods are missing the neighborly element. We go from house, to car, out the garage and back again. Everyone seems to be a transplant. People come and go; some are only here for half the year. No one talks to each other. We might give or receive a friendly wave, maybe discover our kids share a class, but that’s pretty rare.

Being the representative for my neighborhood in this climate is daunting. I’m not sure if this is part of the PC Handbook (told you I wasn’t trained) but I’d feel like an ass (no pun intended) pretending to speak for my precinct without getting to know the people in it.

 

Phase #1: Start small.

A lot of communities these days have Facebook groups. They are mainly used to announce yard sales, ask about lost pets, or warn of potential dangers lurking about…in my neighborhood’s case, mainly coyotes. So the other day, I found my community’s page and introduced myself.

 

I didn’t get very many responses, but I also didn’t get ANY negative backlash. Bonus!

 

 

 

I created a Group Page on Facebook for my Legislative District and anyone who ‘liked’ or commented on my Community Post Introduction, I added to the group for LD16. I haven’t looked up all 857 people in my precinct on Facebook, however, I did look up all my fellow PCs and add them to the LD16 Facebook Group. I even got my LD Chair to include it on the most recent flyer/newsletter… mainly because I designed it myself!

 

My goal is to be more active on my community’s Facebook page, and their Nextdoor page. Tip: If you have an HOA, chances are, your community has a Nextdoor group set up. If you haven’t gotten any emails or letters about it, you can search https://nextdoor.com/ using your street address.

 

Phase #2: Become neighborly.

Introducing myself and establishing an online presence isn’t enough. I want to SEE these peoples’ faces. Soon, I intend to mail out a PC Newsletter including a couple of meet up times at our local Panera Bread. With sports and school almost over, we’re about to see a lot of moms ready to spend a Saturday morning on adult conversation. Perhaps if I get a consistent turnout, we can have regularly scheduled brunches outside our Legislative District’s monthly meeting.

 

Phase #3: Start infiltrating.

If you’re up for the task, and it’s only for those hardcore organizers, start infiltrating the community pages surrounding your precinct. Introduce yourself. Tell them what you do as a PC. Invite them to one of your gatherings. You’ll be able to identify future PC candidates or, if nothing else, accumulate a few additional volunteers and attendees for your LD’s next monthly meeting.

 

As PCs, we’re organizers. But we can’t expect the same level of political activism from the Dems in our precincts. What we can do is form relationships and be their go-to person, so when it comes time to canvas, register new voters, phone bank, or just remind people to get out to the polls, our job should be much easier and well received.