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Echoes Of Failure: The 2008 California Election Roundup

by: David Dayen

Fri Nov 07, 2008 at 16:37:58 PM PST

Back in 2006, I and a lot of other grassroots progressives were angered that California showed little to no movement in its Congressional and legislative seats despite a wave election.  You can see some articles about that here and here, when I explained why I was running as a delegate to the state Party.  And frankly, I could rerun the entire article today, but instead I'll excerpt.

I've lived in California for the last eight years.  I'm a fairly active and engaged citizen, one who has attended plenty of Democratic Club meetings, who has lived in the most heavily Democratic areas of the state in both the North and South, who has volunteered and aided the CDP and Democratic candidates from California during election time, who (you would think) would be the most likely candidate for outreach from that party to help them in their efforts to build a lasting majority.  But in actuality, the California Democratic Party means absolutely nothing to me.  Neither do its endorsements.  The amount of people who aren't online and aren't in grassroots meetings everyday who share this feeling, I'd peg at about 95% of the electorate.  

I mean, I'm a part of both those worlds, and I have no connection to the state party.  I should be someone that the CDP is reaching out to get involved.  They don't.  The only time I ever know that the CDP exists is three weeks before the election when they pay for a bunch of ads.  The other 23 months of the year they are a nonentity to the vast majority of the populace [...]

Only two Democrats in the entire state of California were able to defeat incumbents last November: Debra Bowen and Jerry McNerney.  Both of them harnessed the power of the grassroots and used it to carry them to victory.  They also stuck to their principles and created a real contrast with their opponents on core issues.  The only way that the California Democratic Party can retain some relevance in the state, and not remain a secretive, cloistered money factory that enriches its elected officials with lobbyist money and does nothing to build the Democratic brand, is by building from the bottom up and not the top down.  By becoming more responsive to the grassroots and more effective in its strategy, we can ensure that California stays blue, which is not a given.  This is a long-term process that is in its third year, and will not happen overnight.  But it's crucial that we continue and keep the pressure on.

In 2008, we experienced that most anomalous of events, a SECOND wave election in a row.  Barack Obama won the biggest victory at the top of the ticket in California since WWII.  And yet, the efforts of downticket Democrats yielded only minimal success.  This is despite a decided improvement in the party in terms of online outreach and voter registration.  So something is deeply, deeply wrong with how they're conducting campaigns.

I'm going to lay out the good, the bad and the ugly on the flip and make some suggestions as to what we must do to improve this for the future.

David Dayen :: Echoes Of Failure: The 2008 California Election Roundup
The Good

This wasn't a wipeout at the downballot level.  The voters agreed with the Calitics endorsements on 8 of 11 ballot measures, with 1, Prop. 11, still too close to call.  We did manage, at this hour, a net gain of two Assembly seats, which could expand to three if Alyson Huber in AD-10 has some luck, and a gain of one Senate seat if Hannah-Beth Jackson holds off Tony Strickland in SD-19.  It is true that those numbers, 50 in the Assembly and 26 in the Senate, would be high-water marks for this decade.  And we came close in a few other seats that we can hopfully capture in the future.  In the Congress, we have thus far gained no ground, but a couple seats, CA-44 and CA-03, look well-positioned for the future, and with Bill Durston set to run for a third time, his increased name ID and the closeness of partisan affiliation in that district should make it a targeted seat at the national level.  

Voter registration was the driving factor here.  In red areas, Democrats did the leg work of registering thousands upon thousands of voters and making uncompetitive seats suddenly competitive.

The Bad

They forgot to turn those new voters out.

What shortsighted CYA masters like Steve Maviglio and Jason Kinney fail to understand, apparently, is the concept of opportunity cost.  When you have Barack Obama on the top of the ticket winning 61% of the vote, it is simply inexcusable to have gains that are this modest.  Maviglio doesn't tell you that AD-78 and AD-80 were gerrymandered to be Democratic seats, so essentially we got back what was expected in the Assembly, and with a 106-vote lead, who knows what's in store with SD-19.  The concept of a wave election is that such energy at the top of the ticket will necessarily trickle down.  And that's what I based my initial projections on, that Obama would make "out-of-reach" seats suddenly competitive.  But he didn't.  And there are two reasons for that: ticket-splitting and voters that stopped at the top, causing a significant undervote.  I don't have numbers for Obama at the district level, so it's hard to be sure about ticket dropping, but the ballot measures are generating about 600,000-800,000 less votes than the Presidential race or Prop. 8.

If you want a further analysis, djardin did a great analysis comparing Barbara Boxer's share of the vote in 2004 in Assembly districts, when John Kerry was on top of the ballot, against the vote share from the Assemblymembers who were built for the district in 2008, with Obama.  The numbers are astonishing.

District Candidate       Boxer Vote      2008 AD Vote
*78 Marty Block                      57.9%               55.0%
*80 Manny Perez                   57.5%               52.9%
*15 Joan Buchanan               52.6%               52.9%
30 Fran Florez                 49.8%               48.3%
26 John Eisenhut                 48.6%              48.3%
10 Alyson Huber                 48.1%               46.2%

In most of these races, the AD candidates are slightly underperforming the 2004 Boxer vote.  The exception is Joan Buchanan in Assembly District 15.   Buchanan may have been helped by demographic changes in the district.

It's simply ridiculous that any district candidate would underperform the Boxer vote, after four years of incredible registration gains and a 61% performer at the top of the ticket.  It's inexcusable, and nobody inside the party should be feeling good about missing out on the second wave election in a row.  These moments don't happen often.  And these failures are what lead Yacht Party leaders like Mike Villines to crow about how "Republicans will still be empowered to protect Californians from higher taxes."  He knows that he keeps dodging bullets and doesn't have to worry about a backlash for his party's irresponsibility.

These expectations are not unrealistic and this is NOT about gerrymandering, regardless of what fossils like George Skelton say.  Alyson Huber, Linda Jones and John Eisenhut had virtual parity in terms of registration in their districts.  Fran Florez had a much higher Democratic share.  Obama should have carried them to victory.  Thanks to him, Democrats took multiple state houses and made gains all over the country, in far more difficult circumstances.  There are systematic barriers to a progressive wave here right now.

So what is to account for this?  It's important to note that the problems we saw with the No on 8 campaign should not be viewed in isolation.  They are a symptom of the poor performance of the consultant class here in this state.  No ground game?  Check.  Maviglio is crowing about the fact that they had a lot of volunteers on ELECTION DAY.  That's too late.  Based on what I've heard, the CDP dumped all their door-hangers on the local parties, who had no volunteers to hand them out and instead relied on the Democratic clubs to do it.  That's dysfunctional and disorganized.  Furthermore, that makes clear that no money was put into field - door knocking, phone banking, etc.  Instead, the consultocracy again relied on slate mailers and a modicum of TV ads, hoping the IE campaigns, which spent over $10 million, would take up the slack.  There was a low-dollar donor program, and it netted something like $200,000, which doesn't pay for two days' worth of spots, and it didn't start until 8 weeks out.

There's no sense of urgency, no notion of the permanent campaign.  Did ANY CDP messaging mention the yacht tax loophole?  Did they exploit the Republican budget, which was unnecessarily cruel?  Was the drive for 2/3 used as a banner across campaigns to frame a narrative on the election?  Were any issues put to use?  No.

Part of this is what I call our political trade deficit.  We export money and volunteers and get nothing in return.  The energy and effort put into the Obama campaign locally was impressive, but it didn't translate into anything locally.  

California is a state that was expected to vote heavily for Obama. California donors accounted for perhaps 20% of his record-setting $640 million-plus. In the final days of the election campaign, Californians provided even more for the Democratic nominee: They volunteered.

Even though California was not a swing state, Californians still mattered. Some took leaves from work to knock on doors and traveled to the battleground states of Virginia, Colorado, Ohio and others. They even have a name, "bluebirds," people from blue states who flock to Republican strongholds and swing states to help Obama's campaign.

Jack Gribbon, California political director for Unite Here, the unions that include hotel and restaurant workers, oversaw an independent campaign focused on the swing area of Washoe County in the battleground state of Nevada. Knowing that Las Vegas and Clark County, in which the city is located, would probably vote for Obama, Gribbon sought to help swing the more conservative Reno-Sparks area toward the Democrat.

Using multiple voter lists, Gribbon targeted 16,000 voters, most of them with Spanish surnames, many of them Democrats and some of them newly registered.

It's incredible that Californians can be so easily motivated to contribute to a national effort, which requires a lot of work on their behalf, picking up and moving across the country, but they cannot be tapped for a local ground game.

But I don't blame Obama on this.  He's trying to win an election.  It's not his fault that he's more charismatic or more of a volunteer magnet than the California Democratic Party.  The point is that the party has to supplement this, by working in off-years and early in the year to build a grassroots base.  And there's a blueprint for this.  It comes from Howard Dean.  This was part of his memo after the election:

Governor Dean's first step was to assess our Party's strengths and weaknesses and put in place a strategy to address those issues.  Dean developed a business plan to rebuild the Democratic Party, modernize our operations and expand the electoral map.  The emphasis was on lessons learned and best practices, and it included the following key components:

·  Rebuild the Infrastructure of the Party - After assessing the needs on the ground, we hired full-time permanent staff in all 50 states, trained staff and activists, introduced new measures of accountability, and developed a unified technology platform. Over the past four years we've held 140 trainings for candidates, campaign staff, organizers, Party leaders and activists in all 50 states.

·  Upgrade and Improve the Party's Technology/Modernize the Way We Do Grassroots Organizing -  Over the past four years the DNC has made significant investments in technology, creating a truly national voter file, improved micro-targeting models and developed 21st century campaign tools that merged traditional organizing with new technology.

·  Diversify the Donor Base - Shifting the emphasis of Party fundraising to include both small donors and large donors, the DNC brought in more than 1.1 million new donors and raised more than $330 million from '05 - '08. The average contribution over the last three years was $63.88.

·  Amplify Democratic Message and Improved Outreach - Created a national communications infrastructure to amplify the Democratic message and reach out to groups we haven't always talked to and expand the map to regions where Democrats have not traditionally been competitive - including the South and the West.

·  Professionalize Voter Protection Efforts - Created a year-round national, state and local effort to ensure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to vote.  

Those are the bullet points, but the details are important.  Training and deploying full-time staffers throughout the state is very desperately needed.  They could implement a version of the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program that proved so successful nationwide.  The DNC voter file is an amazing tool that I have had the opportunity to use.  California, a leader in technology, ought to have the most comprehensive online database of its voters in the country, which we can use for micro-targeting and outreach to distinct communities.  And finally, this is about PERSONAL CONTACT AT THE STREET LEVEL.  Two years after I campaigned for delegate on a platform of making the party present in people's lives year-round, not just at election time, that is still not a part of the picture.  This is why everybody walks away to go volunteer and donate elsewhere.  They have no connection to the state party, no interest in the state's issues, and are in many ways contemptuous of the efforts of state politicians.  They haven't been drilled on why the government is unmanageable thanks to the 2/3 rule, and they haven't internalized the urgency of why that must be dealt with.

The silver lining is that these thousands of California-based volunteers, who learned organizing on the Obama campaign, could actually be channeled and put to use by the CDP if they chose to do so.  The role of the next state party chair in this effort is crucial.

Quite simply, what has been tried isn't working.  In two election cycles with massive gains at the national level, in California we have crumbs.  Something is deeply wrong.  Something is broken.  And that must be fixed.  

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I walked a lot of districts (5.00 / 1)
Including Buchanan's and Eisenhut's.  I don't know what to say. I really thought we had a chance to win with Eisenhut.  It's really frustrating.

I think?

hear hear (0.00 / 0)
I've had a few conversations with people in and around the CDP asking why there wasn't more of a push from the grassroots and netroots to funnel volunteers and money towards the CDP activities.

I think this hits the core reason: There's no reason to trust the CDP to use those resources wisely or efficiently. I grew up in a county that was probably a solid 85% Democratic. Aside from people who planned to use the party as a way to gain personal power, people never bothered getting involved because there was no real point- the machine did or did not do whatever it pleased in the CYA vein and- actively by inaction- encouraged people to find other places to make a difference.

While there were certainly many competitive races at the state and local level throughout the state, the same message, communicated through silence, that the goal is maintaining the halls of power over ACTUAL empowerment was pretty clear at the macro level.

It's time to flush the consultant class down the toilet (6.50 / 2)
California needs a Howard Dean or an Obama to shake things up in this state. After volunteering for No on 8 this year, I now understand just how bad things are in this state. And what gets me is that the people of California are basically progressive, but the consultant class politics are killing us.

What we actually need (7.00 / 5)
Is for California Democrats and progressives to unite and produce the kind of movement that propelled Dean and Obama forward. They did not run top-down campaigns.

And yes, if this does not prove the damage that consultant class politics does, I don't know what will.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

[ Parent ]
Good call (0.00 / 0)
I think you said this better than I did.

[ Parent ]
Obama won (8.00 / 1)
in a couple of cities in Gary's district, Gary did not.  Unfortunately, there were tons of undervotes here and no coattails to speak of.  

Gary did best in Tustin (YEP!) and where we live, Aliso Viejo.  I don't have numbers for Irvine yet, but I would guess he did well there.  

OC Progressive
Progress, not perfection!

[ Parent ]
Awesome (5.00 / 1)
That's really good to hear that Tustin came out strong for Gary. I would be curious to see the precinct by precinct reports on that - Tustin has a large Latino community that likely gave Gary a big boost, but he hopefully did well among the other middle-class parts of my hometown.

Just imagine what could have been done had you guys been given real resources.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

[ Parent ]
Precinct reports for Tustin (0.00 / 0)
Robert, you can see Orange County's precinct-by-precinct results here:


This system has been available online for more than 2 years. Neal Kelley, our ROV, is extremely enlightened.

[ Parent ]
I had a look at it (5.00 / 1)
Earlier this morning. It's useful but for some reason was buggy on my Mac.

I have been impressed with the OCROV's online reporting systems. It's something other counties, including the clusterfuck that is Monterey County Elections, would do well to emulate.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

[ Parent ]
Amen to that (5.00 / 1)
I'm one of the many people who hasn't paid a huge amount of attention to CA issues over the last couple years, but I should've.  The political malpractice of the No on 8 campaign woke me out of my slumber though, once I realized it's emblematic of CDP problems in general.

[ Parent ]
Turnout (8.00 / 1)
The turnout in some of the counties like SF and Alameda was just appalling. And if I didn't know one or two people that worked in the CDP I'd probably never even hear from them.

Question is, what's the solution? It seems like we are almost going to have to lead a Howard Dean style campaign to change the leadership at the top because becoming a delegate isn't enough.

Disclosure: I work for Netroots Nation. These opinions are my own and are not necessarily those of my employer

Turnout looks like it's (0.00 / 0)
going to be about 80% in SF.  30% of the ballots (mostly early voting) were uncounted on Nov 5th, which is the reason for the low reporting.

[ Parent ]
SF elections department (0.00 / 0)
did not prepare AT ALL for the amount of early voting.  They prepared for the typical 13,000 and they got about ten times that.

[ Parent ]
OC Efforts (8.00 / 1)
The CDP spent all their efforts in October phoning into Central OC for Loretta Sanchez.

They could have called for the 44th and the 46th.

No Real Housewives - but plenty of action at OC Progressive.

Come for the politics - stay for dessert.

Yep (8.00 / 1)
And that is a tragedy. Goddamn how I wanted Debbie Cook to win.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

[ Parent ]
incumbent protection program (8.00 / 1)

[ Parent ]
Agree with this (8.00 / 1)
Especially that we did not do a good job turning out folks on the ground for the legislative, Congressional, and ballot prop races. I believe the reason for that is the CDP in particular but also the No on 8 campaign failed to effectively communicate the stakes of those races.

Let me give an anecdote. Here in Monterey County the Democratic central committee planned an ambitious neighbor to neighbor program for local races. They rolled it out in late August/early September, but canceled it by late September. They had an extremely difficult time getting volunteers to walk precincts for local Dems - people only wanted to call swing states for Obama. Dems did not succeed in communicating to their base why legislative and Congressional races mattered.

The exception to this was in Marina, a small town on the shores of Monterey Bay that has been dominated by Republican developers for 10 years, running the city into the ground with an extremely arrogant administration that openly mocked citizen participation. Marina Dems ran a slate to retake their city and had no problem getting volunteers - because they did a good job of showing residents what the stakes were. Of the four candidates on the slate, two won (including Bruce Delgado who will be Marina's new mayor) and the other two came very close.

They also benefited from the extremely well organized field operation of Jane Parker, a deeply progressive Democrat who won a special election to the county board of supervisors in June. Veterans of the Parker campaign helped organize Marina, with crucial support from the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council.

Sure, it's a small town, but the principle is demonstrative. Where Democrats and progressives communicated clearly what was at stake, they succeeded in generating the field organization necessary to take advantage of a wave election by applying the tactics learned in other successful progressive campaigns.

What the Obama campaign proves is that the consultants who claim that "you can't do field in California" are completely full of shit and do not understand politics in this state. California CAN be organized. It is difficult but by no means impossible. A clear sense of purpose, a clearly communicated sense of what is at stake, and a commitment to field organizing can make it work.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

Agree with Robert (0.00 / 0)
Could not agree more. I happen to live in Monterey County also.  Another monumental failure of the CDP was letting Maldonado run unopposed because "he wasn't too bad".  Yeah, right. He votes with the Republicans 100% on taxes, but he's not too bad. The state is going broke, and deadlock in Sacramento continues, and the CDP fiddles while the state burns.  

It's time to crash the gate at the CDP. Let's unite with our Prop 8 brothers and sisters and throw the bums out.

Get the public to focus on the state level (6.00 / 2)
It seems to me that we need to get the rest of the public to stop focusing exclusively on the national level by drawing attention to the mess in Sacramento. Convincing people that the state legislature matters should be a priority.

Besides that, I agree with the criticism of the state party. I've been a registered Dem in CA for years, yet I've never been contacted in any way about the party leadership. Who decides who the state chair is? Is there an election? How do you get a vote?

we will have that for you (8.00 / 2)
you run to be a delegate to the state party.  Caucus elections are held every two years, and they'll be in January 2009.

More details to come.

[ Parent ]
Having won globally, let's act locally (3.00 / 1)
Huge amounts of our political energy over the last 8 years was focused on the most important goal - stopping Bush and then McCain.   Having accomplished that goal, with four years in good political hands, and with plenty of people who'll be helping Obama, we can now relax at the Federal level and turn our attention to more local matters.

Let's turn our freed-up energy to California. Let's have a fifty-county strategy, modernize our outreach, grow new leaders savvy in modern communications.  Let the people who secured Obama's presidency return home, victorious, and turn their wisdom to our local advantage.

Dave, you have some things wrong (0.00 / 0)
I can see that you are frustrated about the outcome of the election, but you simply have some of your fact about the legislative races wrong:

"No ground game?  Check."

All six of the races you cite had well designed active, organized, aggressive field programs that included daily phone banking and precinct walking operations.  This was done by local volunteers, paid staff and the candidates themselves.

"Maviglio is crowing about the fact that they had a lot of volunteers on ELECTION DAY.  That's too late."  

See above.

"Based on what I've heard, the CDP dumped all their door-hangers on the local parties, who had no volunteers to hand them out and instead relied on the Democratic clubs to do it.  That's dysfunctional and disorganized."

The six campaigns had their own doorhangers that were distributed by the volunteers and staff over the 4 day GOTV operation.

"Furthermore, that makes clear that no money was put into field - door knocking, phone banking, etc.  Instead, the consultocracy again relied on slate mailers and a modicum of TV ads, hoping the IE campaigns, which spent over $10 million, would take up the slack."

I'm simply blown away by this assertion.  You frankly don't know what you are talking about, yet feel completely confident in your assertion.  How many finance reports did you look at before making this charge?  

"Did ANY CDP messaging mention the yacht tax loophole?  Did they exploit the Republican budget, which was unnecessarily cruel?  Was the drive for 2/3 used as a banner across campaigns to frame a narrative on the election?  Were any issues put to use?  No."

Since you live in LA and don't see TV from other parts of the state or the mail that voters in those locales received, I'm again blown away by your assertion.  There was plenty of mail addressing the Republican budget and their tax hypocrisy.  Plenty of issues were used to highlight the differences between the candidates.  The fact that you didn't see the messaging in AD41 doesn't mean that it didn't happen.

see (0.00 / 0)
There's a little thing called the Internet, and you can actually watch ads and look at mailers, and if you're trying to sell that there was a definable narrative throughline anywhere in them, sell it somewhere else.  These candidates were on their own on message.  They were all completely different.  In fact, with the "plenty of issues were used" comment, you admit this.

...and saying that the six campaigns had their own doorhangers concedes the point that the other 80%-90% of the state had no such program.

If you're asking if I look at finance reports, the answer is I'm looking at them right now as I have throughout the campaign.  I held off on the late expenditures that appear to have held back $1 million more this year than in 2004 and 2006.  Care to elaborate?

Thing is, I actually don't want the party spending any more money, at least not solely in the last two weeks of an election.  They're clearly not very good at it.  The results don't lie.  What's being tried isn't working.  And it's pretty typical that all the feedback I've gotten backs up this analysis 100% except this comment, from someone with a stake in not looking bad.

[ Parent ]
Dave, again you have no idea what you are talking about (0.00 / 0)
I am only talking about the 6 campaigns that you referenced.  When it is convenient for your argument you shift it back to the party as a whole.  Let's stick to the campaigns you singled out.

The individual campaigns decided what their best message would be.  The 2/3 message wouldn't play in AD30, and in fact was used against candidates in 10, 15, 26, 30 and 78.

What works in 15 does not work in 30.  Having some one-size fits all communications strategy is foolish and counter- productive

But what you're saying, is that through the magic of the tubes, you saw every piece of mail John Eisenhut, Alyson Huber, Fran Florez, Joan Buchanan, Marty Block and Manuel Perez produced?  Or their radio?  Or their TV?  I doubt it.  If you can tell me the numbers I'll be amazed.  But again your certitude on the issue is telling.  You run your mouth, but don't have facts.

You're looking at the wrong finance reports and I think you know that.  Providing a link to the CDP's report means nothing.

You claim there was no field program.  You are wrong.

You claim no money was spend on phonebanks, voter outreach etc.  You are wrong.  

You claim there was no definable narrative for each campaign.  You are wrong.

You claim there were only election day volunteers.  You are wrong.

You claim no issues were put to use.  You are wrong.

I don't disagree with some of your other points later in your piece, but you simply have your facts wrong about the six races you brought up.  

[ Parent ]
and you still lost (0.00 / 0)
so if I'm supposedly changing the subject with a throwaway line, you are massively changing the subject by neglecting to focus on the fact that you squandered one of the biggest landslides in California history.

If you did everything right, as you say, and still got these results, how would you take to the suggestion that you ought to resign?

(and I love the idea that building an election around coherent themes and "nationalizing" the message is somehow a foreign concept that nobody's ever heard of)

[ Parent ]
On your first three points (0.00 / 0)
You seem to be saying that the candidates did it themselves with local volunteers. Which would make Dave's point that the CDP was absent.

[ Parent ]
Nope (0.00 / 0)
CDP helped organize and recruit in all those districts.  It was a combination of the campaigns, CDP and Assembly Democrats getting volunteers into the field.

[ Parent ]
some bright spots (8.00 / 2)
Field campaigns that work do so from the bottom up. Broken ones break from the top down - this adage was proven yet again this cycle, I think we can call it a law now. There were three entities that could have run big, flat field campaigns statewide: the CDP, Obama for CA, and No on 8. For various reasons (not all of them necessarily bad), none of them chose to do so.

What we got instead was piecemeal; in some places it was very good, in some places not so much. There's nothing necessarily wrong with running field through the clubs, clubs could easily serve as the entities that connect people to the state party year-round. Monterey, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Yolo & Fresno all ran very solid operations, I hope we'll hear more from them on what worked and what didn't over the next couple weeks.

Despite the choices made at the state level and on the big campaigns, the 140 someodd active CA VoterConnect clients generated just shy of two million knocks this cycle. That's a lot - it's just not enough, although I'm optimistic about the direction things are going. The race for CDP chair is going to be very interesting. For 2010, all of the candidates are going to look at what Barack built and want it. The question is which ones are going to learn the right lessons and deploy the right tools. (re: tools - please pardon the blatant self promotion there, but I do still believe getting the tools right makes a big difference in people's level of frustration.)

As far as the message side goes, I feel like we've made less progress on this. Nobody trusts anybody on this, and nobody has the resources to do the research that would create more confidence. I'm personally skeptical that talking about Yachts and the 2/3rds thing would have moved the people who needed moving, but without research we're all just throwing darts at a board. Some of the national groups like Campaign for America's Future and Progressive Majority are starting to work on this, but there's still no channel to reach to down-ticket races broadly. We have a lot of dimension-3 power to shift still in this state, no question.

I'm the project director and statewide organizer for California VoterConnect.

Some unfair generalizations (0.00 / 0)
While I share your disappointment with some of the close races we lost, I think you're making some unfair generalizations.  I worked on the field campaign for Joan Buchanan and we invested heavily in door-knocking, phone calls and volunteer recruitment.  We started back in July when Joan's name recognition was in the single digits.  We recruited 18 student interns to knock on doors during the week, set up 3 sophisticated auto-dial phone banks that significantly increase calling efficiency, delivered 3000 lawn signs around the district, and made an aggressive case to Obama volunteers to stay local.  We made close to 80,000 voter contacts and identified over 51,000 supporters for Joan.  All of this was accomplished under the strategic planning of one of the consultants that you speak so poorly of.

Some of the CDP and Assembly caucus staff I worked with are among the brightest, most hard-working professionals I know.  Their financial and technical support on everything from website design to voter file management allowed us to focus on core responsibilities.  I can't speak for other campaigns but I know from experience that these seats are hard to win.  It hurts to lose such close races but we're making real progress in this state and across the country and it's important to recognize that and not to slight our friends and colleagues unduly.  I hope more activists will stay local next time and I'll continue to make the case to them on why that's important.      

Mark thanks for connnecting here... (0.00 / 0)
.. and congratulations.

Not sure if you're going to see this, but I'm trying to get a better handle on what tactics the winning campaigns deployed. How much of those voter contacts were neighbor to neighbor or social network driven? How many were driven by neighborhood or precinct-level leaders? Predictive dialing and hordes of interns are great for generating volume, but they don't necessarily mean you're making the single most persuasive contacts possible.

I agree with you regarding the staff. I'm by and large impressed with practically everyone I run into. But we need what's happening in competitive districts to be happening everywhere.

I'm the project director and statewide organizer for California VoterConnect.

[ Parent ]
discuss further (0.00 / 0)
I'd be happy to get together for coffee to discuss.  We discussed using a neighbor-to-neighbor model but it's difficult to generate that level of commitment for a local race on the kind of scale we're talking about--spanning across four counties--when there are so many other exciting races on the ticket.  In terms of persuasion, I think anyone who is really motivated by the candidate and the stakes can be very persuasive, and being able to train the same crew of walkers and callers every week really enhances the quality of contact.  And I do think volume counts for something.

You can find me on Facebook or reach me at mark@joanbuchanan.com.

[ Parent ]
Let's not forget Fabian's $4 million (0.00 / 0)
As we ponder the disapointing results of a too close to call race in AD10 and narrow losses in ADs 26,30,36,37 lets not forget the $4 million in resources that were diverted from voter reg, party building or plain old voter contact when Fabian Nunez walked away with $4 million to use for this own personal interests, rather than the interests of winning Assembly seats.

We lost these 4 close races by 10,000 votes. Does anyone doubt an extra $4 million could have made a difference?  

For a reminder on the issue:

What we need more of from the CDP (8.00 / 1)
We ran a very intensive and very grassroots effort in Monterey County with more than 1000 volunteers (5 fold increase over 2004) that was by and large successful, got some newcomers into office and saved some progressive incumbents from conservative challengers.

We did all of this without CDP help.

We were offered use of the CDP voter database which in many ways was quite inadequate when it came to mapping and would have costed us money.  We were also offered 1000 doorhangers on Thursday before the election (we have 80,000 Democrats in Monterey County).

Instead we commissioned our own slate mailers and door hangers and mailed and hung 80,0000 and 30,000 respectively in conjunction with the local unions.  We used the VAN through CAVoterConnect for free with great results for us. We were able to manage our volunteers with it and we used it for all of our phone banking and Neighbor-to-Neighbor activities.

Here is what the CDP could have done - and can still do for future campaigns:
- Support the VAN and help all local parties get access.  Help integrate State VAN with Obama VAN.
- Conduct more capacity building, especially in how to run county-based campaigns, along the lines of Camp Obama but applied to state and local races.
- Provide a template for door hangers that local parties can buy into instead of having to go out and design their own.
- Work toward a more modular - bottom-up campaign.

Vinz Koller/ Chair/ Monterey County Democratic Party

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