Have you visited the TCDP Campaign Headquarters at 2406 Manor Road? Please do. You’ll be impressed. It’s already a beehive of activity, with voter registration shifts every week (thanks, Katherine Haenschen!) and volunteers for Travis County and OFA swarming all over the place.
Jim Wick, the new 2012 Coordinated Campaign Manager, doesn’t officially start until July 1, but he has been meeting with stakeholders, setting goals and making plans for weeks. Most of you probably already know Wick from his work managing numerous local campaigns, including those of Karen Sage, Valinda Bolton, Laura Morrison, Kathie Tovo, Efrain De La Fuente and Bill Spelman. He was also field director for Lee Leffingwell’s 2009 mayoral campaign.
Like a lot of dedicated Democrats, Wick grew his grassroots while organizing for Barack Obama in 2006, long before the young Illinois Senator officially declared his run for President. By the time that campaign was underway, Wick was hooked on political activism and never looked back.
QUESTION: Have you worked up a field plan for the Coordinated Campaign yet?
WICK: I haven’t done the hard calculations yet, but I’ve definitely given it a lot of thought. A large part of what we’ll do is targeted at voter registration to help us this election cycle and in the future. We’ve already seen a drop-off of people registered — at least at their current address — compared to ’08. There are close to 100,000 people out there who have not voted since ’08, and we have a lot of new people who have come to the area. So we still have a lot of work to do.
QUESTION: What else will you focus on during the campaign?
WICK: Voter education will be a big component of our campaign as well — not only about Voter ID (the Texas bill faces a federal trial starting July 9) but also the new vote centers. Unless people are aware that they can vote anywhere, it won’t help. It’s only going to be as effective as the education campaign surrounding it.
QUESTION: This process will be similar to Early Voting, when people don’t have to vote only in their precincts, right?
WICK: Yes, but bigger. We only had sixteen Early Vote Centers in the Primary. We’re expecting 100-plus Vote Centers in the fall. The biggest help to us will be that people who are currently registered but live at a different address can vote anywhere. There’s no harm in re-registering at your current address, and we urge people to do that. Students and single people are much more mobile than most voters, and we want to be sure they can vote.
QUESTION: Travis County has a great reputation throughout the state. The new TDP Chairman, Gilberto Hinojosa, has said Travis and Dallas Counties are role models for grassroots organizing. What makes us so different that we are still blue after the 2010 red tide?
WICK: We have some great advantages, both structural and cultural. Structurally, we have a great deal of government employees, more than any other county, and we have UT here. Government employees tend to vote Democratic. The other thing is we are seen as a liberal or Democratic mecca, a spot of blue in a sea of red, so we attract people like that. Having that reputation is a self-perpetuating thing. Self-identifying progressives and liberals move here and strengthen our liberal community. There’s kind of a culture of liberalism here.
QUESTION: What can be done about low turnout?
WICK: Couple of factors come into play that make us look bad, like the raw percentages in the primaries. But we had the highest turnout in the state for the 2011 constitutional election. We beat San Antonio and Houston. My point is that turnout is bad everywhere. If you account for other factors — the type of election, who’s on the ballot, etc. — Austin and Travis County are leaders in some of these less glamorous elections.
Turnout will be critical for all of our races, and we’re going to work toward having the highest turnout possible. What is possible I’m not sure, because I haven’t done the math yet, but our goal will be to hit the ’08 level … There’s not the fervor of ’08 right now, but a lot of people still support the President and are excited about him getting re-elected. On the whole, I think there’s still a level of enthusiasm for President Obama that will benefit other candidates on the ballot in Travis County.
QUESTION: It sounds like your setting high goals for the 2012 Coordinated Campaign.
WICK: We’re going to make as many phone calls and knock on as many doors as possible and put forth an effort that will serve as a model for other counties. The goal is to knock on 100,000 doors and make 400,000 phone calls. Social media and new technology like iPads will play a major role in campaign. I’m really excited about all the tools we have in the toolbox for this campaign.
With the structural and cultural advantages we have, we can put together a model for what general elections should look like at the county level, and this will also help us win back statewide offices in the future. We’ll be asking Travis County Democrats to do a lot in terms of their time and money. It’s going to be a huge effort, and we’ll need as many people as we can get on every level. [Click here to volunteer!]