They share a room in the TCDP Coordinated Campaign Office at 2406 Manor Road, but they are rarely perched at their computers doing office stuff. Usually they are out in the field, as their titles imply, carving up and organizing Travis County for maximum voter outreach and turnout.
Before voting begins, they will have ushered small armies of volunteers in the tried-and-true grassroots art of door-knocking, phone-banking, community-gathering and just about every other way one human being can contact another human being in this sprawling democracy. Under the leadership of Campaign Manager Jim Wick and Field Director Shawn Badgley, these boots-on-the-ground folks will march toward the ambitious goal of turning out all eligible Democratic voters.
Say hello to them now and thank them in advance for what they are doing for Travis County Democrats!
TOM ELLIOTT — In his previous capacity as Administrative Director for the TCDP, Tom helped run the primary and organize the office. At the State Convention, he was elected delegate to the National Convention. Before joining TCDP, he worked on Kathie Tovo’s City Council Campaign and the Texas Campaign for the Environment.
QUESTION: You’ve worn more than a few hats in the TCDP during your time with us. What are your thoughts on taking charge of this important part of the fall campaign?
TOM: When I was asked to take on the RFD position for Commissioner Precinct 3, I realized it was time for me to give up my big comfy chair in my air conditioned office and carry the Democratic message to the voters’ front doorsteps. We all know how important this election cycle is for re-electing President Obama and for the local Democrats running in Travis County. Obama won in 2008 because he mobilized and expanded the Democratic base, so now it’s our responsibility to build on what the President set in place. We have to work even harder for success this November.
YAMAN DESAI — This recent University of Texas graduate, originally from Sugar Land, majored in Government. During the 2010 election cycle, he was Deputy Field Organizer and Campus Coordinator for the Bill White gubernatorial campaign.
QUESTION: Were you part of the University Democrats at UT? Is that what drew you into politics in the first place?
YAMAN: Yes, I was involved with UDems at UT, and it was a group that I very much enjoyed being part of. My interest in politics started at a young age with my grandfather and father, both of whom were strong Democrats. The interest they fostered in me grew at UT, where I had the opportunity to not just be involved with UDems, but also with groups such as Hook the Vote and Invest in Texas, which worked hard to engage students in the political process and get them engaged in issues that directly affect them. Higher education issues are especially important to me, and my interest in that field has and continues to be a driving influence in drawing me to politics.
ELAINA FOWLER — An Austinite for only a year, Elaina moved here from Birmingham, Ala., where she was a municipal lobbyist. During our recent Democratic Primary, she did PAC work for the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
QUESTION: What do you enjoy most about grassroots campaigning?
ELAINA: I like the personal, face-to-face connections. And I like to talk with people about low to middle-income issues like health care. I really like the canvassing aspect of a campaign, the direct contact of getting to meet and talk to voters. It gets you involved in your community, and in the African-American community, where I’m involved on this campaign, we reach out to churches, schools and community centers. That’s where we can talk with people about issues that are important to them, and I like that.
RACHAEL TORRES — A native Austinite, Rachael has been inspired by legendary political leaders such as Gus Garcia and Gonzalo Barrientos. An active member of her church and the Hispanic community, Rachael has worked tirelessly on behalf of candidates such as Lulu Flores, Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza, Eddie Rodriguez, Bill Spelman and Efrain De La Fuente, to name just a few.
QUESTION: You’ve been involved in this process for a long time, and yet you continue to find it, in your words, “invigorating.” What keeps you going?
RACHAEL: Politics intrigued me because I wanted to know more about the people and the process. Going back to my childhood, stories of my grandmother walking across Pleasanton, Texas, to pay her poll tax in order to be able to vote were moving yet surprising to me. Why did abuela have to pay to vote? My mother explained it and then told me it was important to vote, it was our right and our duty. I am empowered by my family history and those who walked to pay the poll tax. When canvassing, I explain that it is not just the big elections that are important, but even more so the local elections that affect us the most. Voters might say, “I don’t like politics, so I don’t vote.” Someone else will decide what is best for you unless you go vote. Take your family, your friends and neighbors with you to the polls. We won’t know what we have until we lose it, and we can’t afford to lose it.
KRISSY O’BRIEN — A George Mason University graduate, Krissy moved to Austin two years ago from Northern Virginia.
She has worked for the Texas Campaign for the Environment, Mayor Leffingwell’s re-election campaign and Travis County Commissioner Karen Huber’s campaign.
QUESTION: What do you think is the most important part of grassroots campaigning?
KRISSY: Voter contact. That’s the most important part, because you’re educating voters one at a time, reminding people why it’s important. Voting is our only input in the democracy. I’m particularly focused on water and transportation issues and growing the Austin area responsibly. Travis County’s future depends on those things. When people ask why they should vote, we have to remind them that everything depends on who you put into office. People need to be part of the decisions that are made, and there are really good candidates out there who can help shape our future.