Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Blue Collin Co.

The Democratic Party of Collin County need only look at how the Harris County Democrats organized to elect a long slate of Democrats in a county long dominated by Republicans. Like Harris County, Collin County Can Turn Blue With Smart Leadership.

The Texas Progressive Alliance selected the Harris County Democratic Coordinated Campaign as its “Texan of the Year” for 2008:
The Harris County Democratic Coordinated Campaign faced a daunting task in 2008: Take Texas' largest county, which hadn't elected a Democrat to any county wide office in over a decade and which went for George Bush by ten points in 2004, and turn it blue. And they had to do it amid the high expectations that followed Dallas' fabled blue sweep in 2006, with the Harris County GOP knowing they were being targeted. And they had to start from scratch, since there hadn't been any kind of effort like it in anyone's memory. Oh, and in the middle of it all they had to abandon their headquarters and move to a new location thanks to the damage that Hurricane Ike wrought [and creation of a campaign'08 website].

The key was strong leadership, starting with the vision of people like Party Chairman Gerry Birnberg and Dave Mathieeson, the operational know-how of Executive Director Jamaal Smith and Bill Kelly, and the coordination and hard work of many, many people. They developed a plan, matched it with a budget and coordinated with all the candidates. They opened branch offices all around the county and drew on the energy of Democrats new and old. They knocked on doors, made calls, sent mail, and spread the message of Democratic change everywhere.

And in the end, they succeeded, with Democrats winning 27 of 34 county wide races. They boosted turnout in the traditional Democratic areas, and improved performance all across the county. They relentlessly pushed an early-vote message, which translated into leads of 50,000 votes or more for most candidates going into Election Day. They stressed the importance of voting Democratic all the way down the ballot, which minimized under voting in the lower-profile races. They brought in new voters and brought back those who had given up hope, and got them all on the same page.

Add it all up, and the new year will bring new Democratic judges, a new Sheriff, a new County Attorney, a new District Clerk, and two new County Department of Education trustees. For that, and for the promise that 2010 will bring even more success and help pave the way towards turning all of Texas blue, the Texas Progressive Alliance is proud to name the Harris County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign its Texan of the Year for 2008.
Locating good Democratic candidates to run in Collin County is a only half the battle to turn the county blue. As in Harris County, Collin County candidates need a Democratic support infrastructure built and managed by the local Democratic Party to support the candidates and help get them elected.

Democratic candidates need more than the support of just their own circle of friends and supporters. Candidates need competently orchestrated local party support, as provided in Harris County for the 2008 election cycle, to overcome the advantage that Republicans now enjoy in the county.

As a starting point, Collin County Democrats should be closely analyzing the 2008 election data and gathering other voter information to prepare for the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. Democratic candidates need the same advantages that Republican candidates now enjoy in the county.

Micro-target marketing applied to political organizing and Get Out The Vote is a big part of how the Republicans turned Texas, Collin County and most of the U.S. so red over the last 20 years. They pulled info from official voting records and various commercial marketing data sources on who subscribed to what magazines, who were members of what organizations, church affiliations and so forth to populate their equivalent to VAN.
Micro-targeting direct marketing data-mining techniques and predictive market segmentation (cluster analysis) is use by Republicans to identify and target voters, both committed and potential.

That means not just looking at voting history, but finding out about their lifestyles, buying habits, and even how they spend their free time. In the words, "It's not where they live, it's how they live.”

Republicans have stockpiled millions of names, phone numbers and addresses with consumer preferences, voting histories and other demographic information.

The information allows Republican campaigns to target individual households with various means of communication including direct mail, phone calls, home visits, television, radio, web advertising, email, text messaging, etc. The targeted communications convey messages tailored to issues the resident is believed to care about to build support for fundraising, campaign events, volunteering, and eventually to turn them out to the polls on election day.

Micro-targeting tactics rely on transmitting a tailored message to a targeted subgroup of the electorate determined by the unique information data-mined about individuals of that special interest subgroup.
The Democratic Party of Collin County should be attempting to answering a few basic questions about the 2008 general election as the first step to building its own micro-targeted Collin County voter database.

On election day 2008 there were 424,821 registered voters in Collin County out of an eligible voting age population of approximately 540,000. So, there were up to 115,179 people of voting age that never registered to vote. Of the 424,821 registered voter number, 56,968 were in "suspend" status leaving 367,853 active voters. 298,647 people voted in the 2008 election in Collin County which means that 69,206 active voters did not vote.

So, adding the total of 126,174 active and inactive voters who did not vote to the 115,179 eligible voters who have never registered to vote, we have a "non-participating voter" population of 241,353 people in the county. Plus, between election day 2008 and election day 2010 some 2,500 teens will mature beyond the voting age threshold and additional eligible voters will move into the county.

It is among these "non-participating voters" that Democrats will likely find the margin of extra votes to turn Collin County blue in future elections. The problem before us is to figure out how to identify progressive-leaning non-participating voters and then motivate those voters to contribute money and vote for Democratic candidates. Some of the questions that must be answered to begin to qualify these "non-participating voters" as Democratic supporters include:
  • Who are the 56,968 registered voters in "suspend" status and what will it take to make them not only active voters again, but active Democrats?
  • Who are the 69,206 active voters did not vote this year and why didn't they vote? Are they disaffected Republicans? What issues might motivate them to vote in 2010 and what kind of Democratic candidate might they find attractive?
  • Why didn't 115,179 people of voting age register to vote this year - who are they?
  • Who are the 108,208 (36.6%) people who voted for Obama.
  • Who are the teen agers in 2008 non-voting age segment of the population that will turn 18 by election day 2010 and 2012 and how can the DPCC start to pull them into organizing events asap?
If Democrats can successfully answer just some of these questions about the 2008 general election voters and "non-participating voters," Democratic candidates have a much better chance of winning the county in 2010 and most particularly in 2012.

It might be easier for the Democratic Party to attract full slates of high caliber Democratic candidates to run in Collin County if potential candidates know they can count on fully orchestrated local party support, such as the Harris County Democratic Party provided in 2008.

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