A Captain in Every Precinct--a proposal

I request constructive criticism of this proposal.

Summary. During 2005 this project will identify volunteers from the Chicago/Milwaukee area to make contact with Democratic Primary voters (and others that self-identify) in targeted Congressional districts. The point of this contact is to identify, recruit and train indigenous precinct organizers so Democratic candidates start 2006 with functional precinct organization and all the benefits that come with this.

Districts: This project will target five districts. The top priority will be IL08 (Bean). The second priority will be IL06 (Hyde). The other three districts will be WI01 (Ryan), IL10 (Kirk) and IL13 (Biggert).

Funding. This project is designed to be funded through the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee with earmarked donations. It can be run as an independent project too.

Governance. The head organizer would be accountable to the DCCC, however there would be a local board of interested parties to supervise the head organizer on a more frequent basis. The board members would help recruit volunteers and would help the organizers resist the natural pull of interest groups--either within the Democratic Party or independent groups--from using their leverage to move the project from its agenda to their agenda.

Vision:Democratic candidates that run in the targeted Congressional districts will have trained indigenous precinct organizers in every precinct (one per one hundred registered voters).

Mission:Create and implement the plan necessary to identify, recruit and train precinct organizers.

Values: We value...
*    egalitarianism;
*    innovation;
*    winning, while not ignoring progress short of winning;
*    integrity in government and oppose the use of public offices for personal gain;
*    the Bill of Rights;
*    transparency in government and other institutions and organizations;
*    collective responsibility for society's problems;
*    fiscal responsibility;
*    shifting control of the U.S. House of Representatives from the Republicans to the Democrats;
*    the Democratic Party when it reflects the will of the activists and small contributors (as opposed to what the big contributors think so-called "swing voters" want to hear);
*    straight talk. The Democratic Party has underperformed since at least the 1994 elections. Any Democratic leader that suggests the status quo is "good enough" should be replaced;
*    politicians with the courage to take risks, individuals willing to make the case on important issues in order to shift public opinion;
*    using all available means of communicating and organizing;
*    this project staying neutral in intra-Democratic Party battles, e.g. if Madigan runs a candidate against Blagojevich in the primary or Blagojevich tries to unseat Madigan as chair of the state party;
*    Democrats who volunteer;
*    participation in the political process beyond elections, including activism on issues that motivate people;
*    matching the skills and temperament of the volunteer with the work, not trying to force all people with passion into being one type of Democratic activist.

Beginnings of the plan

  1. Recruit volunteers to go door-to-door, do phone-banking and providing administrative support.
  2. Organize project, including getting volunteers to the precincts where the work needs to be done.
  3. Contact Democrats in targeted districts by mail. Explain the plan.
  4. Contact then face-to-face. Use telephone for Democrats that can't be contacted in person.
  5. Identify potential precinct captains and lieutenants, assistants and helpers.
  6. Provide organizational system (paper or computer software).
  7. Train precinct captains and others.

Tags: (all tags)

Comments

29 Comments

I like this idea
I was a precinct captain for Kerry before the caucuses and later in the year. I made new friends in the neighborhood, and I think we definitely turned out a lot of votes because of the hard work of locals. The Dean and Edwards campaigns did not have active captains in my precinct, and I think Edwards in particular would have done a lot better on caucus night if someone had been working the neighborhood for several months ahead of time.
by desmoinesdem 2004-12-04 07:28AM | 0 recs
It's already begun
The DFL in Minnesota has begun a Progressive Caucus. Other states are also starting one.

I had already determined when I got into this when Wes Clark became a candidate in 2003 that the Dimwit Party needs far better people to give it real purpose and direction who are willing to fight for what is truly right and good for the people and not continue to bend over for corporate and megarich tax interests.

BTW, I think your poll should allow people not in your immediate area to express their own enthusiasm for this idea. I'm in rural MN and I've already got a team put together and our first meeting is coming up on Dec. 9th.

by LotusFawkes 2004-12-04 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: It's already begun
The effort shouldn't rely on volunteers completely.

To do the plan proposed for five CDs the group has to organize 130+ precincts ("wards" in Wisconsin) per week for eight months. Doesn't this seem too big to organize on a volunteer basis?

I also don't want to rely on progressive activists. To pull something this big off all the Dem Party coalition needs to be pulling on the oars, including political bosses and their patronage armies, unions, Black churches, students and progressive activists. If the Democratic Party is scared enough to work together, it should be a powerful force.

Good luck in Minnesota. It seems like doing a project like this hubbed out of Twin Cities going after five-six districts in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and maybe even the Dakotas and eastern Nebraska.

by Carl Nyberg 2004-12-04 03:27PM | 0 recs
Terrific idea
Sign me up!
by EvanstonDem 2004-12-04 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Terrific idea
What kind of support do you see yourself providing?
by Carl Nyberg 2004-12-04 03:17PM | 0 recs
Election fraud tie-in.
I'm astounded that we didn't have a comprehensive precinct-by-precinct roster this year, because I think the second-most-valuable service this would provide is to serve as a check on the possibility of election fraud. "What do you mean, only 224 people voted for Kerry at Precinct X? My team drove three hundred Kerry-button-wearing neighbors to the polls OURSELVES!"

Good luck...

by Chris 2004-12-04 12:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Election fraud tie-in.
I too am perplexed that the Kerry campaign, ACT, et al didn't have one person getting the election results at every precinct in Ohio and Florida.

But this only peripherally connects with this proposal.

by Carl Nyberg 2004-12-04 03:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Election fraud tie-in.
Hopefully if this works it can be implemented in FLorida and Ohio for 2008.
by yitbos96bb 2004-12-05 01:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Election fraud tie-in.
Move On had people watching the polls to check who voted (I know because I worked for them).  I believe ACT and the Kerry camapign did too.  Why do you think they didn't?  Were they not in the precinct you were volunteering in?
by Steve P 2004-12-05 03:39PM | 0 recs
why getting tapes important
If the Dems got the election results in every precinct at the end of election day it seems there would be less questions about whether cheating was a factor.
by Carl Nyberg 2004-12-05 06:59PM | 0 recs
no, EVERY precinct
I like to see the DNC fund State Parties to have a Captain in every precinct in every state. I'd like to keep the DCCC out of organizing until they can field a candidate in every race.
by Bob Brigham 2004-12-04 01:25PM | 0 recs
Re: no, EVERY precinct
How do you expect the DCCC to recruit candidates without having people on the ground across the country?

I'm for shooting for wins in more districts than the cureent Dem leadership. But it's a waste of resources to recruit candidates that can't win.

What's your plan to have the DNC fund a captain in every precinct?

by Carl Nyberg 2004-12-04 03:15PM | 0 recs
Re: no, EVERY precinct
Blogswarm,

I love your enthusiasm but you seem to want to sprint to the finish before you can walk.  This is a marathon.  We need to do this with the next 50 years in mind, not just the next 2.  We may not see super results in 2006 but if we start in this area and other groups start, by 2008 or 2012 we may have a precint captain in every state and precint.  Ultimately, that should be the goal but remember a journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step.  Don't kill an idea by trying to bite off more than can be chewed.  Seems we as a party and other progressive issue groups have been doing this as of late and it has been hurting their cause more than helping.  Patience Grasshopper...I know it is hard with Alfred E Neumann and the usual gand of idiots running the country, but we need to concentrate on establishing ourselves and setting the table for the next 50 years instead of just for the next 4.  

by yitbos96bb 2004-12-05 01:35PM | 0 recs
what organizing structure?
One person who read this plan didn't like working through the DCCC, because this is outside the organization's expertise.

He suggested a PAC, like the DfA PAC for Illinois. A PAC is the wrong structure because it can only make a $5K in-kind contribution. Have I got this correct?

A 527 is more promising. But a 527 has to be independent, right? I think the 527 could pass the info gathered to the Dem Party and the party could pas it to the campaigns. But spending tens of thousands of dollars gathering info and passing it directly to the campaign would violate laws about independence and in-kind limits. Can any experts help on this?

by Carl Nyberg 2004-12-04 03:49PM | 0 recs
Re: what organizing structure?
No, it can't actually. A 527 can't pass anything to the party. Nothing whatsoever. I was at Minnesota ACT, and we were scrupulous in not coordinating with the Dems. So much so, most of us gave up socializing with folks who were active in the party's campaign efforts until after the precincts closed on 11/2. Any and all 527 activities must be contained within the organization and other partner orgs who comply with the same regs.

And most of us are expecting to be indicted by the DOJ attorneys, anyway.

This is a good idea, although your (or someone's) point about cost and managing something of this scope is well-taken. Right now, you could start regionally, planning and beginning to look at voter rolls and identified direct-mail lists for who your people might be. Sometime mid-2005 is when you start recruiting your leadership for a January 2006 kickoff nationwide.

In some states/precincts (Virginia, Twin Cities, etc.) there are major elections next year, so you could run test models a la SEIU/ACT's GOTV test-runs in Wisconsin and Philadelphia in 2003 and March, 2004. Then you'd know where your weaknesses were and what sort of infrastructure you'd need for the big dance.

Also what you'd need to do now is identify how to manage the terabytes of data you're going to have to process. If I were to guess, part of the reason why neither ACT, nor KE04, nor the GOP did a full-scale nation-wide program is because of the inability to manage the amount of data that entails. As a result, we did targeted precincts, and managed the data locally. It actually worked well for both sides, but they had a wider scope and better coordination than we did.

by Bedouin 2004-12-04 04:09PM | 0 recs
Re: what organizing structure?
I don't like the idea of doing this through 527s. I was volunteering for the Kerry campaign and it was a pain in the ass not to be able to coordinate with the people in my precinct volunteering for Moveon or ACT. We couldn't share information about people who'd moved out of the precinct, we couldn't divvy up lists of people to door-knock, and in the end I'm sure we wasted a lot of time duplicating our efforts.

On election day I was running to the polling place every few hours to check which "unreliable" voters on our list had voted, so the Iowa Democratic Party could take those names out of the phone bank. Meanwhile, my neighbor who was volunteering for Moveon was hanging around outside the polling place trying to strike up conversations with people who were on their way out, just trying to get their names so she could check them against her list. She wasn't allowed to go in and look at the list being maintained by the Iowa Democratic Party's designated poll-watcher. I'm sure she ended up calling and door-knocking a lot of people who'd already voted.

by desmoinesdem 2004-12-04 07:59PM | 0 recs
Re: what organizing structure?
Why couldn't we have a website and post the info?  As long as the people know where to go, we wouldn't be violating any campaign laws because they are getting the info themselves.  Only problem is we would have to leave the info out for the GOP to see...but it may be worth it to take advantage of the 527 laws.  Of course, there is a good chance the 527s will be modified some way by 2006 based on some of the rumblings I have seen from the GOP.  I know some are a bit pissed we out raised them.  
by yitbos96bb 2004-12-05 01:39PM | 0 recs
Re: what organizing structure?
In our own county (not among the districts you mentioned) we had a great precinct leadership structure in place but the state-organized Kerry campaign made a total mess out of it. It wouldn't share data or help anyone plan, so people were used very inefficiently. The organizers were from outside the county and didn't know it well, and made poor resource allocation decisions. It wouldn't have helped to bring in a 527 or other organization, as that would just add to the confusion. In hindsight we should have just refused to cooperate, and run the GOTV effort locally.

The lesson is that whoever recruits the precinct leaders needs to be ready to follow all the way through and run the GOTV. Everything in-between would also be included, such as building community, keeping people motivated, and raising money. In effect, you would be replacing the county party organization. If that's the case, wouldn't a better alternative be simply to run for county party offices, taking over the infrastructure already in place?

by pdt 2004-12-05 08:56AM | 0 recs
where?
where are you?
by Carl Nyberg 2004-12-05 09:26AM | 0 recs
Sunday, December 5
Chicago Lulu posted at dKos:

A question a lot of us have asked in the last month is "What's next?"
I'm sure we have all spent time thinking about how to address the
consequences of November 2's outcome. To that end, we have been
contemplating the next steps that will make sense for NSubILKerry
(North Suburbs and Northern Chicago for Kerry). As a group based
in Chicagoland, we can have the greatest impact in this region. Yet
at the same time, we want to change the national direction. We will
have more to say about the future of NSubILKerry in January after
the holidays.

******
*
"WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?"
*******

On Sunday December 5, there will be an informal discussion on the
next steps for the progressive movement, hosted by the Democratic
Party of Evanston and Schakowsky for Congress. There will be a
number of speakers, including our own Daniel Dennison. If you are
interest in discussing what the next steps are and getting involved,
please plan on attending this event RSVP to president@dpoe.org

Here are the details:

Sunday December 5
"WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?"
Informal Discussion
4:00 PM at 303 Dodge, Evanston

by Carl Nyberg 2004-12-04 04:45PM | 0 recs
Precinct workers
Congratulations on this idea.  It brings us back to our roots as a party and as activists.  

As a Chicagoan, I agree that our main House priorities for '06 should be re-electing Bean and defeating Hyde.  Do you really think we have a chance against Kirk, or even Biggert?  I thought a lot of Lauren Beth Gash, but she didn't even come that close to Kirk when that was an open seat.

Maybe this gets at the issue of nationalizing the election.  If we point out to voters that their moderate GOP Congressperson is supporting Tom DeLay as Majority Leader ("Your Congressperson supports Tom DeLay's extremist agenda"), maybe we can pick a few of these off.  

by rayspace 2004-12-05 03:40AM | 0 recs
a chance against Kirk?
Yes, the right candidate running the right campaign can beat Kirk (and Biggert). It may be a two-cycle process like beating Crane, but it can be done.

Both these two are weasels in their own right. I wouldn't get complicated and try to tie them to DeLay with "low attention" voters. I'd make the case that they are opportunists. Their statements and actions that are designed to project "moderation" are cynical calculations so they can do what's necessary to acquire power. Sorta reversing the way the GOP portrays Dems waffling or evolving opinions as being cynical.

But even if the Dems don't win it will be easier to convince Kirk and Biggert to break with party leadership if they are getting lots of contacts on an issue from a district-wide precinct organization.

BTW, from what I hear Gash was a strong candidate that ran the wrong campaign. The national Dem consultants pushed her to raise money and run banal TV ads. It took Gash out of her forte of retail politics and discussing her legislative record which included many respectable accomplishments. Instead they had her sitting on a bench with her mom on TV and talking about prescription drugs. Wrong campaign for the wrong district.

by Carl Nyberg 2004-12-05 07:07AM | 0 recs
IL13
I live in IL-13 and while I think we could do much worse than Biggert, I think she definately might be taken down.  Anderson had no DCCC support to my knowledge and she still got a decent amount of the vote (45% I think?).  If we get a candidate in there and SPEND some money, Biggert is challengable.  I for one would volunteer to be a captain in my precint.  I know of more and more Dems everyday (growing up it was All GOP and my family for the most part), so I think good organization and having the captains in place could win the seats.  Good Job.  I am glad you are targeting Hyde and not Hastert...I'd love to get rid of Hastert from a party standpoint, but I think he is pretty well entrenched unless he gets embroiled in a scandal.  Anyway, email me and let me know what I can do.  Yitbos96bb at Yahoo dot Com.
by yitbos96bb 2004-12-05 01:23PM | 0 recs
Re: IL13
Andersen got less than 40%.
by Carl Nyberg 2004-12-05 07:02PM | 0 recs
Re: IL13
I saw a different figure.  Maybe the site was mistaken.
by yitbos96bb 2004-12-08 06:19PM | 0 recs
It was
http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004//pages/results/states/IL/H/13/index.html

Biggert (Incumbent) 200,472 65%
Schor Andersen 107,836 35%

by Geotpf 2005-03-01 06:32AM | 0 recs
feedback
I think having a paid precinct organizer in each precinct to work with volunteers and be on the ground all the time is good and would be effective.  I think you need more focus on what people will be organized around and how this person will work with the different issue constituencies (union members, etc.) already in the district.  One thing to deal with up front is that door knocking is both the most effective and most expensive tactic for getting people out to vote.
by Steve P 2004-12-05 04:02PM | 0 recs
Precinct organizing thoughts
I've had the job of putting together precinct organizations in various campaigns several times in the last 15 years.

My experience is that one paid organizer can supervise, motivate, and keep productive between 15 and 25 volunteer precinct captains for the duration of a 2 month campaign. The quality of the operation depends on the quality of the organizers AND the quality of the voter data furnished them to work with. (Unhappily, my experience is that GOP data is much cleaner and better targetted than Dem data.)

These were much more short term operations than you seem to be contemplating, but I think that if the Dems (or other appropriate structure) would fund a) an adequate data system and b) organizers on approximately this scale, a lot of work could get done. Perhaps enough to win or seriously challenge.

by janinsanfran 2004-12-05 08:37PM | 0 recs
Lauren Beth Gash, first step
I thank Lauren Beth Gash for sending this out to people.

I think the first step is to set up a group block to begin the coordination of the project.

Who wants to be part of the group managing it?

Also, you are invited to visit Blogging Blagojevich's Blunders.

by Carl Nyberg 2005-03-22 07:34AM | 0 recs

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