We REALLY did it! IEB and the Blue Wave

We did it!

That was the cry — half delight, half relief — that all progressives expressed on Election Day 2018 … when it became clear that the Democrats would retake control of the House of Representatives.

But those of us in Indivisible East Bay could have more accurately exclaimed: “We really did it!” That’s because, over the final months of the campaign season, we engaged in a major push of canvassing, phone-banking and text-banking, all with the goal of flipping several key Republican positions. When the dust settled (which took almost two weeks to do, with one race still undecided), the results proved how spectacularly effective we had been.

IEB canvassing in Sanger for TJ Cox
Carl, Fiona & Ted canvassing in Sanger for TJ Cox – that’s TJ between Ted and Fiona!

To see for yourself, take a look at what happened in five important races where IEB put muscle into flipping seats from red to blue (note: races listed with CA- followed by a number were for the US House of Representatives; the number is the Congressional district):

  • Josh Harder, CA-10. We worked hard for this Congressional seat in CA-10, the flippable district geographically closest to the Bay Area. IEB members phone and text banked, and some traveled to the district to canvass. Initial results had Republican Jeff Denham, the incumbent for the past two election cycles, in the lead — and pundits were already giving up on Harder. But the race remained officially “too close to call.” Then on the Friday after Election Day, with mail-in and provisional ballots skewing Democratic, Harder pulled ahead and stayed there — resulting in a huge upset victory. The margin was narrow (50.9% to 49.1%) but we won!
  • TJ Cox, CA-21. If the current vote margins don’t change, this nailbiter may be a heartbreaker. Spurred on by Team Blue Wave Contra Costa organizer Kook Huber, IEB strongly committed to getting TJ Cox elected as CA-21’s representative to Congress, a rural heavily-Latino Central California district where Republican David Valadao is the incumbent. We canvassed in this district as much as or more than anywhere else. The race was unofficially called for Valadao on election night, but ballots still continue to be counted and the lead narrowed and keeps narrowing. While still considered a long shot, there is a real chance for Cox to pull out a victory. Currently, Cox is less than 1,000 votes behind Valadao, with around 22,000 votes still to be counted. Whatever the final outcome, there is reason to feel good about this race. In 2016, Valadao bested his Democratic opponent by 13 percentage points; this time around, the difference should be razor thin, perhaps within 100 votes! We’re headed in the right direction.
  • Harley Rouda, CA-48. This was perhaps the biggest shocker — and most welcome — of all the California races. Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher has represented this deeply red Southern California district for three decades! Known for his pro-Russia views and solid support for Trump, he was at the top of the list of Representatives we most wanted to oust. IEB sent postcards, text-banked and phone banked on behalf of challenger Democrat Harley Rouda. It worked! In the end, Rouda bested Rohrabacher by more than 5 percentage points. Postscript: With victory now declared for Gil Cisneros, the Democrats have swept all seven Orange County House seats!
  • Jacky Rosen, Senate, Nevada. IEB was approached by our sister Indivisible, Indivisible Northern Nevada, which asked us to join their highly organized Issue Voters Project focusing on Washoe County, which encompasses Reno. Led by IEB’s outreach team co-lead Toni Henle, we made a huge push via phone-banking and especially with canvassing, including knocking on doors in Reno for the final weekend before the election. The result was incredible: Washoe County, formerly solid red, turned blue and went for Rosen over incumbent Dean Heller by 4 percentage points! It was the key result that led to Rosen’s ultimate state-wide victory. Making the win even sweeter, this was a race where Trump got personally involved, derisively referring to Rosen as “Wacky Jacky.”
  • Kyrsten Sinema, Senate, Arizona. A Hollywood screenwriter couldn’t have scripted a more thrilling ending to this race. In Arizona, a traditionally red but increasingly purple state, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema was challenging GOP candidate Martha McSally for the Senate seat currently held by the retiring Jeff Flake. Democrats believed they had a real shot to win this. But on the first days after the election, the situation looked grim as McSally built a seemingly insurmountable lead of more than 20,000 votes. Then came the surprise. By Monday November 13, after mail-in votes were tallied, a stunning reversal occurred. With a turn-around lead of more than 38,000 votes, Sinema was declared the victor — despite Trump’s and the GOP’s attempts to muddy the waters with baseless claims of voter fraud. This is huge! Sinema will become the first Democratic Senator from Arizona since the 1980’s. Once again, IEB contributed to this success via several phone-banking events.
Phone banking for Kyrsten Sinema
Phone banking for Kyrsten Sinema

The bottom-line message couldn’t be more clear: what we do can make a difference. It definitely did make a difference in 2018. But there remains much work to be done. There’s still time to help Mike Espy win the Senate seat in the Mississippi special runoff election on November 27. And it’s not too early to start building the Blue Wave that will take out Trump in 2020.

GOTV workshop offers basic training for recruits

Deadline: today and every day until November 6 –

Our simple goal: encourage and train more people to get involved in phone banking and canvassing — especially critical as we shift to the final GOTV (Get Out The Vote) phase for the less-than-a-month-away midterm elections.

The problem? Many people are reluctant to volunteer for fear they don’t have the needed skills or knowledge.

The solution: offer a GOTV workshop to provide skills, practice, and motivation. So that’s exactly what Indivisible East Bay did — with generous assistance (and a free lunch and amazing snacks!) from Indivisible National — on October 14 at the El Cerrito Community Center. Without much time to plan and promote we were a tad nervous, but the well-oiled IEB machine went into high gear, the stars aligned and, other than the usual tech hiccups, by the time the event began all was well and the more than 50 attendees were ready for action!

Roll call

As we took our seats after lunch, Indivisible’s California State Director Zacharie Boisvert (the day’s moderator) got the ball rolling with an ice-breaker. At each table we all took a few minutes to say why the upcoming election was important to us. One person from every table later repeated their answer to the group, which effectively summarized how high the stakes are for the midterms, and got us all motivated to take to the streets … and phones.

Zacharie & Bobby (Indivisible National) and Nancy (IEB). Photo by Ted Landau
Zacharie & Bobby (Indivisible National) and Nancy (IEB). Photo by Ted Landau

Next up, Indivisible’s National Organizing Director Susannah Hook-Rodgers asked: “Let’s assume we win at least one house of Congress in November; what do we do next? What should be our highest priorities?” We had no trouble shouting out a long list of answers. At the top was protecting voting rights since everything else we hope to accomplish is in danger unless we ensure that all eligible citizens can exercise their right to vote. Other priorities: climate change, racial and economic inequality, preventing GOP efforts to dismantle government agencies, and campaign reform to limit dark money. We also agreed that we need to make Indivisible more inclusive — and National has to take the lead here by continuing to build ties with major groups around common interests.

All hands to battle stations

Which got us revved up for the main event: GOTV actions.

It’s called GOTV because during these final weeks before the election we pivot from trying to persuade undecided voters to making sure that likely supporters get out and vote! As for how best to accomplish this, the presentation showed that one-on-one interactions, canvassing and phone-banking, are much more effective than other voter contacts.

Zacharie and Indivisible National co-presenter Bobby Michaels went over a typical phone-banking script and explained how the precise language helps elicit a positive response. In fielding our questions about potential problems, the duo addressed many of our common concerns. For example, in response to the question “What if a respondent wants to know about a candidate’s positions and I’m not sure what they are,” Zacharie emphasized that we didn’t have to know everything and could refer people to a candidate’s website. He also reminded us that GOTV is focused on getting people to vote rather than discussing the issues. IEB’s outreach team co-lead Toni, who has been organizing phone banks into Nevada, noted that she always checks online for specifics about a candidate or district before making calls.

Finally, time for hands-on action! As a dry run we role-played phone calls in pairs — and then the real thing: an hour of live phone-banking to voters in CA-10. As usual with phone banks we ran into a lot of no-answers and disconnected phone numbers, the latter helps clean up the list. Most of us had a few great conversations with voters, and that’s what keeps us going!

gotv training 001 20181014_154956b 640

Next, Kook Huber of Team Blue Wave Contra Costa made a convincing plea for volunteers to canvass in the “very flippable” CA-21. Her inspiring presentation segued into our final request for everyone to sign up for canvassing and phone-banking opportunities in the (now only three) weeks ahead. Attendees left charged up and inspired about the critical importance of canvassing and phone banking, and about their own ability to join in — we were all ready to GOTV!

What to do if you missed the workshop

Couldn’t join us for the training? Don’t fret – you still can (and must!) join the GOTV effort. We list dozens of upcoming opportunities to canvass and phone bank on our calendar, and they all include mini-training sessions with experienced members who are ready to help you.

This is not a drill! Call to action at All Member Meeting

It’s crunch time friends … the home stretch … now or never. Choose your metaphor, the fact is that the 2018 midterm elections are only a month away! If you’re angry about the current state of our country, the Kavanaugh debacle and other horrors (and if you’re reading this we assume you are), we have the only remedy: TAKE ACTION! Have you thought about volunteering, but you keep coming up with reasons not to do it (you’re too busy or it makes you too uncomfortable or whatever)? Well, NOW is the time to get over it and put your name on a sign-up sheet. There’s too much at stake to sit on the sidelines.

After the Judiciary Committee farce, oh sorry hearing, to take Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, we saw what citizen action can do. A call for immediate protests at Senate offices led to Ana Maria Archila‘s and Maria Gallagher’s momentous elevator confrontation of Jeff Flake, which in turn led to the Senator’s intended vote for Kavanaugh turning into a call for an FBI investigation before the final vote. The GOP and the Current Occupant reluctantly but quickly agreed — despite days of claiming that this was both not possible and not needed. Think about it: what if Archila and Gallagher had decided they were too busy, or it was too hard, or that they were powerless to effect change anyway? Kavanaugh might already be on the Supreme Court. Never underestimate what any one of us can do …

And that brings us to the Sept. 30 Indivisible East Bay All Members Meeting, where we spent almost the entire time strongly urging (we ain’t too proud to beg) members to do something, anything, in the weeks leading to the November 6 election.

The very least you can do is vote, and make sure everyone else you know also registers and votes! To emphasize this, the meeting opened with the Kesha video Here Comes the Change which effectively dramatizes that the “future is voting.”

Next, California Democratic Bay Area Field Organizer Titus Lin got the ball rolling with a plea for people to phone bank and canvass to flip two of the closest, most critical and winnable Congressional districts in California: CA-10, where Josh Harder is the Democrat running against Jeff Denham, and CA-21, where TJ Cox is running against incumbent David Valadao. Titus noted that while we hope to defeat Devin Nunes in CA-22, especially given his behavior as a Trump-lackey on the House Intelligence Committee — the odds are low enough that our priorities must be elsewhere.

Then, Kyoko Takayama of Organizing for Action made a passionate case for door-to-door canvassing as the most effective way to reach voters. Yes, it takes considerable time, energy and resources. But it works. People’s minds get changed. Kyoko explained that the best results come from focusing on people who have not voted in recent elections. Getting them to vote has the biggest effect on increasing voter turnout. Kyoko pointed us to an OFA video that’s a good bootcamp for people who haven’t canvassed before.

Team Blue Wave Contra Costa organizer Kook Huber spoke about how critical it is to flip CA-21. Located in the southern half of the Central Valley, it’s a rural district, relatively poor and with a 71% Latino population. Why do we believe it’s so flippable? Because, despite having a Republican incumbent, there are more registered Democrats (47%) in the district than Republicans (30%). Once again, the key is voter turnout. We’re hoping to encourage people to vote by mail, circumventing the voter suppression efforts by farm owners in the District. To accomplish this, canvassing is critical. Kook said there will be canvassing opportunities every day (!) between now and the election.

Kook Huber at September 2018 All Members Meeting, photo by Toby St. John
Kook Huber, photo by Toby St. John

IEB’s outreach team co-lead Toni Henle reminded us there’s much work we can do in our neighboring state of Nevada, especially phone-banking and canvassing to defeat incumbent Senator Dean Heller. Currently, Heller and Democratic challenger Jacky Rosen are in a race so tight it’s considered a toss-up. Toni explained that our phone-banking efforts with Issue Voters of Northern Nevada have been focused on “unaffiliated” voters, as these are considered the most persuadable to tilt towards the Democrats.

To help IEB members who are hesitant to volunteer because they’re unsure what to say, presenters took to the stage for role-playing demonstrations. Caitlin Patterson from Sister District and IEB’s Ted Lam showed how canvassing might go in CA-21 — with Caitlin confronting three different types of respondents all played by Ted. IEB’s Tom Janci and Toni role-played phone banking on behalf of Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat running for the US Senate in Arizona.

September 2018 All Members Meeting, photo by Heidi Rand

The meeting also included announcements about a few issues, including an alert by Saadiqah Islam from the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights that the Center has demanded that the Alameda Board of Supervisors conduct an independent audit of Sheriff Ahern.

The meeting ended with break-out sessions so members could sign up for and ask more in-depth questions about our phone banking and canvassing events. Most members also wrote postcards to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, thanking her for her bravery and giving her support.

Postcards to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, photo by Andrea Lum
Postcards to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, photo by Andrea Lum

Don’t make us beg, if you haven’t stepped up yet it’s time to do your part. Here’s how you can help:

Canvass With Swing Left in District 21

By Dave Halsing

Editors’ note: The information in this article is presented by Swing Left East Bay, one of IEB’s community partners.

Swing Left East Bay is an all-volunteer group that connects East Bay residents to events aimed at “flipping” House seats in nearby Congressional districts in the November 2018 election: electing Democrats in districts that currently have Republican representatives. Swing Left East Bay volunteers focus on canvassing, a high-impact method to connect with voters by knocking on doors where registered Democrats and unregistered voters live. Our primary goals are to provide information and increase voter awareness, registration and participation. Because our ultimate goal is to win elections, we target “flippable” – that is, winnable – Congressional districts.

Bay Area volunteers are focusing mainly on California Congressional districts 10 (CA-10, Modesto) and 21 (CA-21, Fresno County). Both are represented by Republicans who are fully committed to the destructive Trump and Republican Party agenda, and Swing Left and other Democratic activist groups have been working in both. Because CA-10 is closer to the Bay Area it has gotten the most attention, but since we must win in CA-21 (only 3 hours away) to retake control in Congress, we’re ramping up our work and calls for volunteers there. 

PLEASE SIGN UP TODAY TO JOIN SWING LEFT EAST BAY IN CA-21!

Canvassing is THE MOST EFFECTIVE strategy to flip Republican districts to the Democratic column. Most first-time canvassers find it rewarding and fun, and easier than they thought it would be. The canvassing app we use with tablets or smart phones guides our conversations and records all responses. The data is uploaded immediately, so it can be shared with other groups to get the most out of our interactions and avoid duplicating efforts. We train you on-site right before you start, and will pair you with an experienced canvasser if you want. 

Volunteers have the option to meet up in the East Bay and carpool to the canvassing location. Many volunteers choose to spend a night there between two days of canvassing, but that’s not required. See more details on carpooling and lodging options below.

Note that while we have a real need for canvassing volunteers in general, we’re especially looking to increase the number with a working knowledge of Spanish. PLEASE share this request with your Spanish-speaking friends and family members.

Our canvassing is working!

In a single weekend in mid-January, our group of 10-12 East Bay-based Swing Left volunteers knocked on 832 doors over one and a half days. We talked with 160 residents, a contact rate of over 19% – almost double the expected rate. We got approximately 40-50 pledge cards from people who said they are committed to voting for the Democratic candidate.

The likely CA-21 Democratic candidate, Emilio Huerta, was also out canvassing the neighborhood that weekend. We gave people information on Huerta, who learned community organizing and leadership from his mother, Dolores Huerta, the famed labor organizer and activist. A lifelong resident of the Central Valley, Huerta has deep roots to the community and is now a practicing civil rights lawyer. We also informed people about Republican incumbent David Valadao, including his negative voting record to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut corporate taxes, and his denial of climate change and opposition to same-sex marriage.

Upcoming Canvassing Events

Please visit the Swing Left CA-21 Calendar and sign up for a canvassing/voter registration event! Please RSVP so the host can schedule enough turfs and provide snacks and water.

In the details for each event on the calendar, you’ll find a link to a shared spreadsheet to sign up to carpool from the Bay Area (either as driver or passenger). Free lodging is available with 2 weeks’ notice (sleeping bags on a carpeted floor of a church that has offered to also provide breakfast if needed). The Hotel Piccadilly, 2305 W Shaw Ave, Fresno is a very good budget hotel option for ~$77/night. There are also Airbnb and HomeAway options available with other team members if you’re interested.

The next canvassing events include:

For more information, please contact canvassCA21@gmail.com

Dave Halsing is a project manager at an environmental consulting firm; his recent projects combine restoration, flood protection, and recreation in and around the margins of San Francisco Bay and other tidal areas in Northern California.