Taking it to the streets
by Jon Mendelson
Aug 31, 2012 | 4166 views | 22 22 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Growing the grassroots
Laura Desousa (left) and Lloyd Dickinson talk with a resident in west Tracy as they canvass a neighborhood for Democratic candidates Jose Hernandez on Tuesday, Aug. 28.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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On a late Tuesday afternoon, campaign volunteer Lloyd Dickinson knocked on a Harvest Lane door in southwestern Tracy.

The 67-year-old who walked the quiet residential neighborhood Aug. 28 has canvassed for Democratic candidates since 2004, and was busy this week on behalf of the Democratic Club of Greater Tracy. Before walking up to the home, he guessed what he was likely to find.

“Finding people at home is always good, and that can be a little tough around Tracy,” he said.

There was no immediate answer. Even when the door eventually opened, it wasn’t the person Dickinson hoped to inform about a pair of candidates his club supports.

“Also very common — he wasn’t the person we wanted to talk to,” he said.

But the Tracy resident was undeterred, and turned to the next house on his clipboard-bound list. He continued to knock, door after door, until his roll was finished — because he knew his humble work could sway an election.



Growing grassroots

Dickinson is not alone in Tracy. Hundreds of volunteers for Republican and Democratic causes and candidates are making phone calls and knocking on doors as the Nov. 6 general election draws near.

According to University of the Pacific political science professor Keith Smith, who teaches U.S. government and politics and is closely following 2012 campaigns, local groups and volunteers have good reason to be persistent.

Grassroots campaigning, Smith said, is more important than ever.

“There’s only so much that mass advertising can get you, and the real mobilization effects are in the ground game,” he said Tuesday.

He said both liberal and conservative campaigns have learned from past elections that smaller, local organizations can have an outsized impact, even in national contests.

“I think the lesson from 2004 in the (President George W.) Bush-(Sen. John) Kerry race was you have to have really strong ground operations, so you can do the kinds of things to mobilize your voters,” Smith said.

He said people respond well to personal appeals — especially the kind Dickinson was trying to pitch.

“The effect of someone coming and knocking on your door and asking you to vote is significant,” he said. “Phone banking doesn’t work quite as well.”

Campaigns with more resources, he continued, use sophisticated data gathering techniques to identify voters who can be targeted for mailed literature, phone calls and in-person visits. Smith said those campaigns, in addition to the Republican and Democratic national campaign committees, often pass along their information to local volunteers, who supply the time and effort.

“The parties do (data gathering) and make it available to some campaigns, but there are lots of external groups that develop the databases and then sell them to the campaigns,” Smith said. “Depending on the money you have, (it can determine) who can buy the better database.”

Both Republican and Democratic grassroots outfits in Tracy are part of that sophisticated ground-game machine in 2012.



Republicans hit ground running

Alma Morley is the president of the Tracy Republican Women and co-founder of the Tracy Tea Party Patriots, local conservative groups whose members have flung themselves into the 2012 election spirit.

Morley became involved in grassroots efforts during the unsuccessful 2010 congressional campaign of Republican David Harmer, but she and the 50 or so core members of the Tracy Republican Women are as dedicated as ever.

She plans to host a Tracy Republican Women phone bank at her house Wednesday, Sept. 5, to help Rep. Jeff Denham, who hopes to represent Tracy south of Interstate 205 and Stanislaus County in the 10th Congressional District. He’s running against Democratic candidate Jose Hernandez, a San Joaquin County native.

Denham’s campaign, Morley confirmed, has helped her group by providing lists of prospective voters her members can call and supplying the phones they will use.

“Our main goal is to help candidates, as well as to educate people about Republican values,” she said.

By club estimates, 20 or 30 people regularly walk precincts hoping to promulgate what Morley considers to be conservative causes: traditional marriage, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, limited government and fiscal responsibility.

She said getting out and talking to people carries special impact.

“For the most part, we’re getting very positive response, not only from Republicans, but independent, decline to state, even Democrats,” she said. “The grassroots efforts are always better than just paid (advertising), because most of the people that do this believe it. That’s the huge difference between grassroots and paid staffers.”

Morley and Tracy Republican Women membership secretary Monica Diaz both said their membership is highly motivated — not only by the presidential campaign pitting President Barack Obama against Republican challenger Mitt Romney, but also by campaigns up and down the ballot.

In addition to backing Denham, the local Republican groups are boosting Ricky Gill in his 9th Congressional District campaign against Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney, a contest that will decide who represents Mountain House and Tracy north of Interstate 205; and Assemblyman Bill Berryhill in his race for the 5th State Senate District against Democratic Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani. The group is also supporting Tracy City Councilman Bob Elliott in his quest for the county’s 5th Supervisor District against Tracy Planning Commissioner Rhodesia Ransom, though that race is technically nonpartisan.

“Now we’re hot and heavy, we’re in there helping everybody we can,” Morley said.



Democrats on the campaign trail

Like its local Republican counterparts, the Democratic Club of Greater Tracy and its 50 core members are busy boosting candidates from the level of supervisor all the way up to Congress.

And they’re also receiving help from other local campaigns, according to Mitch Oster, who works for the California Democratic Party in San Joaquin County.

Dickinson’s Tuesday canvass was aided by information submitted by Hernandez, a former astronaut who looks to unseat Denham, a farmer and first-term congressman.

While Dickinson prepared to hit the streets, Oster was busy training about 20 volunteers who were set to make phone calls in support of Ransom and Hernandez.

“There’s only 70 days until the election, including Election Day,” Oster said Tuesday, stressing the importance of convincing voters and enlisting volunteers before he handed out scripts for phone calls.

Only Dickinson and Laura Desousa volunteered that day to pound the pavement. Usually, Oster said, there are more people who want to go door to door and rally support for Democratic causes and candidates.

“The reality is, person-to-person contact is more intimate,” Oster said.

He and Democratic Club President Linda Jimenez said the group also put emphasis on registering new voters, especially within the city’s Sikh community.

“That community really hasn’t had a voice, and we are registering new voters and individuals who have just become citizens and want to vote,” Jimenez said.

“It’s one of the joys of the political process,” Oster said of registering someone for the first time. “I don’t even know if (they’re registering as) a Democrat or not.”

Whether by educating people about a candidate, by registering new voters or by informing voters about the new district lines adopted in 2011 by a citizens committee, Jimenez said her organization has been dedicated to reaching out at a person-to-person level.

“We’re phone banking every day,” Jimenez said. “Canvassing really didn’t stop (since the primary election season.)”



Motivated to man battle lines

The social aspect is one reason many participate in grassroots outfits.

Frank Aquila helped found the South San Joaquin Republicans in 2005 and said the group is a clearinghouse for Republicans in the south part of the county to mingle, exchange ideas and meet candidates. But the intangible benefits of the organization he described are true for any party affiliation.

“It goes beyond just getting people elected. You establish friendships, and then you can speak for a cause,” Aquila said. “People feel like they make a difference. You still can make a difference on a local level.”

But political motivations are also a prime factor.

Individuals identifying with both the Republican and the Democratic grassroots groups said the presidential election added extra energy to their organizations and increased the number of people volunteering.

“When we’re in a presidential election, a lot of people want to come out and help,” Jimenez said.

She said the Democratic Club of Greater Tracy has seen a significant bump in volunteerism in 2012, a trend Morley also sees with local Republican groups.

Many are motivated by a perceived battle of values.

Aquila sees this year’s election as a struggle for the future, and he sees San Joaquin County as a gate between what he described as a more liberal Bay Area and a more conservative Central Valley.

“Where the battle lines are drawn, is right here in San Joaquin County,” he said.

According to the San Joaquin County registrar of voters website, the county’s voter split is virtually a dead heat between the two main parties.

Forty percent of registered voters identify as Republican, 41 percent identify as Democratic, 3 percent choose a third party, and 15 percent choose no party affiliation whatsoever.

The 10th Congressional District is a similar statistical tie, as 40 percent say they are Democrats and 39 percent say they are Republicans, according to the California secretary of state website.

The 9th Congressional District, which includes most of San Joaquin County and some of the East Bay, trends more heavily Democratic, 43 percent to 37 percent.

Aquila said he and other GOP-aligned groups in the area are trying to limit a government — especially on the state level — that has overstepped its constitutional bounds and dug the citizenry too deeply into debt.

“People don’t realize as (the government) keeps pandering to more and more people, … well, soon, the government is going to be in full control of the people, and that’s not what the base of the Constitution is about,” he said.

Diaz of the Tracy Republican Women added it’s also about the specific candidates and the values they represent.

“This is our opinion … we need to replace Jerry McNerney,” she said. “He doesn’t really represent San Joaquin County — he kind of represents over the hill. He really doesn’t understand agriculture. … You need to have people understand this community.”

Democrats are also motivated by what they see as the best interest for local communities and the country. According to Jimenez, many seniors have volunteered since Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was named Romney’s vice presidential running mate.

They’re concerned, Jimenez said, that a Romney-Ryan administration would privatize Social Security and eventually turn Medicare into a voucher system, the latter of which is a plan Ryan advocated in a recent budget proposal.

“I’ve had a number of seniors volunteer, saying, ‘This is my issue,’” she said.

Jimenez also said volunteers expressed concern that reforms to health insurance and health care championed by Obama would be overturned by a Republican-held White House.

Oster said he’s encouraged by the slate of local candidates running on the Democratic ticket this year and said they all have a shot to win their respective races.

“I think we’re competitive,” Oster said. “We know we have good candidates, and they’re going to appeal to a broad spectrum of the people.”

The challenge for both sides is familiarizing people with those various candidates — a challenge that makes grassroots campaigning “extremely important,” in the words of Jiminez.

“It gives you the opportunity to introduce a candidate they’re not aware of,” Jimenez said.

Smith said both parties would do well to strengthen their local outreach as Election Day draws nearer, because elections can be won or lost based on which campaigns can get more of the less politically motivated voters to cast a ballot.

“If you’re not a strong partisan, the civic duty arguments don’t really work that well,” Smith said. “What works is someone coming and telling you that, ‘Hey, it’s important to me that you vote.’ That social aspect.”
Comments
(22)
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writeitinaletterinstead
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September 04, 2012
It annoys me too. We had the inner city youth come knocking on the door too and nobody bothers to read the "no solicitors" sign. I told them I will not vote them just because they can't read. They did not like it and tried to hand me some literature instead. I closed the door and shook my head then I went to the hardware store to see if I can find a camera and an intercom. Anybody know where I can get a video conference system like that? I want to tell them off from the comfort of my own couch.
Sneaky
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September 01, 2012
These kinds of folks annoy the crap out of me. They run around breaking a basic rule of civilization: dont knock on my door or call me if I dont know you.
rayderfan
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September 01, 2012
Have you put up a sign on your door that says "No Solicitors"?
shelly13
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August 31, 2012
rayderfan - you are absolutely right. People need to educate themselves on all levels of govt. Knowledge is power. My frustration has been with people who blindly vote along party lines. I know, I used to be one of those people. I now try to get as much info as I can to make an educated decision that I feel is best for me, my family, my city , my state and my country. Are my choices always right? Nope. But I refuse to go in blind anymore. I know many people who are giving up and not voting. I totally understand it. This election I will most likely not vote for a President/VP. I don't feel strongly about either/any (in a good way). So I will vote on the rest of the ballot and let the pieces fall where they may regarding the Prez and live with it without complaint.

My hope for the future is that we find find that one guy/gal who blows our socks off. Who really has a plan for this country that we can all come together on. Someone who when voted into office actually puts that plan into action. Am I asking too much? Is it just a pipe dream? Maybe.
rayderfan
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September 01, 2012
I agree. I used to be one of those people too but over the past three or four elections I have found that both parties (Rep & Dem) are out to slander each other and control everything. It is no longer about what is best for the country, or the city, or the county; it's about which party can seize power to further their own blanket agenda.

I would like to think that most voters are smarter than that, and many are; but unfortunately there are still many who vote strictly along party lines and never do any investigating. This city, county, and country are going to continue to decline until we get past party politics and get back to what's best for the general populace.

shelly13
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August 31, 2012
Hmm the only other thought would be that you know who I am. In that case I think I know who you would be. If right then I know you are just messing with me and you know that I love you anyway! :)

Either way I am done with this conversation. Goodnight. I actually have some work to do tomorrow. Hate to shatter your image of me. Lol
shelly13
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August 31, 2012
Nice realgoodmemory: Just keep slinging the crap. I can take it. My first knee jerk reaction would to be to tell you what an ahole you are. It might be how you are probably short, drive a tall truck with big tires to compensate for your small mind and small male appendage. But I would never say that because I don't know you and I'm a nice person. I would never assume to tell you how you are a loser who also surfs these blogs and attack people without provocation while sitting on your ass eating some fried pork skins and drinking your Bud Light. Nope, I would never say that because it would be mean and not really serve a purpose other than making myself look bad.

So here is what I will say: You come across as an illiterate bully. I have made my stand clear on many of the political topics at hand in previous posts. I have also given suggestions for change. I do not feel it necessary to entertain you and repeat them or to actually respond to you any further. You are either a simple bully or maybe someone who is simply trying to get my goat and lure me into a fight. Not going to take the bait.
TomBenigno
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August 31, 2012
Realgood memory:

Thanks for mentioning my name in this quest to find truth in politics. My half witted idea caused Elliot and Ransom to have this run off, we are going to experence this election year. Both my opponets did not support the canal and now they will lose votes because of the flood insurance issues. Lets keep fighting until we get it RIGHT.
shelly13
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August 31, 2012
Gee everyone I wonder who realgoodmemory really is? Could it be one of our longtime abusers is back? I think so. Welcome back!

I do believe that my vote either way will not count. But I encourage everyone to go to the polls and vote for whomever they feel is best for them. I feel that neither candidate is best right now. That is my opinion and my right as an American to say so. That does not mean I speak for others. I know there are many like me who are frustrated from one side to the other. I think if we could all come together and find a candidate with the Independent, Green Party or anyone else who could make change happen that would be great. But I have researched those guys too (while I'm sitting on my ass eating Cheetos) and they aren't too great either. So my choice is to vote for the lesser of two evils or not at all this time.

Also let me clarify that I will be a the polls because there is more to vote on than just the Presidential race. Don't just follow party lines. Really research who and what you are voting for.
shelly13
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August 31, 2012
Silly me got suckered in again:) I don't really like Cheetos!
shelly13
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August 31, 2012
Wow - realgoodmemory: Who is the lunatic? I must have hit a nerve. You're funny. Thanks for the laugh. I won't argue with you because ya can't argue with stupid.

Go to the polls people. Vote for who you think is best on any side. It is the American way after all. I just wish we weren't so polarized along party lines. It truly is not good.

shelly13
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August 31, 2012
PS for those of you more level headed people who can agree to disagree in a civil type of way - you may have seen me suggest ideas I have had for change in the past in these blogs. Whether you agree or disagree I have posted ideas. Maybe not all great, but it's a start.

That's a good idea. Instead of talking liberal/conservative and/or pointing fingers and calling names here, I would love to hear what suggestions y'all have for change. I think we can all agree there does need to be some sort of change. I'm talking changes in law. Changes in policy. Changes that can make a difference and bring this nation back to it's glory. Real changes not just rhetoric.
ChrisRoberts
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August 31, 2012
America is done.

China is the new empire.

Why bother voting. These politicians only care about lobbyists and other business who finance their campaigns. It's all a big joke sheeple.
shelly13
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August 31, 2012
I agree
rayderfan
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August 31, 2012
It is the voters responsibility to read everything presented in the media and make an educated decision on how to vote.

We can blame the media, or individuals for pushing an agenda but ultimately, "you" the voter pull the lever regarding who you choose.
shelly13
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August 31, 2012
The problem is that no matter whuch lever you pull it really doesnt matter cuz we will either get a Republican or a Demicrat. No one else will ever get a chance. Therein lies yhe problem. We have been railroaded folks. The tracks lead to nowhere good.
rayderfan
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August 31, 2012
I understand what you mean shelly13. That's why we need more people to get educated on the candidates instead of taking a passive role and letting whom ever get elected.

We need to extend voter education to the local level too. That is where people can have the most effect on their daily lives.
RedHotChilliPeppers
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August 31, 2012
What you see happening in America is a division along the gay agenda. You have newspapers who want to push that agenda and newspapers who would rather not sensationalize the gay agenda. You will see the same thing play out in the national media, especially during the presedential elections.

You even have Billy Nie the scientific guy going political. These days you cannot escape it.
doors17
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August 31, 2012
How we vote depends on our own personal experiences in life. It doesn’t make anyone right or wrong, or good or evil.

I agree with you shelly13, it seems today that only the extremist from each side has a voice. As a registered Democrat, I don’t always agree with the party’s platform on every issue. I believe in the death penalty, support harsh penalties for those who break the law, and strongly support the need of our military and especially those who put their life at risk for all of us, and to the veterans who should have an unlimited support for life in whatever needs we can help as they helped us. I also know several Republicans who are pro-choice on abortion, and believe that gays should have the same rights to marry.

Perhaps much of the blame of each side sticking their tongues out at each other goes to the cable news stations and talk radio. All they really care about is generating ratings for higher advertising revenue in order to secure themselves higher paying contacts. We’ve seem to have turn our news into entertainment. I’m afraid the days of William F. Buckley, James Kirkpatrick, Eric Sevareid and John Chancellor are never coming back.
RedHotChilliPeppers
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August 31, 2012
You're right shelly13 and I also do not see how we can ever come together when our journalists are feeding us one side or the other, depending which side of the fence they fell off of.

There aren't many journalists left that can discuss both sides of the issue before they make nice with their editors.

And all the scool of thought teaches journalists to salivate at any chance to pander to their editor's special interests.

This happens so frequently that most joirnalists probably do not even realize what they're doing.

You're right though, I believe this, as benign as it might at first seem, is highly divisive mechanism when used against us, while the coutry, as you rightly put it, "goes down the tubes."

shelly13
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August 31, 2012
Blah blah blah, liberals do this...conservatives do that. I am so sick of all the political division in this country. There are good and bad points on both sides. We need to come together as Americans. Until we stop pointing fingers at the other side, it will NEVER happen. Our country will continue to go down the tubes.
RedHotChilliPeppers
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August 31, 2012
You know it is a liberal newspaper when they publish only two pictures of people who are not democrats.

Then publish ten or more pictures of democrats and start the article out by talking about the Tracy Dem club. Again.

It's all they know.


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