Volume 74, Number 9 | June 30 - July 6, 2004

Talking Point

The color purple: Kerry backers target swing states

By Ed Gold

Despite the summer weather, the vacation season and an urge to get away from it all, many Villagers along with other residents of Lower Manhattan, are focused, on the main goal: the termination of George Bush’s lease on the White House.

Kerry supporters in our area are engaged in a wide variety of efforts to achieve that goal, calling for the like-minded to join them in this worthy cause.

Here’s a sampling of some of the activities now underway or in the planning stage:

* Village house parties to raise money and energize Villagers for other Kerry election operations.

* Bus trips to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, in locations where activists can actually go door to door in old-fashioned retail campaigning to find supporters, help in registration and add to the growing army of volunteers.

* Major phone operations to so-called “purple” or swing states — between 18-20 in all — with a focus on Pennsylvania, Washington State, Florida, Iowa and Ohio, using the most sophisticated phoning techniques, and with the help of extensive phone banks, such as those available at Local 1199.

* Club tables to help in registration and in enlisting volunteers. Union Sq. and Washington Sq. Park are two notable locations. Downtown Independent Democrats is tying the Kerry message to its judicial delegate petition drive.

* At the Village Reform Democratic Club plans are afoot to participate in protests during the upcoming Republican convention.

Several singular events give heart to the campaign and indicate how widespread the effort to replace Bush is:

For example, District Leader Keen Berger reports that in the East Village waitresses at a pub decided to contribute one day’s tips to the Kerry campaign. At the “Beat Bush” operation, headquartered at Village Independent Democrats, a group of senior women are writing letters to their counterparts in Dade County, Fla. — remember Florida? — in an effort to sell the Kerry candidacy, maintain a dialogue until the election and generate local activism there. Brad Hoylman of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats Club notes that a united gay effort in the community recently raised $7,000 for Kerry. And the Stonewall Democratic Club is planning a bus trip next month to Florida, visiting black churches, to help insure that all eligible blacks protect their right to vote this time.

Berger, who won a notable district leadership contest last year, has set up a Village operation to harness as much community support for Kerry as possible. She has retained a coordinator, William Stricklin, who worked in her district leadership race. Under the heading of “Beat Bush Coalition,” Stricklin is coordinating many Kerry activities in the Village, including house parties, campaign tables, bus trips and phone operations, and is tying in with other independent Kerry operations that serve a broader audience.

He has just organized his first house parties, which aim to raise money and line up volunteers, but he expects to refine techniques as the summer progresses.

“In our first parties, people volunteered their homes and essentially did all the inviting — friends, neighbors and political associates,” Stricklin explains. “But we’ll provide more help for future parties. When we have a location we’ll produce pertinent election district printouts so we can notify all Democrats near the party site about the event. It’s a growing process.”

He has also discovered that about half the people who visit campaign tables live in other states. “We need to make sure these people who favor Kerry are registered and get out to vote, “ he emphasizes.

Stricklin has contact with an independent pro-Kerry operation called Citizen Action of New York — www.volunteer2000.org — which is coordinating many of the busing and phoning projects. The person in the political hot seat is Jesse Dixon (212-523-0180), who brings technical know-how and passion to the campaign effort.

He’s particularly proud of the phone effort, which draws volunteers from the Village and elsewhere. Phone banks are in play five nights a week, and the aim is to survey voters in swing states and try to locate the undecideds. Citizen Action is employing a state-of-the-art technique that Dixon calls “Web-based predictive dialing” resulting in 20 contacts an hour, which he says is about three times the traditional dialing effort.

Dixon has his eye on a major national phone effort. “We need to go after single women,” he says. “Do you know there are 22 million in this country who are not registered to vote!”

Yes, he has dealt with the “Beat Bush” operation in the Village and expects the collaborative effort to increase as the campaign moves forward.

Another interesting Web site (kerryvillage.org) run by Adam Rich, serves as a clearinghouse for a range of campaign activities including fund-raising, street activity and outreach to purple states. “We’re going after people who don’t know what to do but want to help Kerry,” Rich explains. “Our Web site tells it all.”

Democratic District Leader Arthur Schwartz pinpoints the lesson learned from the 2000 election. “The electoral vote is the key, not the popular vote. We don’t have to worry about New York because the polls show Kerry winning with 65 percent of the vote to Bush’s 35 percent. So of course we must focus on the purple states.” He plans to get out a mailing to his own list of supporters, asking them to volunteer at Citizen Action, whose efforts are devoted solely to helping Kerry in the swing states.

Money, of course, remains important no matter where it comes from. Kerry remains conspicuously behind Bush in fundraising despite setting records for a Democrat. For those who can afford $250 or more there’s the bash at Radio City Music Hall on July 8, which had to be postponed because of the Reagan funeral. You can get tickets through Ticketmaster at 212-307-2172.


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