Back in mid-November, Rochester Turning, a progressive blog I have taken to reading relatively frequently, posed an interesting question – what should they do now? I drafted and sent an email to Exile, one of the editors of RT and I outlined what I thought would be a way for the progressive blogs to help formulate and support the growing need for Democratic players in the 29th District of New York.
One thing to note – this is one tough District for Democrats. The gerrymandering that has occurred there almost makes it a balanced 51/49 district with the advantage going the way of Southern Tier. In the 2006 Election, where both Clinton and Spitzer enjoyed 70/30-like margins, the Southern Tier was not as friendly:
Clinton versus Spencer – 53% / 47%
Spitzer versus Faso – 55% / 45%
Kuhl versus Massa – 58% / 42%
As I said, a very challenging District. So, in answering the question, I drafted the following response (modified for this posting):
Democrats have always had a major challenge in the 29th since the gerrymandering from the Republicans have set up a balance between the Democrats of the North (in Monroe, Yates and Ontario) and the staunch Republicans of the Southern Tier. This is a difficult challenge for Democrats. Even though there is a bastion of Democrats in Monroe County, gerrymandering has cut through the heart of the Democrats and added the primarily Republican Southern Tier to balance out the Monroe communities. So, the key to winning is either to get-out-the-vote in Monroe County and/or increase the Democratic turn out in the two major counties of the Southern Tier – Steuben and Chemung.
The Southern Tier seems to value where you come from (not interested in out-of-state people coming in and establishing roots) and/or how long you have lived there (one of the Democratic County Chairs once told me that their family had lived in the county for over 30 years and the neighbors STILL thought of them as outsiders). They remember the past very well – and think of being part of the Republican Party as a badge of honor. Just because of a bad Administration does not seem to sway them from being Republicans or voting party line (look at the difference in returns for Hillary or Spitzer).
There are still some places it takes a long time to settle in – and the Republican fabric is in place, not because Bush is anything positive, but because Democrats are seen as negative and from “outside”. Remember that Corning (the company) is STILL there after these many years – even after the crash. Locals used to tell me stories of Amo Houton’s incredible generosity during the floods of the 70’s – how he drove around in a pickup truck handing out checks to people to stay. Farming and manufacturing is still in the blood – but many of the blue collar jobs have been disappearing and unions are not as strong a force as they once were (without the manufacturing base).
How to solve the problem: help the District build a machine The way to fix it? My suggestion would be to continue the build up of the “benches” in each county – local seats and positions that are “in play”- and focus on the long term build up of Democratic candidates. The three Democratic mayors are a strong start (Mayor Coccho in Corning, Mayor Shawn “The Dean” Hogan and the Mayor John Tonello from Elmira) but other seats (county commissioners, etcera) need to be built up as well. I remember hearing about the get-out-the-vote efforts by people in Yates and so on, but each of these efforts need the money to support it.
But to build up the benches, you need to build up the Democratic machine. The local Democratic County Committees do their best, but IMHO, they need more support from the NY State Democratic Party in terms of infrastructure and funding – $5K for them can go a LONG way in counties like Allegany and Cattaraugus. One of my efforts that I was discussing with the Cattaraugus County chair was building a fundraising program for each of the county chairs for their infrastructure (e.g. website, database of names and voters, email blast system, direct mail relationships for sending newsletters) to support the foundations of a REAL Democratic machine to reach all of the Democrats that are are in District.
You want a job for Rochester Turning? Build the Democratic support network with FiredogLake, Fighting29th and Rural Patriot along with other local and national bloggers to become the source of money and expertise in terms of technology for them. Fundraising and growth of mailing lists could be simple metrics you could directly measure – and then contribute to the DNC’s 50 State Plan. Working with each other to support the county committees is where you can make a difference far sooner than just in the last three weeks before Election Day.
But hey, that is just my $0.02. Value the advice as you see fit. And best of luck with your future.