MONTE VISTA— The Colorado Democratic Party (CDP) is making an effort to improve the party with better communication and targeted activism, as a group of local progressive leaders learned on Saturday morning.
CDP Chair Morgan Carroll came to Monte Vista on Oct. 7, as part of these efforts to connect with Democratic voters, determine what issues voters are most concerned with and improve the party. Carroll opened by telling the meeting’s attendees, which included residents from Monte Vista, South Fork, Del Norte, Saguache and Alamosa what the state party has been dealing with over the last year since Carroll’s election to chair this spring, “There have been many sobering reminders with what’s been happening in D.C….we need to rethink the party…. We need your help.”
Carroll told attendees the CDP is focusing on their new, three-phase talent bank project, designed by Colorado volunteers famous for launching monster.com and the dating app Tinder, the volunteers donated hundreds of hours and saved the party over $20,000 in the talent bank’s design. The bank focuses on individual volunteers, who complete a profile of their interests and what volunteer work they’re interested in doing and are subsequently provided with targeted activism work meeting their interests and time limitations. Some possibilities include either writing letters, making calls to voters or elected officials on topics relevant to their interests or more immediate needs of party members and volunteers. “Real organizing is relationship building,” Carroll explained, adding the talent bank’s unconventional ways of looking for individual strengths has now given the CDP, and eventually will give county parties, access to volunteers who can improve their websites significantly, perform language translation in 13 different languages and has established child care services for party events, so participants with families can stay involved in meetings and other volunteer opportunities.
Voter outreach and reconciliation are also major goals for the CDP. Carroll explained there has always been a major drop-off in democratic voters between even and odd-year elections. The CDP realizes although most of the odd-year elections are non-partisan, school boards, city councils and other important local offices often have the most influence in the daily lives of constituents, hence why the CDP has launched its “Adopt a Local Campaign” efforts, which encourages local, county level voters to volunteer in a local election of their choice. “Democrats lose about one million voters between even and odd-year elections… and the drop-off is disproportionately on our side of the aisle,” Carroll emphasized how the Republican party is about “10 years ahead” of the democrats on organizing locally. “We’re not running with a blue donkey at the front of your local campaign,” Carroll clarified, “but we have an activist base that wants to get involved. Just pick one [local campaign]. Pick a candidate; pick a race, volunteer and vote!”
Del Norte School Board President Neal Walters was in attendance and explained the importance of their efforts to pass ballot measure 3A this November, the bond that will enable them to build a new BEST grant school. Walters emphasized he greatly preferred volunteers for this effort, informing voters about the necessity of the new school, over volunteers for his reelection to school board and he believes the rest of the school board, which has two seats on the ballot and three candidates for 2017, shares his view. Carroll added the CDP is willing to make their communications director available for advocating and promoting the bond and other local campaigns, including social media, email and press releases, if the Rio Grande County Democratic Party was willing to endorse it. Rio Grande County Chair Jesse Guerrero indicated the party was willing to endorse the campaign and Kevin Noland, Saguache County chair, added they had already done so for the Mountain Valley School District bond efforts also on the ballot this year.
Carroll also discussed the CDP’s “People-to-People” outreach program. “In 2016 the Dems missed the mark overall… We have to meet voters where they’re at; we need to listen to them and be relevant to them… We can’t afford to not understand what happened in 2016.” Carroll added the program is “an in-depth conversation with voters in Colorado, about posing the question, ‘If you could tell your candidates and elected officials anything, what would it be?’” This program will be broad, about themes and values important to voters. The feedback will be made available to campaigns at a later date but should in the meantime make the CDP, and later the campaigns, “more responsive, more relevant and better at governing.”
Monte Vista City Councilman and County Party Treasurer Joe Schlabach pointed out the divide between democratic groups, noting Rio Grande County also has two activist groups who are very active but “painfully absent from this meeting.” Schlabach asked how the CDP will work to mend party divides. Carroll stated she has seen that same problem statewide. The talent bank has provided mediators and facilitators to work on regional and county levels to find means to remedy the divisions and is working on 19 different outreach programs and is still looking for more opportunities, including expanding statewide initiatives, like the Latino Initiative or the Rural Initiative to include more local chapters, including Guerrero’s suggestion the SLV have a Latino Initiative group, so fewer voters feel unheard by the party.
Other attendees also suggested the CDP look at more heavily emphasizing messaging about economic issues because these have been the main concern of voters over the last two elections, yet the dialogue has long been dominated by conservatives. Carroll agreed, “…It’s a message people are ready to hear… we need to be focused on the pragmatic economic concerns of our voters.”