So you are a Democratic precinct captain in Virginia, now what?

The stakes could not be higher for Virginia Democrats. They have a real chance to take back both the House and Senate, and with that control of the redistricting process in 2021. Until last week things were looking very good for them. And then the floor collapsed under their feet. So now what?

One of the things I emphasize in my book is to concentrate on those things that are within your control. You cannot control if anyone resigns. Your only consolation is that none of these fools are running for office this year.

So if I were still a precinct captain in Virginia, my first step would be to consider who is running THIS year. This will be complicated by the fact that in many places the candidates are still sorting out who will be the nominee, the primary is not until June. In some cases there will be races where a Democrat has yet to step forward to challenge the Republican incumbent. But in general you know who your incumbent Democratic office holders are, you probably know at least who some of the challengers are, so you have some sense of the task before you.

Off year elections when there are no state wide candidates running are always the worst. It is the year when you have the fewest volunteers and the most candidates. You will have to support the campaigns for Virginia House and Senate, Country Board or City Council, depending upon your jurisdiction, school board, commonwealth’s attorney, clerk of the court, sheriff, soil and water conservation board, and possibly other even more obscure offices. It is difficult to generate excitement for campaigns for offices nobody has ever heard of. Yet these offices have far more direct impact of people’s lives than President. For issues like class room size, transportation, protecting the environment, police brutality, and so many other issues, it is at the local level that the decisions are made.

You next step should be to review the voting history of your precinct. I would pick the congressional race of 2018, the gubernatorial and house races of 2017, and the state senate and house races of 2015. Fortunately, in Virginia all the precinct results are available online at your local Board of Elections website.

The 2015 election is crucial, because that will be the most recent state senate election. If you have a Democratic incumbent you need to defend that person, if you have a Republican, then you will need to advocate for the challenger. Whichever the case, you need to look at the most recent state senate election. The 2918 congressional election will indicate your current strength. Whatever the case, you need to build your support. If your precinct came up short in 2015 and/or 2018 you will need to consider where to find the additional votes needed for victory. If you won in 2015 and/or 2018, you will want to increase your margin of victory.

Next you will want to contact Democratic volunteers living in your precinct. If you don’t know who has volunteered in the past, see if you can get a list from your committee. Right now might be a good time for a what do we do now meeting. It is crucial to focus on the issues important to the voters who live in your precinct. If classroom size is the issue your neighbours are talking about, than that is what you must focus on, likewise if people are upset about a pipeline, than that is what you must focus on. You job is to communicate to your neighbours how THIS YEAR’S Democratic candidates are going to address the issues that concern them. As far as you are concerned, no other issues exist.

The test of a good precinct captain is to remain focused when things are going badly and bad news is breaking. The party with focused volunteers is the party that will prevail in November.