This week our #BlueWaveInterview is with Laurel Davila in Southern California. You can find her on Twitter at @laureldavilacpa. Since the last election, Laurel has become a local powerhouse and we had a great conversation about grassroots organizing and what she sees as the key to turning out our voters.
Here is our interview.
Let’s get started. Were you politically active before 2016?
I wasn’t terribly active but had done some presidential phonebanking and attended a few local events. I certainly had issues I cared about, such as income inequality.
What did you start doing after the election?
I started to go to the local (Democratic) club meetings once a month and found more ways to get involved. As I got more involved, things started to happen. Opportunities appeared. At some point, you do need to learn to prioritize.
Getting involved locally is the key. I recommend people go to their state’s Democratic party website, find your county and then look for your local clubs from there.
When you say you’re involved locally now, what exactly does that mean?
I have become incredibly passionate about being a neighborhood organizer and want to encourage more people to become one, too. You’ll likely find that different counties have their own way of expressing the same concept — precinct captain or ambassador, for example.
I am now the Chair of Grassroots Organizing Committee for Democrats of Greater Irvine, and the Regional Organizer for Grassroots Organizing Democratic Party of Orange County. We strategize every week.
Wow. Through your strategy sessions, have you gotten a sense as to why, historically, Democrats haven’t had great turnout in midterm elections?
You know, I think there are people who are just too busy to get involved with politics. They might be working two jobs or facing challenges or just have their hands full. They don’t have time to figure this stuff out. And I think we can be of service. We need to go to them.
This is why neighborhood organizing has such power. We can quite literally set up the next generation of engaged Democrats who vote.
So, how do we move the needle? Especially before November 2018.
Just as the GOP uses their church infrastructure to connect with their voters, we can do something similar but model it on neighborhood organizing. Here’s one fact about Democrats — we love food and we love to talk about politics.
Getting folks together over social events — a pancake breakfast, or a BBQ, or whatever — is a way you can provide them with a community, and with friendships that they otherwise wouldn’t have.
To do this, you need to be involved in your own districts. It takes slow, steady persistence. We need to be doing this year in and year out, but now is a good time to start if you haven’t already.
Some of the folks you bring into your community will want to get more involved and make a difference. You can help them do that. Remember, someone who actively engages and helps out in some way, is a person who will definitely vote.
That makes a lot of sense. Your county is pretty well-known for being heavily Republican. How is your outreach to Democrats going?
There are a lot more of us who are engaging in these grassroots activities and events for the first time. In my area, Democrats are getting a call or knock on the door from fellow Democrats — often for the very first time!
We get a lot of thank yous. They are grateful to know that they aren’t the only Democrats in the neighborhood. They’re also thanking us for getting organized early!
For those who might just now consider getting involved with their local Democratic clubs, what else would you like people to know about them?
One clear benefit when you get involved locally is that you have the chance to meet your elected officials. Oh! That reminds me, our club is about to hold a straw poll for our members.
A straw poll–can you tell us how that works?
For starters, it is another opportunity to listen to our candidates’ pitches. Then you can be a more educated voter. The straw poll is for members, including new members, and for the positions of Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and U.S. Rep.
When folks arrive, we will verify their membership and registration, and give them a prepared ballot in an envelope. We will have two minute speeches by candidates or a stand-in for the candidate if they can’t come in person.
Then the members will mark and fold their ballots, and put them in a box. The membership Chair and members of the Board tally the results and then project them onto a screen so we can all see.
The straw poll allows me, as a Regional 18 Club Representative, to be able to confidently vote on behalf of my club at the pre-endorsement conference for California.
You’ve clearly gotten so much out of being involved locally. What’s next for you?
Well, we are focused on trying to flip four seats in Orange County. The way I’m going to make that happen is to be the friendly face of the Democratic party, and inform and educate our fellow Democrats in the region.
I’m also going to keep recruiting others to do the same. Every Saturday, my husband and I are opening up our home to be a base for canvassing events. Swing Left is posting my events so new folks can find them.
When we meet and inform our fellow Democrats, it is really important to use empathetic listening. We need to listen to where they are coming from. I think the beauty of the Democratic party is that while we won’t agree on every point, we are still a family.
Do you have any final thoughts or advice for our readers?
You know, you don’t have to be an extrovert to do this work. I have two introverts who just wanted to help by doing data entry, and now they are two of the best canvassers I have!
I know you can do this. Reach out to me — I will help you. No matter where you are, you’re not going to be doing this work alone. You will find people who have the heart and passion you do, fellow Dems who are FIRED UP, and will be right there in your community. Go connect with them.
POSTSCRIPT: I want to thank Laurel for sharing her story and encouraging each of us to get more involved with our local groups.
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