This week our BlueWave Interview is with Pam Rickel in Texas. Want to know how fired up Democrats in Texas are? Pam, for one, has taken “getting involved” to a whole new level!
Here is our interview.
Let’s get started. Were you politically active before the 2016 election?
I was born a Democrat and have been involved in some political activities over the years, but never as involved as I am now. I did some phonebanking for the last 3 presidential elections, and had sporadically attended local party meetings.
Tell us about what you did after the election.
The 2016 presidential election devastated me. It left me feeling guilty. Had I done enough? There was no way I could watch the inauguration. I wanted to get more involved but honestly, I didn’t know what to do.
I decided to start by attending the next meeting of my local party. It was amazing. Over 400 people attended; it was standing room only. In the past, I had felt like the only Democrat in the county.
But on this day, people from all walks of life, some with their children in tow, kept flooding into the room. I felt that we were all there searching for a beacon. We were coming to the lighthouse. I left feeling hopeful and energized.
When I learned that a club was forming in my neighborhood as a subgroup to our county party, I attended their next meeting. Afterwards, my husband and I became members.
Later, I was invited by a friend to get involved with a Texas Democratic action group. They were assessing candidates for the upcoming elections, which was fascinating.
What factors do you look at to assess candidates?
We looked at a lot of variables to determine any one candidate’s chances of getting elected. We reviewed the election data to see how many red/blue votes there were in our precincts, the number of registered voters, how flippable the district is, etc.
That sounds really interesting. So what is it going to take to get them elected in Texas?
I really do think it comes down to getting organized and being involved in the local party structure. Every county will be structured slightly differently. In our county, we have precinct chairs for each of the 94 precincts in the county.
A precinct chair is responsible for organizing various local activities such as knocking on doors and talking to our voters. Right now, we’re asking folks if they would help us by volunteering, registering folks to vote, or get out the vote.
My county chair approached me and asked me to consider becoming a precinct chair, and I agreed. I dove in head first without a clue as to what that involved. I was sworn in last month. I’m getting trained now.
Congratulations! Now that you’re a precinct chair, what happens next?
The precinct chairs meet monthly at someone’s home and we brainstorm a variety of issues, such as which segment of our voters we should approach in the next month, and what goals we are trying to achieve in the short-term.
I’m pretty sure I’ve attended more meetings in the past year than I have in my lifetime. My new friends and I work together from our kitchen tables and living rooms to organize, phone bank and fundraise for our democratic candidates.
We support and encourage one another. Some lend their technical skills while others perform data entry or public relations. We all bring what we have to offer to the table and combined, we have a feast.
Are you involved with getting more eligible voters registered?
Absolutely. In fact, I just recently became certified as a volunteer deputy registrar in order to register people to vote. Texas has made it very difficult to register voters.
The voter suppression we face here is significant and affects voter registration. As one example, if you’re disabled or in a nursing home, getting your ID in order is difficult to accomplish.
I think it is critical that we elect more people who will fight voter suppression from all angles. This is one of my top priorities.
I couldn’t agree more. From the sound of it, you’re also helping with individual candidates, right?
Yes, I am. I do those activities separate from my work as a precinct chair. I’m working with two candidates now, because I’m really inspired by them.
We did a “block walk” last weekend — that’s where we focus on doors of folks we know have voted and ask if they’d like to volunteer for the campaign or would be willing to put up a yard sign. We ended up knocking on 100 doors.
One additional benefit to doing these block walks is to remind folks, especially here in Texas, that they aren’t a unicorn. There are, indeed, other Democrats in their community.
“You’re not a unicorn.” I’m smiling, but do recognize how important that must be in a state that’s been red for a long time.
It is important. We all know that incumbents, especially in Texas, have money pouring in to their campaigns. But in the end, they need people to vote and that’s why this grassroots work is so important.
I know our work in the neighborhoods make a difference. As one example, earlier this year I got to know someone who leaned Democratic in their views but was essentially, a non-voter. Today, they are one of our lead precinct chairs. How inspiring is that?
That is awesome. What else do you find satisfying about this work?
I work full-time so it can seem like drinking out of a firehose sometimes. But I keep envisioning my candidates taking their oath of office. And every time I get someone to engage for the first time, it is so energizing.
A few months ago, I was introduced as an activist. I had never had anyone call me an activist before then. Compared to the candidates I’m working with and the campaign managers and other volunteers, I wasn’t sure I deserved the title.
I’ve gotten even more involved since then. Does this make me an activist? I’m still not sure but I have no intention of stopping any time soon.
Do you have any last words of advice for us?
We all need to support each other in this work. Get out of the house, go attend a local Democratic meeting, and cheer each other on.
You’ll feel more a part of what is going on across the country when you are surrounded by people who have the same goals as you. Keep fighting the good fight!
POSTSCRIPT: I want to thank Pam for sharing her story and reminding us how impactful it can be to be involved with a motivated group of people in your local community. You can find her on Twitter at @_h_Dawg.
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