Is this How The Progressives Muted the “Red Wave”?

Is this How The Progressives Muted the Expected “Red Wave”?

Sometimes the world is changed by unsung heroes. From the Democrat/liberal/progressive standpoint, I believe an unsung hero for them is HD. I had for many years wanted to talk directly to HD, but hesitated because I am a conservative pro-life Christian Republican activist. I didn’t think HD would be open to the conversation.  At one time, while serving as a local Republican county chairman, we had established a county party office in our city. That county party office happened to be right next to HD’s business office. HD’s business helped start some very unique ways of approaching elections.  It worked well in our small county as it was a great petri dish for experimentation. I knew prior to initiating a conversation with HD, pretty much what he had done but wanted to confirm things with him personally. For various parts of my work life in politics I’ve tried to mimic what HD did. Why?  Because I saw it at work. I saw it work to change my state from a purple state (one that could vote liberal one election and conservative another) into a solid blue state (in spite of the registration being 35% D, 25% R and 40% Unaffiliated, Oregon is considered dark blue). I know I had seen HD many times walking from his office as he left but I was always too hesitant and I never felt that we could have a conversation about the techniques he used. 

Finally, the other day, I called him.  We had a great conversation talking about what he had done. He was very open to my questions.  I’m sure he felt a lot freer to talk now since he’s retired. I started out by telling him that I thought he was the father of blue Oregon. He didn’t fully accept that as he thought that there were other people who worked on the project, but I knew that he was the main instigator of what had been done – the creation of a machine to turn out votes for progressive liberals, and thus change Oregon. HD told me how he had been working since the late 80s and 90s and kept working on the progressive/liberal voter identification and turnout process until he retired in 2009. At one time HD provided the state voter file for the State of Oregon and for 12 other states (if you have seen this database, it has far more information than GOPDATACENTER).

HD told me that it all started when he saw what he thought was a dysfunctional county party that couldn’t advance progressive issues.  HD encouraged others who thought like him to get involved in order to bring change. This allowed him to become county party chair. As chair, he realized that the most effective way to get people to do something is to appeal to them in person.  Of course, in order to appeal to people personally you have to start with a list. That’s why one of the critical things he did was to establish an online voter file that could be used to contact people, find out their “hot button” issues, and track that information for future use. He described how he studied sales and marketing, and the use of scripts – the scripts used by volunteers, and later paid people, to make phone calls to identify voters on their issues. During a non-election period, when doing voter identification work, a very enthusiastic response to a script would get the respondent on a list for making donations to help fund raise (during his years, his county raised and spent more money than any other Oregon County). Others would be recruited to volunteer.  During an election period identified people would be called to ensure they voted. People in cars were ready to go pick up their votes, if they were ready to do so. People on the list would receive calls or a knock on the door until they voted. Essentially, they would call over and over again, or visit, until people had voted. They developed plans to reach out to minority groups with phone calls and live visits to their homes. I once encountered this when a Hispanic woman came by our Republican Headquarters. From what I could gather she was being paid to make telephone calls to other Hispanic people.  She thought it was our party.  Finally, we understood that it was the local Democratic Party who had hired her and we sent her their way (we should have hired her to do that for us). 

HD expressed the fact that he had a long-standing opposition to vote by mail. But later he saw it as a critical part of success as they had much more time to work the list, ensuring everyone on their list had voted.  HD was pioneering the early steps of ballot harvesting.  During elections, they would bring in the highest percentage of voters, because they had worked consistently in non-election times to identify their voters. 

HD’s work in one county, that would have been a purple county, changed that county into a pure blue county, and then was replicated throughout Oregon.  The use of the online voter file, the identification of voters using various means (an ongoing process), the tracking of these identified people, and the direct follow-up with personal calls and visits, during an election cycle to ensure that their list turned in their ballots, is what turned Oregon from purple to solid blue.  In an article published in the Oregonian in 2010 called “Trent Lutz shifts over to Head Oregon Democratic Field Operation” it stated that Trent Lutz commanded a plan for Democrat get out the vote.  That plan was the extension of HD’s work.  You can read about this at: The plan is described as “The coordinated campaign is a joint effort of the party organization and the individual candidate campaigns (with such close Democratic allies as the labor unions also playing a key role).  As Lutz explains, the name of the game is ‘ground and pound.’  In other words, get your troops out on the street and get them knocking on peoples’ doors.” The Oregon Democrat Party used this “ground and pound” turnout machine to turn around control of the Oregon Senate and House.  In the 90’s and early mid-2000’s Oregon Republicans controlled the Oregon Senate and House.  Using the “ground and pound” turnout methods that started with HD in our County, Oregon Democrats turned around control of both houses.  I believe national progressive/liberals finally realized that their side could more effectively use the lengthened election day period around vote-by-mail to their advantage (generally 2 weeks) .  They saw that money given to those who executed the plan for voter identification and voter turnout (now called “ground and pound”), would be more effective than the longstanding, expensive air wave advertising that had historically been used (obviously they still spend money on this but they understand the importance of the ground game).    Conservatives must learn how to compete in this battle for prompting people to vote.  Oregon did try this in the 2010 election with great success.  Action Solutions conducted the work and will share more about what was done in future newsletters. 

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