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Getting out the vote in Bexar County

Stace pointed me to this Express News story about the Bexar County Democratic Party’s ground game for the November election.

Many factors influence the outcome of an election, and precise analysis is not always available.

But putting $600,000 into a get-out-the-vote effort can’t hurt.

Bexar County Democrats’ big victories in this month’s election surprised many political junkies. On election night, local observers were caught off guard when Democratic candidates fared well in the early vote, which previously has been dominated by Republicans. Democrats usually lose the early vote and gain ground on Election Day.


Trial lawyer and über Democrat Mikal Watts financed the effort this year, making it the most lavishly funded GOTV campaign ever mounted through [the Vote Texas PAC]. Watts had contributed $500,000 by the time the final pre-election campaign report was filed, and [Democratic operative Tom] Daniels said Watts gave another $100,000 in the final days of the campaign.

The operation circumvented the Bexar County Democratic Party headquarters and chairman, an approach pioneered by Daniels and Lukin Gilliland Jr. in the 1990s.

Adelante Strategy Group partners Christian Archer and Cuauhtémoc “Temo” Figueroa organized the effort on the ground. Notably, Figueroa was the National Latino Vote Director for the 2008 Obama Presidential Campaign. And he ran a 2010 grass-roots effort in Nevada for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, which became the model for the Bexar County program.

Voter contact began late last summer. The targets were 125,000 “soft Democrats” who voted in the 2008 Democratic primary but aren’t consistent Democratic voters.

Figueroa directed a team of 50 workers that went door-to-door for months. Phone banks also were used to push voters to cast early ballots.

Archer said more than 60,000 of the targeted voters cast ballots early.

“The idea is that now we’ve got a plan of attack, a way to win across the entire county,” Archer said.

I’m always interested in hearing stories like these, and I’m always interested in doing objective comparisons where I can. So here’s what the 2012 vote in Bexar County looked like versus the 2008 vote.

2008 2012 ===================================== Obama votes 275,023 264,856 Obama Pct 52.22% 51.46% Senate votes 264,969 256,629 Senate Pct 51.61% 50.46% RRC votes 259,698 244,016 RRC Pct 52.01% 48.74% Straight D 155,389 175,652 Supreme 1 246,637 261,297 Supreme 2 259,888 Supreme 3 271,228 CCA 1 267,182 250,486 CCA 2 261,312

The “Senate” numbers refer to Rick Noriega for 2008 and Paul Sadler for 2012; the “RRC” numbers refer to Mark Thompson in 2008 and Dale Henry in 2012; and the “Supreme” and “CCA” numbers refer to the contested Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals races for each year. So I suppose when I read this that I expected vote totals and percentages to improve over 2008, but as you can see that didn’t happen. However, perhaps that’s too tough a standard to apply here. The Democratic vote totals in the Presidential and Senate races declined between 6 and 7 percent from 2008 statewide, but only declined between 3 and 4 percent in Bexar County. (Mitt Romney got about 4000 fewer votes than John McCain, too, for what it’s worth.) In addition, Democratic candidates won 10 of 11 District Court races versus 8 of 11 in 2008 (two Republicans ran unopposed in 2008), five out of six Democratic candidates for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals carried Bexar County, and Dems held onto the office of Tax Assessor, which was open due to Sylvia Romo’s decision to run for Congress. They did lose the Sheriff’s race, but the incumbent Sheriff had some baggage and had to win a primary runoff, so I think they get a pass on that one.

In any event, the question to ask is what would have happened in the absence of this particular effort, and that’s a question I can’t answer. Of interest is the bit about how they bypassed the BCDP, which just goes to how dysfunctional things have been in Bexar recently. So I’d like to hear from folks in San Antonio about this. What’s your take on this story?

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One Comment

  1. RBearSAT says:

    Straight ticket voting really was big this year, helping carry a lot of Democratic candidates. Here’s my breakdown of the election based on county precinct and council district. I don’t know if it provides more information but, as you can see, voter turnout in the primarily Democratic areas wasn’t strong.

    You are correct that we are still in a dysfunctional state here in Bexar County. I don’t know what will get us out of this state but we just can’t seem to break down the issues.