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A word with Bird

The Observer interviews Jeremy Bird, the head honcho of Battleground Texas.

Texas Observer: Why Texas? Why not Battleground Georgia or Battleground Indiana?

Jeremy Bird: One reason is staffers from Texas, whether it’s organizers in battleground states who are from Texas or just the people in our organization who had either worked in Texas during the primary and had experience there or are actually from there, they’ve got a tremendous amount of passion to go back [to Texas] and work. I’ve heard it over and over again. I would talk about Texas in presentations whether we were talking about the maps and the battlegrounds and how we get to 270 as a long-term ambition, and people would come up to me later and say, ‘Hey I want to be a part of that long-term thing’, even though we’d barely mentioned it. It was sort of an aside. So I was struck by that.

The second group of people are our volunteers in Texas. This really started back during the Two-Step, back in the primary days. The folks there were incredible. The size of our email list in the campaign. The amount of work they did in the primary. What they did in ’08 and then watching their work in 2012, it’s a very motivated group of folks who did a lot of work. Whether they were in El Paso driving up to Las Cruces, New Mexico knocking on doors. Or, in Houston or Dallas or somewhere else making calls into Florida or Colorado, the sheer value of what they were doing was impressive. When we did big days of action on health care or something there’d always be a disproportional number of event happening in Texas versus the size of our staff. I think that led me to believe this was something that was possible.

The third group of people is our donors, whether they’re grassroots donors online who contributed in pretty massive numbers or the great community of donors in this state that are really active. Same thing, I’d be at meetings talking to the national finance committee and there’d be a lot of Texans there and be excited that I’d mentioned Texas in my presentation and want to make that real.

The people in the world where I’d been working really wanted something like this. I also think the sheer size; Texas can play a much bigger role in our national politics. It’s on policy issues and politics. Everybody there knows that.


TO: Do you have an idea of how you show proof of concept at the local level; do you have particular areas you’re looking at, or particular races or candidates in mind at this point?

JB: We’re going to be figuring that out over the next couple months. One thing I’m really interested in is at the county level. I think there are a lot of counties you’re starting to see shade blue. There are some particularly interesting county races. I mean, you can’t gerrymander a county.

One of the great things about a place like Virginia, 10 years ago if you had said Virginia will be a purple state people would’ve said you’re crazy. But they started to slowly do it and they had some great statewide candidates to help them along the way. But also throughout the process they were building stronger data, which made everyone stronger in terms of the database. And just building on every local thing. Even when they lost, they were stronger when each of those races was over in terms of the long-term vision. And that’s what we’ve got to do.

Go read the whole thing, because he’s definitely saying the things that I’d want someone in his position to be saying. The point about how much folks here have done for other states, and how much they want to be able to do that same thing for their own state is a strong one, and one reason why this effort should not be underestimated. Bird’s point about how much effect the simple act of having someone personally ask people for their vote has on turnout is another thing to keep in mind. We’ve been wondering for years why turnout in Texas, especially among Latino voters, isn’t as high as it is elsewhere. Maybe Battleground Texas will help us learn the answer to that. Finally, the bits about county races and trying to show some measurable progress next year are music to my ears. I so can’t wait to see these guys get off the ground.

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