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November 02, 2004

Virginia Democrats: First Update From The Boiler Room

The staff here at Democratic Party of Virginia headquarters has been here since 5 a.m. Krispy Kremes have been devoured. Coffee percolated and consumed. And every phone line we have is in use as we speak.

My phone rang at 5:05 a.m.--my friend Dan Drummond, the Fairfax city chairman, called to tell me he had finished putting up signs at his precincts. "I'm like a kid at Christmas," he said, reporting that no Bush/Cheney signs were in sight.

As I write this, polls have been open now for three hours and 21 minutes. By all accounts, it looks like Virginia will have a voter turnout of historic proportions. My boss's brother, who lives in Caroline County, reports a 40-minute wait in line to vote. There have been some spotty glitches, but otherwise things seem to be going smoothly across the state. Our phone has been ringing off the hook with people calling in requesting a ride to the polls, and our rides coordinator, Abbi Easter, and three of her volunteers have been on the phone nonstop for the last two hours. No voter will be left at home without a ride, from what it sounds like.

If you haven't voted, please remember to do that ... expect long lines, and be patient. I'll be heading back home in a little while to vote and pick up my mother, who will spend her second Election Day here helping out at party HQ.

A real excitement is building. Dan Redwood, our amazing volunteer coordinator from Virginia Beach, emailed us last night to say that someone passed on to him that some internal polling in D.C. showed Kerry beating Bush in Virginia by 1 percentage point. My last phone call last night was from a reporter at the Virginian-Pilot, who asked if we had photos of our Democratic electors. Everyone, everywhere seems to be preparing for victory.

On a personal level, I'm feeling good. Really good. Yesterday I started thinking about this long, long journey. I staffed my first event related to the primary in June of 2003, when Joe Lieberman visited Richmond. Sixteen months. The fight for an early primary...our Sign4Nine petition drive...our most successful Jefferson-Jackson dinner with four of the presidential candidates...our Feb. 10 primary, with a record-setting 400,000 voters who participated in that election...our visits from John Kerry and John Edwards, which started way, way back in 2002...our state being targeted as a battleground for the first time ever...incredible state and national conventions (thank you, Aaron Mahler, for your amazing photography work)...our amazing local committees and their efforts (especially Lynchburg, which will always be near and dear to my heart, thank you, Rob Daniel and Sara Parker!)...our grassroots groups (thank you, Eric Graves and Heather Bridge), the Deaniacs, the progressives (thank you, Robin Crane), the people who stood on boiling sidewalks registering voters standing in line for "Farenheit 9/11,"...my wonderful MeetUp group in Richmond and elsewhere (thank you Mike O'Neill, Lee Williams, Morgan O'Leary, Bob and Nita Jones, Dan Redwood, and Kurt Navratil in Roanoke, Rick Howell in Amherst, Jan May in Staunton, and so many others across the state who made MeetUp the phenomenon that it was and is)...the Virginia veterans, those amazing veterans, Rick O'Dell and Paul Sullivan and others, whose ongoing sacrifice for John Kerry in this election's ground war made me weep with gratitude and helped inspire me...an amazing coordinated campaign effort.

From Day One of this campaign, we've been determined as a staff, as a party, led by our Governor, Mark Warner, to make Virginia competitive for John Kerry and John Edwards. As Lindsey Reynolds, our executive director, is fond of saying, "Don't tell Virginia Democrats it can't be done." With few exceptions, the Virginia media has spent much of this campaign comfortably perched behind its collective desk, talking to the pundits, watching the polls and reporting that absolutely nothing has been happening in Virginia. All the while, we have been working. And working. And working. You can't tell the 64,000 people who signed up to volunteer in Virginia that nothing is happening, that there is no campaign. You can't tell our grassroots activists who stood on street corners to register voters that nothing is happening. You can't tell our phone bankers and door-to-door canvassers that nothing is happening. You can't tell the 330,000 new registered voters that nothing is happening. We know what "no campaign presence" means here in a presidential year. In 2000, we had one paid staff person in Virginia. This year, there were as many as 33 and currently about 15. Six regional headquarters. Hundreds of thousands of phone calls made...thousands of signs distributed...50,000 bumper stickers handed out in the first two weeks our coordinated office was open in Richmond. Blink and you miss it? I don't think so. We haven't missed anything. We've been here all along, working our collective asses off.

Regardless of who wins--and I feel good about Kerry's chances today--Virginia Democrats can hold our heads high. "No retreat...no surrender," goes the Bruce Springsteen song. We never retreated...never surrendered...we did not cede Virginia to George Bush and the Republicans. We have victory within our grasp today.

Go, Kerry, go!

Posted by laura at November 2, 2004 08:32 AM