Our Game Plan for Turning Garfield County Solidly Blue
As the Garfield County Democrats, we are working to elect open-minded, forward-thinking leaders at every level of government—including school boards, board of county commissioners, state level candidates, and our CD3 representative. Given the current political landscape of our county, we know it’s going to take a strong, strategic, long-term plan to achieve that goal.
We are one of the few Democratic counties in Colorado that conducts extensive voter data analyses after every election. Our analyses from recent years have identified four main groups of people that include large numbers of left-leaning voters who are not (yet) voting:
- Latino voters (Latino voters make up the largest pool of potential voters to target)
- Young voters
- Progressive unaffiliated voters in the east end of the county
- Democrats and moderate unaffiliated voters in the west end of the county
Research from the Colorado Democratic Party concluded that there are an estimated 87,000 Latino community members in Congressional District 3 who are eligible to be voters, but have not yet registered. Given that 10% of the Latino population of CD3 resides in Garfield County, there are likely thousands of Latinos in our county who are eligible, but not yet registered, to vote.
Our 2022 analyses also found that there are a large number of voters across the county who voted for Democratic candidates for state-level positions and Republican candidates for county-level positions. If just 10% of those voters had, instead, voted for Democratic Commissioner candidate Ryan Gordon, he would have won his election.
Our Game Plan includes specific strategies to reach each of these groups of voters and steadily increase the turnout for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot over the coming years.
In developing these strategies, we have been inspired by Democratic leaders like Stacey Abrams who recognize the need for Democrats to engage with our communities year-round, election years and off-years; the importance of investing in the inclusion of community members who are typically absent from the political process; the power of grassroots organizing; and the evidence that committing to a long-term plan can make a profound impact over time in red-leaning regions.
Our plan is also informed by a growing body of research on:
- The power of relational organizing. Research has confirmed what we know intuitively, that it is those who have a trusting relationship with a voter that can have the most significant impact in terms of whether and how that person votes. (NYT: What if Dems tried real outreach; NYT: There is a better way; Medium: Future of the Field; Politico: If we do this right)
- A messaging framework that resonates with both moderate and progressive voters and is effective at both persuading the middle and energizing our base. (Merge Left; Race Class Narrative; Anan Giriharadas; Anat Shenker-Osorio; Words to Win By podcast)
Drawing on all of the research above, we have developed the following Game Plan, including some innovative projects as well as more traditional ongoing efforts. We need your support in order to put this plan into action. We invite you to join us!
Elements of the GarCo Dems Game Plan
The Latino community represents a major potential voting bloc in Garfield County. If Democrats are going to garner the Latino vote, we need to make a significant investment in listening to and working with our Latino community members. Thanks to some very generous donors, we raised the funds to hire a full-time Latino Outreach Director to launch this initiative in the spring of 2022; we are currently working to fund Year 2 and 3 of this project.
Since May 2022, our Latino Outreach Director Trinity Stebleton has been hard at work connecting with Latino community members door-to-door, at community events, at Latino-owned businesses, and via social media. She is building relationships; listening to people’s hopes and concerns; informing people about elections, the political process, and the importance of holding our elected officials accountable; helping people see the connections between their day-to-day concerns and Democratic-led legislation; sharing the fundamentals of what the Garfield County Dems stand for; registering people to vote; encouraging civic engagement -- including running for office; and recruiting and training new community leaders who will encourage political engagement among people in their own social networks.
Social media is the most powerful tool we have for reaching the large numbers of left-leaning voters in our county under the age of 30, of all ethnicities, who neglect to vote. A significant portion of young people already consume their news via social media and use social media to share and discuss their opinions with others (source). While this generation already tends to be passionate about issues such as racial justice, reproductive freedom, gun safety, and climate change, they also tend to be skeptical of politicians’ ability to address these issues. According to this Harvard Kennedy School poll, about 42% of 18 - 29 year olds believe that their vote “doesn’t make a difference.”
Through creative and engaging content and interactions on social media, we hope to begin shifting this perception about voting among young Garfield County voters. We currently rely on volunteers to manage our accounts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We are working to raise the funds to hire a professional social media expert year-round to manage organic posting and interactions across these platforms, as well as paid advertising campaigns to reach a larger audience and build our community of followers, targeting both registered and unregistered voters.
Modeled after the Nebraska Dems Block Captain Program, we have adopted this innovative structure for grassroots, neighbor-to-neighbor organizing. Each Block Captain volunteer commits to reaching out to left-leaning voters in their own neighborhood three times each year. They share a flier provided by the GarCo Dems that includes information about upcoming events or elections, as well as ways to connect with our local party.
By connecting regularly with their left-leaning neighbors, our Block Captains often become the kind of “trusted messengers” that have much more influence on voters than an advertisement or contact by a stranger. Also, having volunteers canvas in their own neighborhoods and become comfortable knocking on doors when it’s not election season has enabled us to develop an effective and efficient team of outreach volunteers far ahead of each election.
We hope to expand this program and recruit more Block Captains so that we can reach a greater number of voters, including the “ticket-splitters” who are willing to vote for Dems for state-level candidates, but have not yet been convinced of what Democrats can deliver at the county level. In order to support and grow our program, we are working on raising the funds to employ the same political data firm that supports the Nebraska Democrats Block Captain program.
Voter Registration Efforts
We are conducting voter registration efforts throughout our community by sharing information at Colorado Mountain College campuses and high schools as well as local organizations, events and businesses. Voter registration is a continued focus of our Latino Outreach Director’s work as well.
Our Candidate Recruitment/Support Committee is actively seeking qualified individuals who would consider running for office. We need candidates for positions at all levels of governments, including school board, county commissioner, sheriff, county treasurer, and others. Currently, all nine of the elected county-level positions are held by Republicans – we know that does not represent our county. We are in the process of developing a local candidates handbook to make it easier for people of all backgrounds to run campaigns and win elections.
Holding Elected Officials Accountable
We are researching and documenting the ways that Republican elected officials, from our County Commissioners to Representative Boebert, are working against the interests of working people and families in Garfield County. Projects have included publicizing the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners' spending of county funds to defeat statewide measures to protect our air, water and public lands, and block efforts to hold oil and gas operators accountable for the environmental messes they leave behind. We also publicize Calls to Action on specific issues to make sure all elected officials are serving our interests.
Engaging on Everyday Issues
Families and working people across Garfield County share much more common ground than many think, specifically around values that Democrats fight for. We are engaging with our community on issues that impact the everyday lives of people across the political spectrum, including wildfire safety, housing, and childcare.
We send digital newsletters to our supporters approximately twice/month during non-election season and more frequently as we approach elections. We include information about upcoming events, current issues, candidates, and opportunities to get more involved in our community and our county party. We currently have about 1,500 subscribers and we are working to grow that number.
Maintaining our Website: garcodems.org
We have also created a Spanish version of our website: es.garcodems.org
Monthly Columns in the Post Independent
GarCo Dems Chair Debbie Bruell writes a monthly column in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, a free local newspaper that is distributed throughout the county and read by about 76% of county residents each week. You can read past columns here.
Outreach Circle Digital Relational Organizing
Friends connecting with friends is the most effective way to influence voters. A simple message from a friend saying, “I voted. Have you voted yet?” has been shown to improve voter turnout by as much as 20%! Outreach Circle is the tool that the we are using to make it easy for friends to reach out to their network of friends. We encourage all of our supporters to sign up.
In order to operate work more efficiently and effectively, we have developed a database that includes useful information on all of our volunteers, donors, and supporters from past and present years. We're continuing to recruit and train tech-savvy volunteers to help develop and maintain this database.
We need to raise additional funds in order to maintain our Latino Outreach program, hire a social media professional, and expand our Block Captain program. We initiated our monthly donor campaign in 2021: Every Day Dem campaign. Monthly donations enable us to invest in long-term strategies like those listed above which are so critical creating significant, lasting change. We are seeking more volunteers to join our Fundraising/Finance Committee.
We organized two fundraising events in 2022: a virtual event in January, Zoom to a Brighter Future with the GarCo Dems and in-person party and fundraiser in May. Our 2023 Spring into Action party and fundraising will be held on May 21 at the Homestead Bar & Grill in Carbondale. We also organize Meet & Greet events with candidates and elected officials; and regular gatherings, like our annual Summer Picnic, for our supporters to get to know each other, enjoy the company of like-minded friends, and learn about how they can get more involved with the GarCo Dems. We are seeking volunteers to join our event planning team and donations to our silent auction for our May event.
There are many different ways that people can help out. We have a great team of volunteers and we are always looking for more people to join us! Email us for more info: email@example.com
Caucus, County Assembly, and Reorganization Meeting
Each County Democratic Party in Colorado is required to organize Precinct Caucuses, County Assembly, and County Reorganization meetings as part of the process of engaging voters and electing Democratic candidates onto the ballot. Caucus and Assembly occur in March each even-numbered year; Reorganization (or Reorg) occurs in February of each odd-numbered year.
Maintaining a Positive Presence Throughout Our Community
We engage in projects to get out into the community and improve our public spaces, including highway clean up efforts and outdoor environment projects. You'll also see at parades as well as community festivals and events.
Get Out the Vote Efforts
As we approach each Election Day, we organize volunteers to call, text, write postcards, and knock on the doors of voters to encourage them to vote for Democrats up and down the ballot.