Working America’s High-Powered Field Organizing and Innovative Digital Communications Helps Secure Democratic Control of Virginia
WASHINGTON, DC – Working America—the 3.5-million-member community affiliate of the AFL-CIO—used high-powered field organizing and multi-channel digital communications to help Clinton Jenkins and Lenard Myers to victory in Virginia House Districts 76 and 81. The organization also ran an innovative digital communications program in the following races: Virginia Senate District 13; House Districts 12, 13, 31, 40, and 76; and in the Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chair race. Working America’s field and digital efforts were bolstered by randomized control trials that helped identify the voters most likely to be persuaded because of canvass interaction.
“Our model of holding face-to-face conversations and following up through digital channels helps voters connect the dots between the issues they care about and candidates’ policy proposals,” said Matt Morrison, executive director of Working America. “Thanks to smart organizing and more fairly drawn districts, Virginia now has an opportunity to put forth an agenda that benefits working people.”
With almost 100,000 members across Virginia's 95 counties, Working America has been active in the commonwealth for close to 15 years. Working America’s organizers kicked off their 2019 program with a long-term listening project in Prince William and Loudoun counties, holding in-depth conversations with working Virginians to gather information about their top issues, their primary source of news, and who in public life they see as acting in their best interests.
Our research revealed overwhelming support for increased public education funding and widespread willingness to pay more in taxes to achieve that end. Nearly 9 in 10 voters in these two Northern Virginia suburbs supported increased teacher pay, and 6 in 10 were willing to pay more in taxes to support expanded investment in public education. Even 5 in 10 Republicans said they would pay more in taxes to support increased education funding. This early-engagement program helped build support for a progressive agenda by showing that even GOP voters want higher taxes for public investment.
By identifying the underlying trends and issues of concern for members in Prince William and Loudoun counties early in the year, Working America was able to leverage its insights as part of the 2019 election program with its large statewide membership. During our field engagement in the Tidewater region this fall, working-class voters told Working America canvassers that health care was their chief concern with education a close second, aligning with issue trends identified earlier in the year. Working America’s field and digital programs were then able to use health care and education to change minds and win votes, running large-scale digital ads focused on these same issues.
Despite initial cash disadvantages, progressives in Virginia were able to capitalize on anti-Trump sentiment and run campaigns focused on issues such as keeping and expanding access to health care and improving public education. In 2017, Virginia voters made it clear that they wanted more access to health care by expanding Medicaid to 400,000 of their neighbors. In 2019, they joined teachers in the state to demand more education funding. Working America canvassers were able to cut through the noise and refocus voters on the importance of local elections, helping to motivate infrequent and undecided voters.
Securing Democratic control of the Virginia General Assembly allows progressives to protect and push for working-family policies, including safeguarding Medicaid expansion, establishing collective bargaining rights for public sector employees, increasing the minimum wage, and advocating for the repeal of right to work legislation. Progressives will lead the 2020 redistricting process and prevent the undemocratic gerrymandering that occurred for the last decade. Democrats’ performance in these elections will help dissuade Trump from making attempts to widen his path to victory through the Commonwealth.
In 2017, Working America marshaled an evidence-based field program in southwest Virginia, holding more than 16,000 conversations with persuadable working-class, swing voters of all backgrounds. After helping Democrats win the governor and lieutenant governor races that year, Working America mobilized members to hold GOP representatives accountable and pass Medicaid expansion in the state.
Since 2003, Working America has mobilized working people who don’t have the benefit of a union at work to fight for good jobs and a fair economy. As the three-million member community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, we unite working people in urban and suburban communities around a shared economic agenda. For more information, visit www.WorkingAmerica.org.