US Senate candidates build strong regional organizations
Senator Scott Brown, center, makes a campaign appearance at St. Anthony's Cedars Social & Banquet Hall in Springfield on Sunday.
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Senator Scott Brown, accompanied by his wife, Gail Huff, was a guest speaker at Rays of Hope, A Walk and Run Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer, in Springfield on Sunday. The non-partisan event was not part of Brown's current campaign tour.
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Mindy Domb, of Amherst, talks about the Elizabeth Warren campaign at the Northampton headquarters Friday. Purchase photo reprints »
Mindy Domb, of Amherst, left, Elizabeth Silver, of Northampton, center, and Alice Swift, of Amherst, talk about the Elizabeth Warren campaign at the Northampton headquarters Friday. Purchase photo reprints »
Elizabeth Silver, of Northampton, left, and Alice Swift, of Amherst, talk about the Elizabeth Warren campaign at the Northampton headquarters Friday. Purchase photo reprints »
Elizabeth Silver talks about the Elizabeth Warren campaign in the Northampton headquarters Friday. Purchase photo reprints »
Ken Eisenstein and Stan Bernstein stood outside Elizabeth Warren’s campaign office on Main Street in Greenfield Thursday morning, eagerly waiting for it to open.
The pair are ardent supporters of Warren, the Democratic Senate candidate and Harvard Law School professor challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown in Tuesday’s election.
Eisenstein, an independent voter from Shelburne Falls, said he was willing to do whatever needs to be done to help Warren win.
“Data entry, phone calls, whatever,” he said.
A short distance down the street, two volunteers were also beginning their day at the Brown headquarters. They said they’d just returned from an early morning trip to Hawley to distribute lawn signs, and the night before had handed out candy at a Halloween parade. The pair were not authorized by the state GOP to talk to the press.
John Andrulis, the state GOP committeeman for Franklin and Hampshire counties, said local Republicans have been focused on handing out lawn signs, emailing supporters to make sure they get to the polls and planning standouts on election day.
“Outreach at this point is focused on getting the base out and independents out to vote,” Andrulis said in a later phone interview.
This weekend marks the endgame in the nationally watched campaign for a Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat that may decide which party controls the Senate come January.
Warren has lead in 12 of the 16 polls taken since September, but the race remains tight. According to Real Clear Politics, a website that compiles polls from races across the country, the average of recent polls gives Warren a lead of 4.5 percentage points.
Brown and Warren spent the last days of the campaign crisscrossing the state in a last-ditch look for votes, with each making stops in western Massachusetts.
Brown made two stops in Hampden County on Friday, his second trip to the region this week, while Warren is scheduled to hold a rally in Springfield today with U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-S.C., a prominent veteran of the civil rights movement.
In anticipation of a tight race, both campaigns have set about building extensive field operations to get voters to the polls on election day. The state GOP has opened 23 offices statewide to coordinate Brown’s get out the vote operation and employs 12 full-time staffers. The Warren camp has opened 48 offices and employs 74 people statewide.
“Anytime you have a close race like this, a good field operation can increase your percentage by two or three points,” said Michael Vito of Northampton, a former deputy and acting state director for U.S. Sen. John Kerry.
The two campaigns have built field operations previously unseen in western Massachusetts, a region not traditionally accustomed to much attention in statewide elections.
The GOP has opened three offices in the four western counties and has four paid staffers working in the region. Warren has opened up seven western Massachusetts offices, including in Northampton, Holyoke, Springfield and Agawam. The campaign has nine full-time staffers and 12,000 volunteers working in the region.
The efforts in Hampshire County have been two-fold, said Elizabeth Silver of Northampton, who is overseeing Warren’s Northampton office.
Earlier in the campaign, more of the focus was on identifying undecided voters, she said. The Northampton office served as a meet-up spot for local volunteers to make phone calls or head out to canvass in Hampden County, where a larger number of unenrolled and conservative Democrats reside, she said.
Now much of the effort is focused on making sure local Warren supporters have a ride and can make it to the polls on Election Day, she said.
“We need to make sure we deliver (votes) in an overwhelming way,” Silver said.
Such efforts reflect the lessons learned from Gov. Deval Patrick’s campaigns in 2006 and 2010, which relied heavily on grassroots organizing, said Alex Goldstein, a veteran of both Patrick campaigns and the executive director of the governor’s political action committee, TogetherPAC.
In both years Patrick piled up large margins in western Massachusetts communities, offsetting losses elsewhere in the state, Goldstein said.
“I think there is a tremendous activist base in western Massachusetts,” Goldstein said. “They can have a significant impact on the result.”
However, the Republicans are optimistic.
Tim Buckley, the Massachusetts GOP spokesman, pointed out that Brown was successful in the January 2010 special election, winning western Massachusetts communities such as Belchertown, South Hadley and Chicopee.
At the same time, he said, GOP organizing in the region has “improved by leaps and bounds on the ground” over 2010, when Republican Charles Baker lost to Patrick in the gubernatorial contest.
“We have three times as many offices as we did in 2010,” Buckley said.
Still, Democrats and Republicans agree that Warren’s side holds the organizing advantage here, a tribute not only to her campaign’s considerable financial resources, but also to the deep roots of the region’s liberal activists and elected officials.
Warren’s campaign has gone even further than Patrick’s 2006 and 2010 campaigns in grassroots organizing, Goldstein said.
“Their numbers in terms of number of doors knocked on is astounding,” he said.
State Democratic officials said they knocked on 300,000 doors in October alone, and made attempts to contact five million people either in person or by phone since the start of the campaign. There are now 4.3 million registered voters in Massachusetts.
State Sen. Michael Knapik, R-Westfield, conceded that Republicans “can’t match that.”
“You’ve got nine Democrat congressmen, 36 Democratic state senators, 128 Democratic state reps and 35 out of 42 Democrat mayors in Massachusetts. They’re going to be with the bandwagon,” he said.
He also pointed out that state Democrats have more “built-in” coalitions among unions and other interest groups.
Brown’s hopes lie with trying to attract unenrolled voters, an effort aided by support from Democrats such as former mayors Charles V. Ryan of Springfield and Ray Flynn of Boston.
“It’s a matter of how do you communicate with them?” Knapik said. “Direct mail becomes very important, as well as canvassing.”
Andrulis said local Republicans are “excited and hopeful” about Brown’s chances.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said.
Back in Greenfield, Bernstein and Eisenstein said they are ready to help get Warren over the hump.
“We knock on doors. That’s our thing,” Bernstein said, noting that he and his wife Barbara have campaigned in Florence, South Hadley, Holyoke and Athol this fall. The couple moved from Ohio to Greenfield three years ago.
Eisenstein, meanwhile, had brought chairs and a table from his barn in Shelburne Falls to accommodate the extra volunteers who frequent this small space that once housed a novelty shop.
“She’s an uncommon candidate,” he said. “Very seldom do you get a candidate like Ted Kennedy who is a giant.”