Texas Strong: Volunteers Plan at Battleground Texas Summit

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[Thanks to BOR community member Vicki for posting this great diary about Battleground Texas’s NTS! — Eds.]

What do we do after a tough election? Keep going. That was the resolve that drove nearly 200 volunteer leaders to Austin on February 21-22 for the second annual Battleground Texas Neighborhood Team Summit. Texas Democrats came from as far away as El Paso, Lubbock, and Laredo to debrief from 2014, get some serious skills training, and make plans for 2015. And, of course, to get inspired by Battleground Texas’ Jenn Brown and Jeremy Bird, and Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20).

That would have been an impressive crowd if we were in the middle of a heated election. But on a cold February weekend of an off-election year? That’s a lot of people determined to make a difference in Texans’ lives. Congressman Castro’s remarks captured why so many of us were there, ready to “double down and try harder”:

We can have a Texas that supports public education, that doesn’t cut education by billions of dollars. We can have a governor who expands Medicaid, and doesn’t insist on making millions of Texans suffer because of ideology and partisanship. We can have a Texas that respects women’s rights to make their own decisions about their own lives.

When I got involved with Battleground Texas as a Summer Fellow in 2013, I was fed up with Republicans’ repeated votes to repeal Obamacare. I just thought, “That’s your goal in life? To take affordable health care away from millions of people?” I wanted to do something to help elect Democrats, but even though I was a precinct chair, I didn’t know enough to be effective.

Our Battleground Texas field organizer in Houston, Adrienne Bell, jumped in and trained us fellows from the ground up. She taught us the basics — how to organize an event, register voters, and talk to our neighbors about why voting matters. And then she went over the basics again, and again, and again — as often as we needed until we finally felt confident enough to go out and do it on our own.

That same kind of empowering energy permeated Saturday’s event, even as we debriefed from the 2014 election. Losing is never easy. But it’s important to remember that we achieved some seriously impressive results in the last two years. Together, we registered almost 100,000 voters, and had conversations with millions of our neighbors about why voting matters.

“We made a lot of progress last year,” shared Miki Ramos, a volunteer from San Antonio. “We were talking to people who had never been registered to vote before, and who had never even heard from a volunteer for a political campaign. We know there’s a lot of work to do, but we also know that the way to change Texas is to keep fighting.”

I know that Battleground Texas is going to keep making a difference in 2015 and beyond. The data from 2014 shows that when Battleground Texas volunteers register a voter, or have a conversation with one, that voter is more likely to show up and vote than similar voters whom we did not contact. And Jenn Brown shared that in 2014 we learned just how important leadership development is — for local candidates, for campaign staff, and for us volunteers.

Education and health care are not just political talking points. In many cases, the damage Republicans are doing cannot be undone: When Republicans pass legislation that forces clinics to close or takes away affordable health care from millions, they’re taking away a chance at early detection and treatment that can make the difference in saving someone’s life. When Republicans gut public schools, they’re taking away a child’s one shot at a good education — and that child isn’t going to get a do-over.

So Battleground Texas volunteers aren’t just going to get angry; we are going to be active. At our weekend’s Neighborhood Team Summit, what I heard from everyone was a strong desire to keep on fighting for as long as it takes.

“Texas has voted Republican for 20 years,” Kim Gilby, a volunteer from Cedar Park, explained. “That doesn’t change overnight. But that’s why we’re here. This is a Texas-sized marathon. We know [that]what we’re doing works, and we know that in order to make a difference, we need to keep going.”

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Battleground Texas volunteer leader

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