dent. JoAnn Ramon,Van De Putte’s field operator, concentrated her efforts in getting out the base vote on the solidly Democratic westside of San Antonio. “We are telling them we need Tony Sanchez to open the door a bit more,” said Ramon during the campaign from her staging ground at a downtown used car lot. “We have to remind ourselves of who brought us.” Ramon admitted that her approach, which is classic urban minority machine politics based on family relations, wouldn’t necessarily work with young, educated or affluent Latinos. Ramon’s home precinct is a case in point. “My neighborhood is swing,” she explained. “They don’t realize they are Latinos. They think they are Mexican Americans.” Kevin Lopez and Laura Barberena focused their energy on swings. They said that they sent a mailer to Ramon’s own son, who hasn’t voted regularly. The two operated out of a storefront on the southside of San Antonio. Just as James Aldrete did, they concentrated more on the issues and on finding creative ways to pitch the entire ticket to those with less party loyalty. One of their more successful mail pieces posed as a tongue-in-cheek thank you letter to Republicans. Unfortunately, some swings that they contacted likely voted Republican. “Any campaign, first thing you do is lock down your base,” said Lopez. “They assumed they had their base locked down.” From early voting in most places it became clear that the coordinated campaign, which had only finalized its budget a few weeks before, was underperforming.The Sanchez campaign switched gears and started to send its workers into heavily minority base precincts to get out the vote. In San Antonio, Christian Archer labeled one such push Operation Rolling Thunder, sending hundreds of kids into JoAnn Ramon’s territory with 1,000 yard signs and sound trucks urging people to vote. With the heavy artillery, voting went up, but not enough. There are any number of people putting a brave face on defeat right now Those who ran the campaign are hunkering down under the inevitable criticism. “I fully sympathize with people who want to find a villain who was behind this,” says Glenn Smith, Sanchez campaign manager. “But the fact is we got swamped by a national fervor over George W. Bush, domestic security, and national security. No Democrat was going to survive that.” Some, like Garnet Coleman, believe that the precedent of running a Latino for governor and an African American for U.S. Senate were major breakthroughs that must not be underestimated. “The field is plowed and the seeds are planted for the next person,” he says. Many point to young people within the campaigns who received valuable experience they can now apply in the future. A few note the emergence of a handful of Latino consultants like Aldrete and Lopez. But happy talk about the benefits of this campaign might be overblown. “They didn’t leave an infrastructure there because it’s all based on money,” says Andy Hernandez.”It’s not based on issues or values. When the money is gone, it’s gone. If they had used 10 percent of the money, they could have built a groundswell on core issues.” Others believe that the scale of the blowout and the quantity of money invested will force the Texas Democratic Party to face its weaknesses and adapt quicker than it would have under the circumstances of a slower decline. Nobody can claim there wasn’t enough money this time. “We act like a major league player who got sent down to the minors,” observes Harold Cook, who was the paymaster for Team Texas in San Antonio. “Instead we should be like a hungry minor league player on his way to the majors.” And indeed, the discussion has begun. “I think the Austin Democratic white political consultancy has an approaching credibility problem,” wrote a Texas-based union organizer after the election to several of those involved in the campaign. “White folks cannot be the exclusive stewards of this party anymore. We cannot appear to be running people of color for office and not embrace the development of their consultancy and political skills. We have to diversify.” Maybe the sleeping giant does exist. Maybe it’s not just Latinos, but people of every color who are screwed by cold-blooded extremist Republican policies. Waking that giant will take organization, education, and mobilization. It must come from communities around the state, not just Austin. And these are not activities that will enrich consultants. As fate would have it,Texas Democrats appear to have plenty of time to prepare, for they didn’t just get sent down to some triple A farm team. It looks like, because of Bush’s popularity and redistricting, they are doomed to at least four, if not ten, years in the rookie leagues. There seemed to be little acknowledgement from the Democratic side that everybody needs to be given a reason to support a candidate, no matter the ethnicity. “There was no sense of needing to persuade,” marvels one Sanchez insider. 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11/22/02
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