Arizona: Grassroots can beat big bucks

TUCSON, Ariz. – It is going to take a massive grassroots effort to vanquish the millions and millions of dollars flooding the coffers of the Bush campaign from corporate America, the defense industry, the prison industry, and every other mega-corporation that reaps benefits from donating to Bush.

Nevertheless, here in Tucson, we are gearing up for local elections in 2003 and the presidential election ahead in 2004 by using the same tactics we did in 2002 to get Raul Grijalva elected to Congress.

Pima County, which contains most of Grijalva’s district, had a 67 percent voter turnout for the November 2002 election – the second highest in the entire United States. This is mainly because for months on end, teams of volunteers, every Saturday and Sunday – and weekdays as well – walked all the precincts three to five times in the sweltering 105-plus degree heat all summer long, getting vote-by-mail requests signed, registering voters, and dropping information brochures behind screen doors and hanging on doorknobs. We tracked the reception from each household, refreshed information over and over again in computers to generate the next walking lists, had art sales and house parties to fundraise. We followed up on election day by walking all the precincts twice more that day, making phone calls to remind folks to vote, driving people to the polls, manning all the voting locations – whatever it took. Massive effort from many folks for maximum payoff: That is what it takes.

The election night party was incredible, with folks trailing back to Grijalva campaign headquarters wet and windblown after a raging storm in the late afternoon soaked the volunteers walking precincts and manning voting locations.

Like the media is doing to Dennis Kucinich right now, halfway through the campaign, local papers said that Raul Grijalva was not going to make it. He was not deemed to be even among the top five and had less than half the money of Elaine Richardson (who was heavily supported by Republican car dealers, developers, and Emily’s List). His rag-tag band of volunteers were just a pathetic joke to the pundits.

But we were like one big crazy family working around the clock with people rushing back to headquarters from their jobs every day, or spending their vacations working on the campaign that summer. In the end, we won by double the amount of votes with only half the money! It was the most gratifying experience of my life.

It gave us hope for the future when we all realized we could actually win, and win big with such a grand, truly grassroots effort.

Congressman Raul Grijalva is proving to be a wonderful voice for the people of Arizona. And our movement and those important connections made during his campaign are still alive in Tucson.

The author can be reached at susan@susanthorpe.com