Both major political parties have suffered from failing to take into account independent voters, who are more concerned about issues close to home that remain unaddressed in any real way.
Despite being massively outspent, particularly on the ground, John Cox ran for Governor in 2018 and received support above and beyond the overlapping local and congressional races from independent voters who were attracted to John’s nonpartisan and universal message of “affordability, and the impact of runaway taxes, spending and regulation, and the domination of the political process by special interest groups” – these are issues that transcend the major political parties. Subsequent analysis of independent turnout led to a discussion of the need for real nonpartisan outreach and communication with independent voters and ultimately to the formation of C.H.A.N.G.E.
Unfortunately, left-leaning ‐groups have spent the previous several years recruiting and training workers in the precincts and neighborhoods of some of the same targeted districts. These trained workers were mobilized effectively to target Independent and low propensity Democrat voters to ensure massive increases in turnout. Progressive field operation teams inundated neighborhoods, visiting each home 5 or 6 times before the election. The result was that millions of late, and first-‐time ballots were cast and harvested for candidates on the left.
The left’s message focused on national politics, mostly ignoring their biggest vulnerability — the decline in the quality of life for average Californians struggling with high taxes and cost of living, rationed water, poor schools, and roads, increasingly virulent forest fires and homelessness in their cities. Similarly, the Republican Party in general was too focused on national politics and never really connected in a real way with the growing group of voters not affiliated with either party.
Millions of voters that may have agreed with nonpartisan solutions for policy problems caused by the special interests and partisans in Sacramento – self-‐identified as “no-‐ party-‐preference” or Independent voters – were largely untouched by political parties and campaigns. Voters not registered with either major party now total almost 6 million in California or about 30% of the total registration. Their growing numbers will only increase their future electoral influence.
In a recent article in Capitol Weekly, political data expert Paul Mitchell wrote, “the improved performance of nonpartisan voters meant that for the first time ever, those not registered with either major political party were a larger share of the votes cast than Republicans.”
So where do we go from here?
C.H.A.N.G.E. will help refocus California’s independent voters’ priorities on a well-‐managed and effective government that produces the great quality of life Californians have come to expect but which has been in decline for a decade or more — de-‐emphasizing the divisive issues and national politics the media wants to focus on. C.H.A.N.G.E. will build a case for a successful and sustainable quality of life in California, which is being threatened by runaway taxes, spending and regulation piled on by the special interest groups that dominate Sacramento and which influence both major parties – a natural alignment with practical, nonpartisan thought, ideas and principles.
To turn the electoral tide with Independents voters in California this effort must be done face-to-face on doorsteps, with motivated neighborhood people – prepared to make effective arguments, encourage participation, and build the trust relationships necessary to finally collect ballots. Face to face contact is critical to build trust and confidence which will allow greater understanding and agreement with the nonpartisan solutions we will propose.
The budget for the initial eighteen-month effort is $8,750,000 through November 2020. This includes staff, paid canvassers, marketing support and operations. Unlike a traditional political operation, an independent accounting firm will be retained to monitor the organization’s budget and spending, and report on its success at hitting predetermined benchmarks and effectiveness and efficiency of staffing and recruitment efforts.
C.H.A.N.G.E. is a project of RescueCalifornia Educational Foundation, a tax-exempt charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donations to C.H.A.N.G.E. are tax-deductible to the donor. Donors and donations will not be publicly disclosed. At no time will C.H.A.N.G.E. be engaged in lobbying, legislative advocacy efforts, explicit media outreach or endorsement of candidates for political office.
The ultimate “metric” of success will be an increase in participation of these pre-identified and educated independent ‘affordability voters’ that understand the need to control spending and special interest groups with whom Change Agents (which is what we call our canvassers) have developed a relationship with that may otherwise stay home. Other metrics include data collected, the number and frequency of voter contacts/ conversations/ contact attempts, and ballots turned in and collected.
The 2020 election will serve as proof of concept to donors that this effort can increase voter participation in targeted areas among Californians not affiliated with either of the major political parties. The results will be both quantifiable and optimized to replicate to scale the program statewide for 2022.
C.H.A.N.G.E. has already begun the process of testing elements of the following messages as an outreach point to Independent voters including affordability, cost-‐of-‐living, housing, water, roads, homelessness and other quality of life issues.
Depending on initial research, focus groups and polling data, organizational efforts may also include specific issues and nonpartisan policy solutions that appeal to independent voters.
Regional organizers divided by the congressional district will oversee paid and volunteer canvassers assigned to high impact precincts and neighborhoods. Phase One will survey voter opinions at the doorstep and through social media using paid and volunteer canvassers, and then educate independent voters about these key issues. Phase Two will facilitate participation by operating its own independent voter turnout operation.
C.H.A.N.G.E. recruiters will be well-‐trained and prepared; they will begin immediately to recruit C.H.A.N.G.E. Agents – at churches, service clubs, chambers of commerce and neighborhood groups where leaders can be engaged and motivated to help C.H.A.N.G.E. the quality of life equation in
California. They will predominantly be from the communities they will canvass, which will help build trust and a long term, sustainable supporting organization.
C.H.A.N.G.E. Agents will be knocking on doors in the seven regions of California through November of 2020 as proof of concept, and if successful, will then continue from there and expand statewide through November 2022. The hallmark will be a blend of paid and volunteer canvassers using cutting edge technology to establish and maintain relationships with independent voters who have turned off and tuned out of the civic engagement process. The bulk of paid canvassers will consist of local military veterans and their families.
C.H.A.N.G.E. will hire and oversee regional organizers responsible for these initial seven regions, exclusively focusing on outreach to approximately 800,000 Independent voters and voters unaffiliated with either major party in the following California congressional districts broken out by District number and the number of Independent voters in each:
- CA-‐10 (Harder/Denham) 127,000
- CA-‐21 (Cox/Valadao) 64,000
- CA-‐25 (Hill/Knight) 110,000
- CA-‐39 (Cisneros/Royce) 116,000
- CA-‐48 (Rouda/Rohrabacher) 125,000
- CA-45 (Porter/Walters) 126,000
- CA-‐49 (Levin/Issa) 127,000
C.H.AN.G.E. will launch the phased in canvassing program in the four targets CDs in Orange County, with the first in June followed by the remaining three districts shortly thereafter as determined by funding and logistical considerations.