Last week, Alabama did something remarkable. Last month, Melrose did.
My family moved to Melrose two years ago around the time of the last city election. I was excited to get involved with our new city, and was appointed to the Melrose Commission on Women and became a member of the Melrose Democratic City Committee. I was elated to be a part of a community of like-minded neighbors as we worked and prepared to elect our nation’s next Democrat and first woman President. And then, everything changed.
In April 2017, I became the Chair of the Melrose Democrats. The Melrose Dems had to take a strong turn, focus our members, and provide opportunities for the dozens of newly impassioned Melrosians to get more deeply involved with our local democracy. While we watched our national government unravel daily, we fought to keep our members focused on the immediate impact we could make at our local level and citywide debates about the need for a women’s commission and Sanctuary City status kept us grounded locally. Within months, the Melrose Dems had drafted a strategic plan, created and organized around initiatives to foster our growth, and prepared for November’s election in Melrose.
The Committee had never endorsed municipal candidates before because, historically, local elections are nonpartisan. Recently, national issues around equality, the environment, healthcare, and immigration (just to name a few) have seeped into cities and towns across America. As Washington seeks to roll back recent progress, our local governments are now faced with decisions about how to fill in the gaps. And as Democrats, we had suddenly found ourselves taking a critical look into the values of local officials and candidates because they make decisions on our behalf that impact us all. The Melrose Dems decided at a monthly meeting early on in 2017 to support candidates who had the same values as we did. More importantly, we knew we needed to act differently if we wanted different results.
Once papers were pulled and signatures gathered, the ballot looked like this:
- Four Alderman-At-Large Seats were sought by 6 candidates made up of 3 incumbents (2 Republicans, 1 Democrat) and 3 challengers (2 Democrats, 1 Unenrolled)
- Seven Ward Alderman Seats were up for election. Four ward races were unopposed. Three were contested. In each contested race, the incumbents were Ds, and the challengers Rs or Us.
- Three School Committee seats were sought by 5 candidates: 4Ds and 1R.
- All D Candidates Win in the At-Large Race. We needed one R incumbent to lose in order to get all three Ds (1 incumbent, 2 first-time candidates) elected.
- Save the Wards. We needed all three D incumbents to win their races against R challengers.
- Support the School Committee Candidates. Our goal was to seat Ds in all three open school committee seats.
Once we knew our goals we changed to our Campaign Strategy:
- Activate our committee. We connected candidates and their events with our pool of City Committee members throughout the campaign season. And we organized a strong City Committee presence for a final weekend standout in support of the candidates.
- Inform the public. We printed and distributed a door hanger to inform targeted Democratic voters of the candidates that we believe will “keep Melrose strong and moving forward.” All City Committee-endorsed candidates were listed on a tear-off card voters could easily take with them as a reminder. All Democratic candidates who were listed had approved of the copy, a volunteer photographer and designer created the piece, and 3,900 Melrose Democrats were handed a list of our favorite candidates.
- Mail: 370 senior citizens received the piece by mail with a letter from the Chair of the City Committee appealing for their vote.
- Drop Lit: 2,800 doors were adorned with our GOTV door hanger the weekend before the election with the help of over 55 volunteers.
- Call voters: While we waited for the polls to close, we spent three hours calling voters returning home from work to remind them to vote if they hadn’t already.
- Get and give the results live. We had two volunteers at each of the 8 polling locations to text us a photo of the ballot machine ticket. We created a live Google sheet to populate the return and had the results broadcasted live at the city’s election event. Here are the City’s final election results.
On November 7, 2017, Melrosians determined the future of our city. Nine out of 10 of our democratic candidates won. They worked hard for each vote and the City Committee supported them along the way. Our campaign was intentional, mindful, and above all else, positive. After all, we are neighbors in one community, open to all. And now, post-election, we look forward to supporting our newly-elected candidates as they work on behalf of our shared community.
After last November, we can no longer take any election for granted. In Melrose, we changed our business as usual, put our entire committee behind candidates in our election, and gave our members (old and new) a way to feel their impact, resist, and persist.
“The past 12 months have been so very difficult,” wrote a new committee member, “I have appreciated every monthly Dems meeting, subcommittee meeting, and every-other-kind-of-meeting that got us here. I have learned and changed so much this year that I can’t even remember who I was on November 7, 2016…*this* is who I want to keep being. Please let’s keep organizing…”
Yes we will because we are stronger together. It was possible in Melrose. It was possible in Alabama and I have full-faith we can do it in 2018 across the country.
Feel free to reach out with any questions. Onwards!