If Democrats lose all three competitive Congressional races in Washington State on election day (or at some point during the tedious, ballot-chasing weeks thereafter), it won't be for lack of trying.
The Democratic campaigns in Washington's 3rd, 5th, and 8th Congressional Districts—all purple to bright red districts that have sent Republicans to Congress for the last several years—are claiming that they're blowing past voter contact goals and considerably expanding their reach. To describe the scope of the activity on the ground, they've started using adjectives you'd normally hear from Italian mobsters in movies describing their mothers' bolognese: "astonishing," "unbelievable."
Over in the 8th District—which, as everyone now hopefully knows, is "closely watched" and "hotly contested" and flush with millions of dollars of that sweet, sweet Bloomberg and Paul Ryan money—Kim Schrier's spokesperson says the campaign has "consistently passed all the [voter contact] goals" they've set since the primary.
The campaign boasts 4,000 "active volunteers" knocking on doors, 2,000 of whom they deployed over the weekend. "Both days we ran out of turf our team had cut in King County and Pierce," the spokesperson said. "In past attempts, we've run out of turf in Kittitas [County] and Douglas [County]. We've even had too many volunteers for the doors we needed to knock in Kittitas."
All told, Schrier's campaign has knocked on over 200,000 doors in central Washington, which has a little over 441,000 registered voters. Since Oct. 18, they've had "just under 100,000" actual conversations with people.
"We're reaching not only the Democrats we think will turn out and the independents we want to convince, but we're also reaching Republican women... and people who have no track record of voting," the spokesperson added.
A new poll from The New York Times/Siena wrapped up over the weekend, showing Schrier with a three-point lead over Republican Dino Rossi, who sucks. It's her best showing in the polls so far, and, though nobody knows how it's going to go, the ground game can't hurt.
Darcy Burner, who ran for Congress and lost to Rep. Dave Reichert in 2006 and 2008, says the grassroots efforts this year have been "astonishing" from her perspective. She lives in rural King County in the 5th Legislative District, and she says volunteers have knocked on her door twice this cycle. "That has never happened before," she said.
Lisa Brown, the former Democratic State Senator who's hoping to unseat Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in blood-red eastern Washington, also appears to be doing well in the field. Her spokesperson says they've exceeded all of their goals, but adds that "there's always doors left to knock because there are still lots of ballots left to return."
The spokesperson claims the campaign, which also includes 4,000 volunteers, has knocked on 115,000 doors since Brown started running. They hit 50,000 of those doors since ballots dropped. There are 445,743 registered voters in the district.
After the primary, Brown said she wanted her campaign to focus on turning out college kids on election day in order to close the 4-point gap between her and McMorris Rodgers. Her spokesperson said they've been touring campuses recently, but said they've mostly been trying to gin up the vote in urban areas. "The path to victory is Spokane, Pullman, and Walla Walla, but obviously we're still reaching people in every county," she said. "Right now we're focused on the base, and making sure all ballots are turned in."
A spokesperson for Carolyn Long, who's running to unseat four-term incumbent Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler, says the campaign "ran out of walkable doors in Clark County" three days before the election, meaning they'd knocked on every door they had on their list. "Every potential Democrat voter has been knocked by someone in our campaign in the last week," the spokesperson said.
The hustle makes sense. Long trails Herrera Beutler by seven points in the latest NYT/Siena poll, but internal polling shows her two points ahead.
According to the campaign, with 1,600 registered volunteers they've made 308,500 voter contact attempts in an electorate of 443,000 registered voters. Over 247,000 of those attempts occurred in the last 10 weeks. They've knocked on 141,000 doors total, but have had actual conversations with 64,000 people, averaging over 5,000 conversations a week since the primary. In the last two days alone they've connected with 8,735 people.
Matt Baird, field director for the Long campaign, said they've had "so many people get engaged for the first time through Indivisible, Swing Left, and other new activist groups since 2016 that [they've] been able to talk to voters who no one in Democratic politics has reached out to in years."
That claim tracks with Nike Ande's experience. Ande ran Bob Dingethal's failed Congressional campaign against Herrera Beutler in 2014. Like every other Democrat who's run against Herrera Beutler since the 3rd District was redrawn to ensure Republican rule, Dingethal lost his bid by 20 points. Ande—who lives in Vancouver, WA but who no longer works in politics—says their campaign did not come close to accomplishing what Long's campaign has accomplished.
"Our biggest event was our kick off, and it had 130 people—and that was mostly out of curiosity, I think. At most we had 50 active volunteers on the campaign," Ande said. Granted, Dingethal's campaign raised a little over $200,000 and never had any support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which put Long on their "Red to Blue" list after she consolidated the Democratic vote in the August primary.
As a resident of Rose Village, a neighborhood pretty close to downtown Vancouver, Ande told me he's been canvassed twice by Long's campaign—once in late September, and once again just before ballots dropped. He said both people were clearly volunteers and not paid canvassers. No other campaigns have tried to get in touch, which isn't a big surprise to him. In the last 10 years, only the campaigns of State Rep. Monica Stonier and Vancouver City Councilmember Ty Stober have knocked on his door.
"We always said winning the 3rd CD was like catching lightning in a bottle, and Long's caught lightning in a bottle," Ande continued. "Whether she wins or not, she's putting Jaime in a tough spot for as long as she wants to run."
Long's field director said more or less the same thing. "No matter what happens tomorrow," Baird said, "We have built a lasting movement here that will make Southwest Washington competitive for Democrats up and down the ballot in 2020 and beyond."
Schrier's spokesperson shared a similar sentiment. "In the last cycle Dave Reichert won [the 8th District] by 20 points, and now we've turned it into one of the most competitive districts in the country. The groundwork it took to do that has been unbelievable. This district is a solidly purple district now, and no matter which way things go on election day, Democrats have made incredible progress here. As a result, I think this year this district will be blue, but also in years going forward," she said.
The lesson here for Washington Democrats: RUN EVERYWHERE AND RUN HARD. These Congressional campaigns have activated volunteers and voters across the state—people who haven't knocked on doors for Democrats before, and people who've never had a Democrat knock on their door before, either. Win or lose, they aren't going anywhere between now and 2020.