Alabama activist to Southwest Florida: It can happen here!

Southwest Floridians can follow the same blueprint that led to the stunning Democratic victory of Doug Jones in Alabama, Rebecca Rothman told a standing-room only audience on Dec. 28.

Rothman is founder of Emerge Alabama, the state chapter of a national training program for Democratic women running for elected office. She was also a lead volunteer organizer for Doug Jones’ campaign in Tuscaloosa County. Rothman shared her experiences at Democratic Headquarters in Naples.

While much of the media attention was on Republican Roy Moore’s sexual improprieties, the successful Democratic campaign relied on political fundamentals, according to Rothman.

Women played a key role.  “Eighty percent of the victory was due to women,” Rothman said. When the campaign discovered that freedom of choice was a divisive issue in Alabama, it framed the issue as a question of women’s health, which resonated with voters who might not otherwise have voted for Doug Jones.

Outreach to the African-American community was critical. Jones was known in the African-American community because of his past civil rights prosecutions. African-American pastors encouraged political participation in their churches, which helped turn out the vote there.

Get out the vote: Jones supporters worked hard to not only to get voters registered but to get all voters to the polls, according to Rothman. Phone calls were made to voters with increasing frequency as Election Day grew closer.

The person-to-person ground game was all-important. “Roy Moore had no ground game,” Rothman pointed out. “They were so confident of winning that they didn’t put out any lawn signs or go door-to-door.” In contrast, Jones supporters vigorously went door-to-door, canvassing neighborhoods. The visits were critical even in areas that were regarded as safely Democratic because they helped turn out the vote there.

Rothman urged an energetic political effort in Southwest Florida, saying that even in otherwise conservative states and districts, activism, engagement and involvement can produce victory.