Monday, October 15, 2012
Via Southwest Journal:
Andrew Virden and Scott Dibble are making their rounds in The Buckingham, a beautiful old apartment building in Loring Park. For the most part, on this early October day, they’re getting warm responses from the left-leaning residents who are fond of Dibble, the state senator from Southwest, and Virden’s boss, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison.
Dibble introduces himself to a man in the building, and, instead of singing his own praises, he tells the man how important it is to defeat the two constitutional amendments on the ballot.
“There is this anti-marriage amendment, which we hope you vote against, because it’s going to limit peoples’ ability to marry each other,” Dibble says.
“Oh, for gays to marry each other?” asks the man at the door. “I’m for that.”
“You’re going to vote no?” Dibble asks.
“I am,” the man says.
Ellison’s campaign believes that voters like this man could prove to be the difference in what is shaping up to be a close vote on the marriage amendment. He and Southwest legislators Dibble, Jeff Hayden, Frank Hornstein, Susan Allen and Karen Clark have spent much of this election season inside apartment buildings, making sure people know how and where to vote.
Ellison’s campaign has a goal of getting 20,000 more voters in 2012 than in 2008, when Ellison’s district turned out 322,747 voters. The campaign believes that the prime place to do that is in apartment buildings, where there’s a more transient population that, because the residents move around so much, don’t always know where to vote. They’re also making sure residents know that voting “no” supports gay marriage.
That’s where Virden comes in. He’s the apartment man, an organizer who Ellison has committed to door knocking in apartment buildings because, as Virden points out, only 53 percent of apartment residents are registered to vote.
“In 2008, (Al) Franken won by 312 votes. Heck I’ve got 312 people in an individual building,” Virden says, looking over a list of potential voters. “One of the buildings could be the difference. Everybody counts and everybody matters.”
Ellison said his campaign has called or door-knocked 370,000 people this year, out of about 530,000 adults in his district. This, despite the fact that in Ellison’s last three elections, none of his opponents have ever gotten 25 percent of the vote.
“We believe the 5th Congressional District is the key to defeating both the anti-marriage amendment and the anti-voting amendment,” Ellison said. “In other parts of the state, they don’t have as high a concentration of Democrats as we do, so it’s our responsibility to turn the vote out.”
Southwest residents have a long list of candidates to vote for on Nov. 6, but those candidates are largely safe in their seats. They’ve become focused on the marriage amendment, as evidence by the sea of orange “Vote No” signs in Southwest that outnumber all other campaign signs combined.
Polling shows that President Barack Obama and Sen. Amy Klobuchar should win Minnesota in November. Ditto for state senators Dibble (District 61) and Hayden (District 62) and representatives Frank Hornstein (61A), Karen Clark (62A) and Susan Allen (62B).
Those candidates are very important to Virden, because only candidates for election are guaranteed access into apartment buildings to campaign.
In other words, Virden needs Dibble or Hornstein to get into an Uptown apartment building, or Clark or Hayden to get into a building in the Whittier neighborhood. He’s also using local candidates in the suburbs to visit those apartment buildings.
Virden’s been at it since April, and by now he knows many of the city’s apartment building managers and has a sixth sense about how to navigate floor plans.
If Virden is successful, there’s no telling how many people he could get to vote against the amendments in November. Over 80 percent of Dibble’s district went to Obama in 2008. Hayden’s district went 88 percent for Obama.
The key may be in Hayden’s district, where in 2008 about 10,000 fewer people voted than in Dibble’s district.