Dems growing grassroots for aid in November

Organizing for America, which morphed from the grassroots arm of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign into the grassroots arm of the Democratic National Committee, says it’s ramping up for an all-out blitz this year in support of the President’s agenda and allies in California.

Mary Jane StevensonOn a conference call with reporters this morning, OFA California Director Mary Jane Stevenson said her group this month will host 70 strategy sessions all over the state, tapping into local volunteers’ knowledge of how best to keep Democratic Congressional seats blue and how to win over a few that are now red in November’s midterm elections. She said she has a staff of 10; a cadre of 48 community organizers around the state who’ve committed to work for OFA at least 20 hours a week; and thousands of volunteers ready to take to the streets.

Stevenson said the 11th Congressional District seat held by Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, seems vulnerable and so re-electing McNerney will be among OFA’s priorities. They’re also looking to unseat GOP incumbents Dan Lungren, R-Gold River; Ken Calvert, R-Corona; and Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs.

OFA sees Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts special election to replace the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy “not as a trend but rather as a wake-up call,” she said, noting OFA’s nationwide get-out-the-vote phone bank effort helped buoy struggling Democrat Martha Coakley although “obviously it was too late to win the election.”

Now OFA is looking to get much earlier start on re-mobilizing the heavily-Democratic, young, minority voters who registered to vote for the first time in 2008’s presidential election, as well as to register a lot of new voters, Stevenson said.

“We can handle these voters, we have the best messaging for these voters,” she said, citing their connection to President Obama and his agenda. “They want him to succeed, so we are the appropriate organization to get them involved.”

Jennifer Lopez, finance director for Rep. John Garamendi’s campaign in last year’s special election and in this November’s general election, praised OFA for “how tirelessly they worked,” providing phone banks and precinct canvasses that proved to be “a very, very important component of our GOTV effort.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was briefly on the conference call, too.

“The Obama campaign engaged hundreds of thousands of new participants in the political process in ‘08 and we know how successful that was,” she said. “I am so very pleased that Organizing for America is making sure that the new voters who got involved in that campaign stay involved in our California races.”

Republicans Tom Campbell, Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore are vying for their party’s nomination to challenge Boxer in November, a challenge Boxer said she hopes to meet with wide Democratic grassroots support. “As soon as I know who my opponent is, we’re going to bring the greatest campaign to California that we’ve ever brought.”

(h/t to the Monterey County Democratic Central Committee for the photo.)

UPDATE @ 2:08 P.M.: President Obama issued a video message to OFA activists yesterday, asking for their support on health-care reform. See it after the jump…

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.