Hand-to-hand politics and anti-Trump sentiment mobilized young, urban, female voters of color in Nevada

by Brian Bahouth

Photo: the Ally

An interview with state director of the PLAN Action Fund, Bob Fulkerson

Carson City – On Election Day in Nevada, the urban vote in Washoe and Clark counties led to a near clean sweep of statewide offices for Democratic candidates, and that success was not incidental.  In April of this year, a national coalition of groups announced a voting initiative to focus on reaching a particular segment of the population in important races across the nation. The Win Justice PAC targeted infrequent, urban, minority, female voters, under 35.

In Nevada, the Win Justice coalition included the Center for Community Change Action, Color of Change, Planned Parenthood, and the PLAN Action Fund.  For some insight, I spoke with Bob Fulkerson, state director of the PLAN Action Fund by phone …

Nationwide, the Win Justice PAC spent $7,682,025 getting out the vote.  In Nevada, the group spent $296,045.08.  Bob Fulkerson described a highly focused grassroots effort to mobilize voters.

“We formed a coalition called Win Justice and we targeted 225,000 voters in Nevada, most who didn’t vote in 2014 and many who didn’t vote in 2016,” Fulkerson said.  “They were younger, more people of color both Black and Latin and more female than the general population. We worked with our coalition partners to talk to the voters about what really mattered to them.  We didn’t mention candidates. We didn’t mention parties. We listened to what they had to say and then went back to them several times at the door and over the phone.”

Geographically, Fulkerson said they focused on the urban areas of Washoe and Clark counties.  He said canvassers succeeded because they talked about shared community values and offered people personal reasons why they needed to vote.

“In one of our programs we work on mass liberation to end mass incarceration that indiscriminately targets people of color,” Fulkerson explained.  “We had a cohort of people who had experience with incarceration whose loved ones had been targeted. And through this election season they got involved with knocking on doors, with talking with their own community members, who generally don’t vote, about why it is important to have a governor who will work to end cash bail. We have a system in Nevada where if you’re poor and you’re black or brown, you are going to be held in jail even if you’re innocent, and that’s because we have a cash bail system, and we had really deep conversations at the community level about why it was important to have a governor to sign that to end that, as opposed to one that thought it was a great thing to do.”

The coalition worked to engage Spanish speaking voters and inspire inter-community dialogue.

“People from those communities talk to their neighbors, talk to their families about why it was important for them to get involved and vote for the first time.  And again, it’s something the people at the grassroots level did, and they should be really proud,” said Fulkerson.

The Trump factor

The midterm election was in many ways a referendum on Donald Trump and candidates who embraced him.  President Trump, Vice President Pence, Donald Trump Jr, and Ivanka Trump all campaigned in Nevada in support of US Senator Dean Heller’s reelection bid and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt.  Bob Fulkerson said anti-Trump sentiment fueled voter participation.

“I think it’s clear that this was a referendum on Trump, and Trump clearly lost,” Fulkerson said.  “Heller and Laxalt hitched their wagons to his sinking star in Nevada, so they sunk too, and as well they should have.”

As election day drew near, Fulkerson said he and his coalition partners became confident their work would make a difference.

“We kind of knew going into election day, at least we had a good idea that we were going to win because our targeted voters, those 225,000 had multiplied their participation by 400 percent from the previous mid-term,” Fulkerson said.  “It was largely volunteer run and it was very grass roots.”

For more from Bob Fulkerson, listen to the audio interview embedded above …