United States mail carriers have an average 500 delivery stops on their daily routes, according to the National Association of Letter Carriers, an AFL-CIO advocacy group. That number fluctuates based on the region, and hundreds of those deliveries could be in one place, like an apartment complex or downtown building. But it isn’t that bad. Most postal workers are allowed some form of transportation, which makes the door-to-door gig a bit more bearable.
Hundreds of volunteers for the Louisiana Republican Party could probably attest to that. Most hoofed it on Sept. 20, a voter-contact day dubbed “Super Saturday” by state GOP Chairman Roger F. Villere. He says volunteers were responsible for knocking on 63,063 doors and ringing 14,400 phones around the state that weekend — all in a single day. Not surprisingly, the figures exceeded all original voter-contact goals. “Across the state, hundreds of conservative activists gathered together to make personal contact with voters in their communities to educate them about our candidates,” Villere says.
Volunteers were sent to the usual places, which include Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Alexandria, Houma, Lafayette, Monroe, and Shreveport. The door-knocking number alone for these regions is hard to swallow, though. If every single volunteer was on the road that Saturday, each one would have had to visit an average of 144.9 homes, based on the GOP data released, and working under the sketchy assumption that volunteers never travel in packs. “It looks like they’re taking their cues from the factually challenged (John) McCain campaign,” says Louisiana Democratic Party spokesman Scott Jordan.
Following a Virginia rally earlier this month that boasted both McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin, the McCain campaign claimed that 23,000 people attended. However, The Washington Post later debunked the figure based on estimates by the local fire marshal. “Inflated, unconfirmed numbers won’t help the national and state GOP in this election,” Jordan adds.
Aaron Baer, communications director for the Louisiana Republican Party, says the skepticism is much ado about nothing, aside from political positioning. He says the party’s volunteers hit the streets hard and were able to exceed original voter contact goals. “You walk in the precincts that are most heavily populated, and you can do it,” Baer says.
Regardless of how you work the numbers, a heavy GOP presence was reported in the field this weekend. It’s a sure sign state Republicans are making progress in accomplishing their long-held goal of building a true grassroots organization and an indication of how localized this year’s elections could become. Charlie Davis, who was recently hired by the Louisiana Republican Party as director of Victory 2008, the state party’s federal campaign arm, has also launched LaGOP.net this campaign season. It’s a new social networking site for Republican activists to interact and dish on the latest political issues. Members can connect with like-minded GOP enthusiasts by creating their own profile, starting their own blog and commenting on other’s blogs. So far, there are a modest 218 members.
The similarly-named Louisiana Victory, the Democrat’s federal arm in Louisiana, has made more than 532,000 phone calls and personal visits to voters since mid-April. During the week of Sept. 22 alone, the organization made 50,888 phone calls and filled 2,558 shifts. “We have implemented the largest voter contact program in Louisiana history with more than 50 paid staff that has been on the ground since March,” says Bradley Beychok, coordinated campaign director for the Louisiana Democratic Party. “The Republicans might have had a ‘Super Saturday;’ welcome to the game. We have had a super six months and will continue to fight and win.”
The presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama also announced last week that it had recruited roughly 12,000 volunteers during the past 19 months. In all, the Louisiana Democratic Party has Obama volunteers in offices and field operations throughout the state, including New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, Covington and Slidell. Despite most predictions that McCain will win Louisiana, the numbers are encouraging for supporters. “This unprecedented volunteer turnout shows the incredible enthusiasm in Louisiana for Sen. Obama’s campaign,” says David Huynh, Louisiana director of Obama for America.
As for other forms of voter contact, among the more interesting stories from last week was about the contact that almost didn’t happen. While GOP Treasurer John Kennedy and incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu have already agreed to three public exchanges for the month of October, they had some difficulty agreeing to what is arguably the highest-profile debate of the season: the WWL-TV debate, which is simulcast on other CBS affiliate stations in Louisiana and usually across state lines thanks to WWL 870 AM, its radio partner. (That agreement is still pending.)
Kennedy communications director Leonardo Alcivar blames the Landrieu camp for backing out of a previously agreed-upon air date of Oct. 29, just days before the Nov. 4 election. Scott Schneider, Landrieu’s press secretary, responds that his boss never reneged on a promise because a commitment was never made. Rather, Landrieu asked for alternatives. “The last week of the campaign is always packed with events and it was already booked up,” Schneider says. “If we can get the date changed, she would love to do it.”
The two eventually agreed on Oct. 22 but not before putting the television station through the ringer on what is normally an easy date to set. WWL-TV News Director Chris Slaughter says he was “surprised and saddened” that a public service such as a televised debate had come to blows. “In their minds, there’s some kind of strategy to holding on to the dates they want,” Slaughter says. “No one wants to budge.”
Fortunately, for both campaigns, the behind-the-scenes positioning will not be part of the live debate. Then again, debating probably won’t be part of the debate either; the strict guidelines candidates demand now turn the exchanges into an hour-long rehash of their prime-time commercials. It’s a good thing both frontrunners have thousands of volunteers on standby to deliver their messages to the homes of voters.
MAY 20 This post by blogger CB Forgotston draws parallels between Gov. Bobby Jindal and two individuals he probably doesn't want to be aligned with: President Obama and former governor Edwin Edwards. CB says Jindal's trying to jack up the debt ceiling (an Obama play, according to CB) and buy votes from GOP leges who normally wouldn't go for that (an Edwards play, CB says).
MAY 20 Here's a post in the Baptist Message from an alumnus of Louisiana College. The author, Larry Burgess, calls on the leadership of the private school to take care of some pressing problems. Physical plant issues are critical and unaddressed, some faculty make so little they need government health care, and there is an atmosphere that does not encourage honest discussion, he writes. It's time to get things back in order, he says.
MAY 20 This post in Gambit tells of a benefit concert scheduled to raise money for the 19 people shot during a Mother's Day second line on Frenchmen Street in NOLA. Among them was Gambit blogger Deb Cotton, who spoke frequently about violence in the city and reported on the city's second line culture. Gambit's foundation, along with other NOLA non-profits, also is selling t-shirts to raise money for the victims.
MAY 20 Blogger Robert Mann is critical of the personal interest some legislators take in their work here, sharing the comments one NOLA solon made in explaining his decision to vote against a bill that would require people to stop discriminating against female workers. His wife might lose some salary, so he was going to have to vote against the equal pay bill, Conrad Appel said. Appel and everyone who heard him should have been ashamed, but they weren't, and that's what is wrong in that building, Mann argues.
MAY 20 American Press columnist Jim Beam writes about the budget again here, urging kudos for the House and its efforts to try to fix the budget as opposed to passing on a flawed and messy rubber-stamped document as it usually does. The Senate already is poo-pooing the effort, but instead Senators should be trying to find a way to improve it as well, Beam argues. He also has some predictions in here from LABI and CABL.
MAY 20 Here's a link to the photo gallery from Tulane's graduation this past weekend. Dr. John and Allen Toussaint played together and received honorary degrees. The Dalai Lama was so entranced by their performance he got up from his seat and walked across the stage to stand next to them. He even participated in a second line with his own personal, saffron-colored umbrella. To the graduates, he urged them to think about creating a peaceful, hopeful life and society.
MAY 20 This Picayune story questions the rhetoric of NOLA officials who say the city, aside from having a "murder problem," is safe. The talking points generally are that the criminals are killing each other, but everything else is OK. The police chief there says that even Lafayette is more dangerous than NOLA. But crime experts interviewed here say that NOLA's numbers indicate one of two things: either people are so used to violence they don't report it, or somebody's "fudging the numbers."
MAY 20 The Advocate's Mark Ballard writes about some of the background maneuvering that took place during the development of budget alternatives in the Legislature. From Rep. Joel Robideaux being called a "tax and spend liberal" to robo-call influence, Ballard lets us in on some of the work that happens behind the scenes but usually doesn't make it into the Advocate's daily coverage of the session.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.