The California Away Team is a barely organized group of passionate Democrats who volunteer to leave safely Democratic places to go to battleground elections and volunteer. We canvas for campaigns, we stand on street corners and register voters to bolster Democratic numbers, and we Get Out The Vote in the last weeks before the election.
Often residing in states or cities that are going to vote Democratic anyway, we go "away" to elections that hang in the balance, only winnable with a groundswell of boots on the ground. We are those boots.
The California Away Team started in 2008 when Shabbir joined hundreds of other Californians traveling to Washoe County Nevada to help the Obama campaign. When he came back, he and Sarah Imber Safdar made a personal commitment to keep volunteering.
In 2012 the team numbered ten and went to Reno, NV and campaigned for Obama. We won Washoe County for the Democrats by a little under 7,000 votes, and the state for Obama. I posted our stories in a blog to dailykos.
In 2016 we adopted Reno, NV and CA-07 (Rep. Ami Bera - D). We had many successes which you can read about in our summary, "What the fuck did we accomplish?" Obviously, we didn't win the White House, but we helped secure a blue Congressional seat (CA-07), flipped a NV state assembly seat from red to blue, and kept Harry Reid's US Senate seat in Democratic hands.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are you funded? Where do you get your money?
The Away Team is a volunteer group. Volunteers pay for their own gas, hotel rooms, etc. Shabbir pays for the organization's expenses directly out of his pocket, but they are pretty low. There are no actual employees, for example. He will make up an itemized list of expenses and pass the hat sometime during the 2018 election cycle.
How old are you? How many election cycles have you been organizing? How many people are you? How many chapters do you have? Are you affiliated with swingleft? Flippable? Local Democratic party committees?
The California Away Team has been organizing since 2008, when we organized a team of 1! Then 15 in 2012 and in the 2016 cycle we took 40 volunteers to Reno and CA-07. 2018's midterm elections will be our fourth cycle. Note that when we started, the groups like swingleft and flippable didn't exist. We now appreciate that they feed us volunteers for our events.
We aren't formally affiliated with local Democratic party committees. We just show up and do whatever needs to be done. We are their volunteers.
How do you handle whom to volunteer for before the primaries are over and a Democratic nominee has won?
We don't play favorites with candidates before a primary has been won. We either volunteer directly for the county party committee, or in the case of 2018, we've designed a voter turnout project that will benefit the eventual nominee.
But wait, you're working in a district that has an incumbent Democrat? Shouldn't you volunteer directly with that incumbent's campaign committee?
Even if the campaign committees had any kind of organizing plan right now to corral volunteers, we think it's appropriate to wait and just directly volunteer with the eventual nominee. It's certainly possible that that incumbent would get a primary challenger.
What will you do after the primaries (June) and before the General Election (November)?
This is when the Away Team typically focuses our work. Once the primary is over we start caravanning people from safely blue places to volunteer directly with the candidates. We made six trips in the 2016 cycle to CA-07 to volunteer with the Bera campaign. We made four trips to Reno, NV to volunteer with the Washoe County Democrats in 2016.
Who do you share your data with?
We have committed to share our voter/canvassing data on midterm skippers with any federal candidate running for office in an area we've canvassed in as well as the county and state Democratic party committees. This is our first cycle running our own Get Out The Vote Program. We are excited to be able to provide the local party with a clever way to increase turnout, and possibly allow them to divert resources elsewhere, should they decide to.