By Linda Kay Hale — Back in March the Sonoma Valley Democrats committed themselves to opening a local Democratic headquarters. So off we went to find a building in Sonoma that was available and affordable. I decided to check on our old HQ building on Broadway. It was still vacant. But when I peered through the brown paper covering the windows, I saw empty space. The building had been demolished! Not a good start and everything else was beyond our price range. Then things started happening.
Tom Conlon of GeoPraxis, an environmental consulting firm, offered to sublet us his front office space right on West Napa Street. The gray cottage there was soon filled with campaign literature, signs for state candidates and local city council hopefuls, along with voting information on State propositions and local measures. Starting on August 16, folks started dropping by.
Sounds easy, right? The actual process required six months of board meetings led by President (and local heroine) Beth Hadley, individual interviews of local candidates seeking a Democratic endorsement, and over 50 trips to Santa Rosa to interface with the Sonoma County Democratic Central Committee who make the final endorsements. Then we had to find volunteers, set up phone banking schedules, do trainings, register voters throughout the valley, collect precinct walk materials, and schedule folks to walk rain or shine.
And we delved into the funds from our fundraiser at the Vintage House with retired Representative Lynn Woolsey as our keynote speaker. Elected Democrats in Washington, Sonoma County, and the City of Sonoma donated generously so that we could keep the doors open. We organized a Candidates Night where voters could meet local candidates and hear them speak. We solicited experts and speakers from both sides of complex issues on the ballot to answer questions. In the end we registered more than 150 voters, made about 3,500 phone calls, and had 12 local volunteers staffing the office each week.
Election night we had 24 volunteers show up to Get Out the Vote. With precinct voting lists that past-president Tom Martin paid for and picked up in Santa Rosa in hand, they went to polling places throughout the Valley checking to see who still needed a ride or a reminder to vote. We sat at the HQ as the election results came in and called folks up until 8 that night.
While there, many first time voters, some Latino, came in to give us their absentee ballots. We directed them to the nearest polling place and many were voting for the first time. A woman who had previously been homeless came in to find her polling place. We called the Registrar of Voters in Santa Rosa and got her there. People came in to ask us how it was going and could Trump possibly win. We now know that he could.
The past six months it has been my pleasure to work with the Sonoma Valley Democrats who stood and delivered in this election. We were entrusted with members’ hard earned money because we could get out the vote. We worked for six months without pay to inform the public and bridge the divides between voters. We delivered California and that mandate will be our wall against discrimination, climate denial, and social injustice. We will stand up and be counted.
Linda Kay Hall is board member and Secretary, Sonoma Valley Democrats