Thursday, August 5, 2004
If she gets her way, Nann Miller will have a donkey and a garland of roses ready and waiting on cue when Election Day 2004 comes.
Miller, who is doing public relations work for the Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign here in Monterey County, plans to drape the roses around the donkey’s neck—in the style of the Kentucky Derby—if Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) wins the election. Donkey or no donkey, Miller puts plenty of confidence in the local effort to unseat Pres. George W. Bush.
“The people who are here are angry because they really aren’t happy with what’s happening in Washington,” she says. “And they’ll give any time they can—we have no shortage of volunteers.”
Miller stands in the open doorway of the Democratic Party headquarters on Fremont Street in Monterey. It’s the last night of the Boston convention, and around her a crowd stirs, waiting for Sen. John Kerry to make the most important speech of his life: accepting the party nomination as candidate for president.
About 200 people fill the local party headquarters, which has a garage-size door opened up to the sidewall. The outpost will remain in place through Election Day. Around Miller in the front room are card tables stacked with pamphlets and forms and a handful watching the speech. In a larger back room, a crowd of Democrats of all ages pays rapt attention to Kerry’s address, shown on a large screen in the middle of the room.
If history repeats, Bush will lose Monterey County. In 2000, he got 43,761 votes, or 37.2 percent of the vote compared to Al Gore’s 67,618 or 57.5 percent. In 1996, Bill Clinton took 53 percent of the vote from Bob Dole here.
But that doesn’t mean the Democrats are getting cocky.
Michael McCormick, the Kerry campaign organizer for Monterey County, says the party has been fully mobilized for the election season. He says there are 900 volunteers working for the party this time around.
He says that there are several dissatisfied Republicans among the crowd that came to hear the speech.
“We’ve had quite a few people change from Republican to Democrat recently,” he says, noting their dismay at the administration’s lack of fiscal restraint.
In the build-up to Nov. 2, McCormick says, the party has been recruiting precinct captains to pull in volunteers. Unlike potentially more contentious regions that get help from above, McCormick says, the local effort gets zero funding from the national campaign.
“We have thousands of volunteers in Monterey County, and the majority of them have expressed an interest in getting people to vote,” he says. “We want to have a presence at every significant event that happens in the county from now until Election Day.”
McCormick says that although the local Democrats would love it if the candidates visited, it’s not likely—except for fundraising trips. An April event thrown at a private home in Carmel—at which Teresa Heinz Kerry made a half-hour address over hors d’oeuvres—raked in some $240,000 from 175 donors.
“It was the most money we raised in Monterey County history,” McCormick says.
Several local notables were at the headquarters to watch the Kerry speech. One of them was Helen Rucker, a former Seaside City Council member and NAACP official who’s never afraid to speak her mind. After Kerry’s speech, she made a short address of her own. She reminded the crowd that Supreme Court seats will come open in the coming years and the president has the power to determine whether the body will become more diverse or not.
Putting the onus on the people, Rucker told them, “If we don’t do it this time, shame on us.”