Who’s at the Door: How Two of our Fellows Use Door Knocking to Engage with Their Community
About Us: Progressive Turnout Project is the largest voter contact organization in the country, specifically dedicated to mobilizing the Democratic Party and defending democracy. Our mission: rally Democrats to vote.
At Progressive Turnout Project, we are committed to securing Democratic victories up and down the ballot.
These victories are labor intensive. Direct voter contact — the most effective way to increase turnout — takes time, money, and as many hands as possible knocking doors and talking to voters. The Campaign Fellows Program is one way of building capacity so that Democratic campaigns are able to compete and win.
This is especially important this year as more and more crucial issues — abortion rights, healthcare, economic assistance, gun violence, and more — are being handled at the state level. That’s why we expanded our Fellows Program this cycle to include over 800 Fellows in support of 13 state legislatures and over 100 Congressional candidates nationwide.
How the Campaign Fellows program works
First, we work with Democratic campaigns to identify individuals with talent and passion — and who could do even more with a paid opportunity. PTP invests in Fellows who have been hand-selected by our in-state partners: campaigns, state parties, or caucuses. Then, we fully invest in the success of those Fellows.
Progressive Turnout Project provides two months of coaching, mentoring, and support to equip Fellows with the most effective resources, strategies and expertise to support their candidates.
Adding just one team member can make all the difference, especially in the out-of-the-spotlight races Democrats need to win.
Last cycle, our Fellows made over 200,000 voter contact attempts — an average of over 1,000 attempts per Fellow, and the campaigns certainly felt the difference. As of this writing, this year’s Fellows have knocked over 1 million doors, made 700,000+ calls, sent 870,000+ texts, and recruited 11,000+ volunteer shifts.
Ready to see some of the faces behind all of those doors knocked? Meet two Campaign Fellows working hard in Nevada and Texas:
Michael is a Campaign Fellow with Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow in Nevada. In Nevada, every seat is up for reelection this year. If Nevada Democrats can keep the seats they have and gain two more, they would have two-thirds of the available seats – a supermajority. Assemblywoman Gorelow is running in one of the few competitive districts in the state.
Michael is a Vegas transplant by way of California and really enjoys the city life. He found himself drawn to the vibrant community.
“The community is very diverse, which can at times be polarizing,” Michael said. “But, at the same time, there’s strength in that diversity.”
Michael will be graduating from nursing school at the end of the year. He began his career in healthcare because of his passion for helping people when they need it most. Being a nurse can be demanding, and he knew that in his position he would do whatever it took to provide for as many patients as possible. However, as he continued his education, he found himself limited not by his resources or abilities, but by policy.
“I wanted to provide for as many patients as possible, but also give them the right kind of quality of care as possible,” Michael said. “And the way I see that being done on a macro scale is through politics.”
Nevada has great wages for health care providers and other personnel, and Michael wants the quality of care to be just as great. Michael says an important part of being a Campaign Fellow for him is making connections with community leaders, and coming together to figure out how to address this issue.
“I’m able to have a deeper understanding of the combined perspectives of patients, community members, and legislators,” Michael said. “That helps me feel like I can really make changes that are going to mean something.”
Understanding his community is important to Michael, and it’s one of his favorite benefits of canvassing. He noticed that although people were different from their neighbors in many ways, they were all part of a collective group, and as such shared many of the same concerns.
“The more I talked to voters, the more perspective I gained,” said Michael. “The more perspective I gained, the better I could use my knowledge to provide better solutions and really recognize what a candidate should do for the people.”
Michael notes that a lot of the skills he’s learned while canvassing mirror his training as a nurse. He says that as a nurse he’s learned to assess a patient, diagnosing the issue, planning for a solution, implementing that solution, and then evaluating the situation for improvement.
“Every single time I’ve door knocked, I’ve assessed my voter, planned key conversation points, implemented them, and seen how I can improve,” Michael said. “I think that is a skill that can be applied, not just in nursing, but in pretty much everything in the world.”
When he’s not trying to save Nevada’s healthcare system one vote at a time, Michael likes to cool down with some ice cream. His favorite flavor is matcha, and his least favorite is strawberry.
“I do like matcha with strawberry,” Michael added. “But never strawberry on its own.”
Isabella is a Fellow with Mihaela Plesa for House District 70 in Texas, outside of Dallas. This district is considered one of three competitive districts in Texas, and one that both parties recognize as critical to party growth.
She moved from Venezuela almost four years ago. In college she joined a student organization called Ignite, which is centered around young women in politics. That sparked her interest in campaigning and working with candidates. From there, she reached out to the Plesa campaign and started working with them.
When they proposed the idea of her becoming a Campaign Fellow, she was all in.
“I was very interested,” Isabella said. “When the team presented me with the opportunity I said yes, absolutely yes, I’ll do it.”
Isabella came in with few expectations of the program, but says that she’s been pleasantly surprised by the amount of support she’s felt between her Fellows Advisor —a dedicated PTP staffer providing mentorship, support and programming to all Texas Fellows — and the training sessions.
“I didn’t have any experience before working with the campaign,” Isabella said. “So it was very nice to have that space where I could just ask questions and be a beginner.”
Isabella spends most of her mornings in planning meetings, booking venues and stamping postcards. The afternoon is where the real fun begins. After preparing her literature, she starts canvassing – and doesn’t stop until it gets dark. All that voter contact – in addition to being great for her campaign – has helped Isabella improve her confidence, better understand her community, and find her voice.
“I’m an immigrant, I’m a young woman living here in Texas, and I’m a college student,” Isabella said. “That makes my perspective very different from others, which is a strength for the campaign.”
Sharing that perspective, and using it to mobilize her community is important, but it can also be exhausting. Isabella said she finds motivation in the energy of her team, who she’s really been able to connect with as they work towards something larger than themselves. Mihaela could be the first female Democrat to represent the county in over 30 years.
“I believe so much in her that it motivates me,” Isabella said. “That also helps.”
Her time with the campaign has helped her refine her political opinions and understanding of advocacy, and she plans to put those skills to use. After working with Plesa for Texas, Isabella wants to use her experience to work with elected officials in advocacy work and lobbying.
“The work that I do is really rewarding,” Isabella said. “Empowering people is one of my favorite things to do.”
Between being a Campaign Fellow, her other extracurricular activities, and her coursework, there’s not much down time in Isabella’s schedule. But, when she can squeeze it in, she likes to bake.
“I kick everyone out of the kitchen, put my airpods in, and just bake for a little bit,” Isabella said.