Last week, a handful of political bloggers joined together in an attempt to make Tennessee’s Democratic Party take notice.
It all started as a reaction to the new state party chairman. Chip Forrester won the seat without support of the state party’s senior members. Anonymous, disparaging remarks said to come from party stalwarts circulated online, questioning Forrester’s fundraising ability and mocking his efforts to raise grassroots support online.
In response, a handful of liberal bloggers set out to prove the old guard wrong. On Wednesday morning, they challenged their readers to contribute a total of $1000 by the end of the day Friday. They met that goal in four hours.
By Friday evening, the effort raised $3600 from 91 individuals. It’s a tiny dollar amount in the world of political fundraising, but blogger Sean Braisted says that’s beside the point. He says the goal was to help the state party develop a relationship with people who might have otherwise only gotten directly involved with a presidential campaign.
“When it comes to needing volunteers in, you know, a year, year and a half, we can go to those people and say, you’ve given money, we appreciate that and we’d like more money, but we’d also like your time to make phone calls, do this or that. If we had had 25 of these donors go to Nathan Vaughn’s district, we might still have the state house. That’s a small thing that can make a big difference down the line.”
Vaughn lost his seat by just 326 votes after Republicans campaigned heavily in his East Tennessee District.
According to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission, both the Democratic and Republican state parties spent most of the money they took in during the last election cycle: $2 million for the Democrats, $2.6 million for Republicans. At the end of 2008, the GOP had just over $106,000 cash in hand and Democrats had about $78,000. It’s not clear how much of that the Democrats have been able to hold onto, given that they now must pay the legal bills for their court battle with former state senator Rosalind Kurita.
Now a new election cycle is beginning. This one will culminate in the 2010 gubernetorial election, but for both parties it starts in fundraising mode. The parties must file their January financial disclosures with the FEC by February 20th.