Liberal Group Aims to Boost Democratic Turnout in Key PA Districts

Liberal groups across the country are trying to find a way to boost turnout among Democrats in 2020 to one term President Donald Trump and impact races up and down the ballot. Progressive Turnout Project, a group that describes itself as “a grassroots-funded organization with a single mission: get Democrats to the polls” is launching an effort to turn out voters who did not cast ballots in 2016 in more than a dozen key battleground states, which include Pennsylvania.

First reported by The Hill, PTP plans on staffing up with 1,100 workers nationwide across 66 field offices in 16 states with training and field offices opening early this year and canvassing beginning in May. 

The group has provided some lofty goals for Pennsylvania. 

“We expect to attempt to reach about a million people in Pennsylvania,” said Brian Koppe, Progressive Turnout Project’s National Field Director in an interview with PoliticsPA.

According to their website’s “Who We Are” page, PTP “designs, tests, and executes specialized voter turnout programs targeting inconsistent Democratic voters in the most competitive districts in the country.” 

“We are looking at having field offices in five locations, although we’re going to have a total of seven offices in Pennsylvania,” Koppe said to PoliticsPA. 

PTP will have three offices in the Philadelphia area, one office in the Allentown/Bethlehem area, one office in Harrisburg, one office around Scranton, and one office in Pittsburgh. 

Koppe said the locations of the office are intended to “overlap” where they can have an impact, so the Congressional districts they are looking at playing a role in are held by Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-Lackawanna), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks), Conor Lamb (D-Allegheny), Scott Perry (R-York), and Susan Wild (D-Lehigh). The group also hopes to motivate Democrats to impact the outcome of the presidential race to down ballot elections. 

When asked why he thought Pennsylvania voted for Trump, which is the first time the state voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, Koppe said that Sec. Hillary Clinton “failed to campaign successfully” in the state and a few other key states in the “blue wall.” He said that he believes Democrats at large took the blue wall and those states for granted and the effort of PTP is to re-engage voters who have felt left out. 

“We want to make sure in particular in states like Pennsylvania that we’re getting out there and reaching out to voters that clearly do not feel reached out to by Democrats and progressives at large in 2016,” Koppe said. 

He said that the group begins with canvassers telling potential voters that they are apart of a turnout study from the data the group has gathered. It’s intended to get the potential voters to think about their voting habits and begin to identify themselves as a voter and attempts to find out what will motivate them to head to the polls. 

Koppe said that the group hopes to have several conversations with a voter prior to the November election, which is why he said they begin knocking on doors as early as May. He said the group collects a “commitment to vote card” filled out from the people’s doors they’ve knocked on and leave them with a decal they can put on their door, which reinforces the “identity of being a voter” while also mailing thank you cards intended to remind them how important it is to turn out for the upcoming election.  

He believes their group can have a greater impact over other campaigns since they don’t necessarily stress on a particular candidate, but the importance of voting. 

“I think the biggest thing that makes our program stand out from what campaigns and a lot of other organizations do is that our conversations with voters are about voting,” Koppe said. “We focus on particular types of voters, but when we talk to people, you really just focus on the need to get out the vote and have your voice heard.”

In the initial report from The Hill, the group is placing a particular focus on young people, Latinos, and African Americans. 

Koppe said that the group is targeting those demographics because “by and large those groups are more likely to support Democrats,” but added that just like “working class white voters” who felt left out in 2016, people from other demographic groups also sometimes feel left out as well. 

This will be PTP’s first “major effort” in the state, according to Koppe, although he did say they were involved in the 2018 special election for the old 18th Congressional District in which Lamb defeated state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny) in the old Trump friendly district. 

Despite the major effort from PTP and a number of other Democratic backed groups, the Republican National Committee feels confident that Trump will win the presidency once again and Republicans will win up and down the ballot. 

“The Trump campaign and the RNC raised nearly half a billion dollars in 2019 while continuing to shatter fundraising records, and we’re putting that money to work in the largest data driven ground game in history to elect President Trump and Republicans up-and-down the ballot in November.” RNC Spokesperson Michael Joyce said to PoliticsPA.

3 Responses

  1. We would be interested in speaking with your group. I am the 1st Vice Chair of the Lehigh County Democratic committee.

  2. Cartwright would have to be in a non Presidential year to lose his seat with Trump in office. It’s a Republican political consultants fantasy to knock Cartwright off when Trump is drawing 100% of the media attention. How do you make Cartwright an issue when Trump is the issue? Folks can only focus so much on any one topic and so it is with politics. That said–any support helps including the support of the liberal group but I would say of all the candidates mentioned Cartwright needs the assistance the least. Still, never turn down any help with voter turnout.

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