TJ Donovan is pulling out all the stops at the close of his effort to unseat Attorney General Bill Sorrell. Over the last four days, Donovan has launched a new radio ad, stood at the roadside for four “honk and waves,” canvassed two cities, and done six shifts at his campaign’s phone banks.
While the candidate himself is hitting the campaign trail hard, his team is steadily working where he isn’t.
Monday evening, Donovan was back at the Vermont Democratic Party headquarters in Burlington, working the phones. About 10 supporters were scattered around the headquarters, all hunched over lists of supporters and undecided voters the campaign has compiled since its inception in early May.
The campaign’s get-out-the-vote effort – known as “G.O.T.V.” by insiders in the office – has been going since Friday.
Ryan Emerson, Donovan’s campaign manager, explained they are breaking voters down into four essential categories: Firm Sorrell supporters, undecided voters and two types of Donovan supporters.
“The other thing you want to do for GOTV targeting is you want to look at your supporters and break it down, basically, two different ways,” Emerson said. “No. 1: People who have a strong history of voting in the Democratic primary. Basically, your surefire people. You don’t have to spend as much time making sure they get out to the polls – they kind of turn themselves out. Really who you want to focus on in get out the vote is people who are TJ supporters but have a weak history of voting on and off in the primaries.”
As his team of volunteers across the state – the campaign has call centers in Burlington, Montpelier, Bennington and Brattleboro – made calls to all but the Sorrell supporters, Donovan was working on the most important group: Undecided voters.
Emerson, speaking animatedly but quietly in the back of the call center, explains that he’s read studies that show undecided voters can swing elections 5 percent either way, and he thinks in this race, 5 percent will likely be the difference.
Later, Donovan stands up and paces the well-lit hallway he’s been sitting in alone. His eyes are working between his iPhone and his call list. For the first time in an hour, the phone isn’t in his hand.
It froze up, he says. Sometimes, after a few hundred calls in a row Donovan has to wait for the phone to reset. Despite a wary look in his eyes, it’s clear he’s not happy to have a break.
He says he’s probably made close to 1,000 phone calls since the get-out-the-vote effort started Friday. Emerson said the volunteers are likely to make around 30,000 calls in the same timespan.
Donovan will be at it again on Election Day – he plans to fill out his own ballot at 7 a.m. and then make the rounds, visiting polling stations in Burlington, Shelburne, Montpelier, Essex, Williston, Richmond and St. Albans.
“It’s about visibility, it’s about making these phone calls, it’s about running on all cylinders,” Emerson said. “For the next 24 hours, that’s exactly what we intend to do. It’s all hands on deck.”