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Block-Walking Ramps Up as Election Season Winds Down

Ben Philpott/KUT
Canvassers Mark Sterling (left) and Christopher Nicholson (right) are hitting the pavement to raise awareness for the Wendy Davis campaign this week before the end of early voting on Friday.

We're finally in the home stretch of the 2014 elections. And while you're likely to see dozens of campaign ads on TV this last's a knock on a door that may determine the outcome of several elections. The "get out the vote" campaigns being run by Republicans and Democrats are ramping up before the end of early voting this week.

Going door to door, canvasing a neighborhood to find supporters, and doing everything you can to convince them to vote can be tiring work. But at least the weather's been nice.

"We block walk in teams,” says Christopher Nicholson a volunteer HUB organizer for Battleground Texas, the organization aimed at making Texas competitive for Democratic candidates. “And we'll each take a side of the street.”

What exactly is a HUB? Well it's basically just a neighborhood-based camp for block-walking outreach.

The goal here, and with Battleground Texas overall, is to find unregistered and unlikely voters and get them to the polls. Their theory is that low voter turnout has allowed Republican dominance. The HUB approach focuses on having a neighborhood home as a base of operation, and using volunteers from the neighborhood to go door to door as well, instead of bringing in campaign workers from other parts of the city or state.

“The fact that these hubs are located in neighborhoods, and the block walkers can strike out from these hubs, really makes it a neighborhood focus,” says Mark Sterling, a volunteer for Wendy Davis campaign. “And you're talking to your honest-to-God neighbors. And you can say, ‘I'm with the Wendy Davis campaign and I live just around the corner. And are you sure you got a plan to get out and vote.’”

The Greg Abbott campaign is also on the ground, making sure his supporters don't forget to vote. Elijah Israel Casas is helping Abbott out in Hidalgo County, but he's also pounding the pavement for his own benefit. Casas is running for the Texas House District 41, a seat currently held by Democrat Bobby Guerra, and a district that has perennially supported Democrats.

“But I make it a point that we are going to talk to everybody,” Casas says. “It doesn't matter if you're a solid D on that list, or a solid R, you're going to get a visit from us.”

And you’re going to hear his message, despite all the time, effort and sweat, Casas says, because they’re trying to do something different.

He says Republicans in this part of the state have to rely on block walking, because they can't raise enough money to mount a TV campaign. But, he says, that handicap can be beneficial. At one house he met a woman who said, "don't tell me about your campaign," but, despite rebuffing the campaign pitch, she said she’d vote for him because he took the time to meet with her. He believes decade after decade of Democratic wins in this area are providing an opportunity for himself, Greg Abbott and other Republicans.

“Which is why, yes, we're tired. Yes, we're exhausted, but we get up every day at 6 a.m. and we're out here,” he says. “We're out here with the message of direct and accessible representation. And we're trying to fight for something good here.”

Casas, Battleground Texas, and candidates across the state only have a few days left before they see if their efforts worked.

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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