Can We Win in 2022? Our Partner Thinks So and Lays out the Stakes and Strategy

Nathan Diaz Legorreta (he/him) is a campaign strategist and community organizer. In his field manager role at Activate America, Nathan is providing excellent support to our Go Green Vote Blue phone banking efforts. 350 Bay Area Action interviewed Nathan in March. 

Tell us about yourself:

I attended the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, where I majored in World Politics with a concentration in Conflict and Resolution. During the 2016 presidential election, I got my start with a unique opportunity to work as an immigration advisor for Senator Bernie Sanders in his first presidential bid. After the defeat, I knew that the country was going to change. So I decided to focus my efforts on domestic issues. In Arizona, I worked with the Human Rights Campaign on electing pro-equality candidates. From there, I worked on anti-nuclear legislation and addressed the threat of climate change. Then I had a unique opportunity, first to work for Congresswoman Ilhan Omar as her field director, and then to run her 2020 re-election campaign. In my current role as Field Director in Activate America, I have an awesome opportunity to work with volunteers to win big in the midterms and beyond and elect leaders that work for lasting change.

Do you share the view that these midterms are the most critical elections in recent history? If so, why?

There’s a lot at stake if we let the next two years leading up to the 2024 presidential election go unorganized, unnoticed, and untested with the threat of a second Donald Trump presidency. The Republican Party has become very divisive, with the rhetoric of conservative values, the anti-race theories, and the anti-education battles being fought in schools. If Democrats do not maintain the majority or gain more of a majority, Republicans will undo the progress that we’ve achieved. So this is the most critical election of our lifetime.

What do you view as the most significant threats we face if Democrats lose the majority?

For me, the biggest threat is electoral security and voting rights. The Republican Party has attempted to strip away voting rights and make voting access more difficult. In some states, the redistricting process has become unfairly partisan towards the Republican Party. They do not believe in the process of fair elections, and we’re seeing that they will do anything it takes to undo valid and certified results. 

We all sense animosity in the air. Many of our social constructs and social developments as a society are being threatened. The pandemic, something that affected us all, has become a political game. It should never have been. It’s a scientific issue, and we should trust the advice of the experts. 

We need to recognize what Democrats have done and continue to work to elect Democrats. An incredible infrastructure bill was passed that benefited many communities and will continue to do so. In addition, Congress took up the voting rights issue. Although the John Lewis voting bill did not pass, it’s something that will be possible if we elect a larger Democratic majority in the Senate. 

I was working with Congressmember Omar in the Fifth Congressional District when and where the murder of George Floyd happened. Conversations around policing and how Black people in this country are treated need to continue. It has to strike at the core of what we do legislatively and socially in this country. By electing the right leaders, that can happen. 

The last frontier is climate change. We need to address this as a major issue in the next Congress. Because if we don’t, we are, quite frankly, out of time. 

We are on the verge of all of these things, but with a lot to gain or lose.

How does California figure into the importance of our work influencing the midterms?

The road to the majority indeed runs through California, a large and strategic state with many districts. While there are races that we may not win in other states, we can win in California with a concentrated Democratic turnout. Obviously, the redistricting process changed things a little bit. But it’s still essential that we push behind representatives like Katie Porter, Josh Harder, and Mike Levin. These champions have proven that they are the real deal. We need to continue efforts to reelect them because of the challenges resulting from redistricting. And we also must focus on flipping seats where we have an opportunity to do so. Andre Charles, our data director, who presented the congressional overviews for a recent Activate America webinar, said that California is “the swingingest state” because it offers an opportunity for us to shift it.

What is the Activate America Strategy with the California races?

I attend strategy sessions with 18 partner organizations where I hear about everyone’s midterm strategy. Their main focus is voter turnout. The most recent research shows that various methods are needed to drive turnout for this cycle. That’s canvassing, that’s texting, that’s phone calls, that’s mailing postcards. To the extent possible, it’s also in-person events. Obviously, we still need to be cautious with the pandemic, but we cannot leave a voter stone unturned in this crucial election. It’s clear that the more voter contacts you have, the more likely people are to be informed about the election.

Voters are moved by different issues. For example, a large part of the electorate is moved by climate change. That’s how they vote. Studies show that for many people, climate is their number one priority. Another vital issue is police brutality. So it is essential when messaging voters, that we are not only aware of the issues that matter most to a particular constituency but that we address them in a transparent and accurate way. 

Activate America has done a study on the efficacy of using postcards. We learned that postcarding impacts people’s perception of members of Congress, leading to voter engagement and turnout. We are currently doing a study on the effectiveness of phone banking and measuring whether a phone call alone motivates a voter to vote by mail, if it takes a phone call and a postcard, or if it takes none of these. When the study is completed, we’ll analyze the data. Phone banking is influential because it reaches voters comfortably where they’re at. And it offers an opportunity to have conversations about issue areas and voter concerns, so it can be very effective.

The way we impact elections depends on how much voter information we provide. It’s not just calling them and spewing out dates. It’s education. “Here’s why it’s important to vote. Here’s what’s at stake. Here’s how and when to do it.” Equally significant is being able to provide information quickly. Texts are really effective for that. “The election is next week. Don’t forget to vote!” 

Do you believe this election is winnable in California and the rest of the country?

Any state is winnable if we organize. Check out the Activate America webinars. They have a lot of great information that provides a district-by-district breakdown. When I first joined Activate America in the fall of 2021, voters were very fatigued. Also, people were experiencing donor fatigue. But once we turned the calendar page to 2022, it was like we flipped a switch. Suddenly, everyone was interested in getting involved. Voter sentiment is now more engaged because they recognize the potential impact of the midterm elections.