Friday, February 03, 2006

a Nashvillian ponders a campaign in a political ground zero

My young friend Ellery Gould is a smart, energetic Tennessean who has found himself in the midst of one of the most unique political challenges I have ever heard of in my 25 plus years of working in and around political races.
Gould, born, raised and schooled in Nashville, currently works as an aide to Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon. He previously worked as an aide in the 2002 campaign of Congressman Jim Cooper (D-Nashville). Melancon's district - the 3rd congressional district is a massive geographic footprint that runs along the southern coastal wetlands of Louisiana.
In 2005, Melancon's district - mostly rural - became something of a ground zero for both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Entire communities were wiped off the face of the earth, commercial and personal property damage and loss has been beyond comprehension.
Ellery came to town recently to visit family and friends, and over lunch filled me on some of the things he has been working on as an aide to Melancon.
As you can imagine, his boss has been working overtime to help the surviving constituents pick up the broken pieces of their lives and begin navigating the maze of government bureaucracies to rebuild. Much has been written and reported about similar kinds of challenges facing countless others in the Gulf coastal region.
But Ellery enlightened me on another challenge of equal importance and significance to the future of their constituents - one that involves the process of giving residents in that region the opportunity to vote and have their voices heard this election year at the polls.
According to Ellery, the infrastructure that once supported voter registration, voter databases, polling equipment and places to vote suffered considerable damage in the wake of the 2005 hurricane season. Naturally, so much attention has for good reason been given by government officials to addresses the most primal needs of the region's residents - water, food, shelter. But at some point, in order to give residents of the region the opportunity to exercise their right to vote and to have their vote counted, resources will have to be put in place to support this endeavor.
First and foremost on the long list of obstacles that stand in the way of a true democratic process is the need to actually locate and make contact with all those people who have called and plan to call the region home. So many, as you can imagine, fled the region and remain scattered across the country, trying to assess a possible return to the region.
At some point, Ellery will do what many aides do during an election year - make the transition to the campaign staff and begin putting together a campaign operation - an operation that will include media, voter id and outreach, and grass roots canvassing. But the operation will be anything but traditional in its approach. New ways to identify and communicate to voters in areas void of communication networks will have to be considered. The list of things to ponder is mindblowing.
I've urged Ellery to document what all plays out in the coming months. I can envision a rewriting of the political textbook after all is said and done.

2 Comments:

Blogger nashtndem said...

Good luck Ellery. With a good friend and strategist such as Casey O'Shea, I imagine you will have a solid game plan. Your youth and ability to connect will serve you well. I will gladly contribute financially to anyone who really cares about the people of Louisiana (and Mississippi) and helping them get some semblance of their communities back. I don't see paying my neighbor $5.00 per mile to pull housing trailers to be placed in a fenced lot (because there are no utilities to hook to the trailers) as a real attempt to provide a solution. Adding more fenced lots and continuing to pay for trailers to be taken down that may never be used shows a real lack of initiative, vision, and planning. If I didn't know better, I'd swear the Republican leadership didn't want people to move back to Louisiana or Mississippi.

8:56 PM  
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12:48 PM  

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