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State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, speaks to supporters at a rally Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, in Haltom City, Texas, where she declared her candidacy for Texas governor Thursday.

Lm Otero, Associated Press

Wendy Davis, left, a Democratic candidate for governor of Texas, signed autographs after a recent canvassing rally in San Antonio.

Jennifer Whitney • New York Times,

Grass-roots group believes Texas can become a blue state

  • Article by: AMY CHOZICK
  • New York Times
  • May 16, 2014 - 9:36 PM

– The instructions seemed simple enough: Knock on your neighbors’ doors and tell them to vote for Wendy Davis in Texas’ coming election for governor.

“If you do, on occasion, get a random Republican, just say ‘Thank you’ and keep on knocking,” Beth Kloser, 24, an organizer who had worked on President Obama’s 2012 campaign, instructed the two dozen Battleground Texas volunteers gathered here one recent Saturday morning.

Bryan Bejarano, 21, a political science student, soon realized the task was not as easy as it sounded. He wandered around a nearby neighborhood with a list of likely Democratic voters, culled using the same algorithms as Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

The first house on his list was overgrown with foliage and had no doorbell. The second home had stacks of empty boxes on a covered front porch. No one answered at his third stop.

“If Wendy Davis wins, we keep going,” Bejarano said, undeterred. “If she loses, we keep going.”

Texas, with its 38 electoral votes and its changing demographics, offers a tantalizing opportunity for Democrats to flip the state that is the bulwark of any Republican presidential campaign.

That’s why after Obama’s re-election, Jeremy Bird, the campaign’s national field director, started Battleground Texas, a grass-roots political organization whose goal is to make Texas competitive, a long-term effort intended to take root by the 2020 presidential election, at the earliest.

Then, Davis declared her candidacy.

With the task of door-knocking in a state larger than France, Davis’ campaign has essentially tried to absorb Battleground Texas as her field operation in a race against Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican attorney general.

That has put added scrutiny on the group and has created a dynamic that is at times awkward. And now that their fates are intertwined, Battleground Texas may shed some momentum should Davis, a state senator, lose.

“Frankly, what’s complicated the Battleground situation is the emergence of Wendy Davis,” said James R. Henson, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the director of the school’s Texas Politics Project.

Battleground Texas volunteers like Bejarano must recruit voters by delicately explaining that the cause is bigger than Davis’ race.

Davis delivered a pep talk to the small crowd of volunteers here before they were sent throughout the city.

She said that Battleground Texas’ get-out-the-vote efforts were exactly what would make a difference for her campaign.

“Texas is not a deep-red state,” she said. “Texas is a state where people have been staying home.”

© 2014 Star Tribune