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DNC invests earlier in state parties, voter persuasion

Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

The Democratic National Committee, lagging its Republican rival in fundraising, is pouring what it has into new grassroots organizing for state parties. This week, the DNC is launching a State Partnership Program to deliver on what the new chairman, Tom Perez, ran on — brick-and-mortar rebuilding of local parties that shriveled in the Obama years.

“For too long, we poured our resources into races at the top of the ticket instead of organizing at the grass roots and building a deep bench of talent,” Perez said. “This unprecedented investment in our state parties is the first major step in our effort to get back to basics and rebuild the Democratic Party from the ground up.”

In October, the DNC will give a $10,o00 monthly grant to each state party, running through the 2018 midterms — a one-third increase over its 2016 commitments, which came when the party’s presidential campaign was winning the money wars.

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“My sense is that it’s not how much money you raise, but how well you spend it,” said Ken Martin, the chair of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and leader of the Association of State Democratic Chairs. “We know there’re going to opportunities in 2018, 2020 and 2022. And we have a very large hole to dig out of, after years of neglect.”

The DNC is also launching a State Party Innovation Fund, with $10 million earmarked for grants that state parties can compete for by organizing and modernizing; funds, according to the party, will be devoted to “innovation, best practices and organizing in base, rural, millennial and youth communities, in addition to help with building technical infrastructure.”

Among the aids already available: Knock 10, a phone app designed to streamline the process of door-knocking to encourage extremely early voter persuasion. (A common post-election critique of Hillary Clinton’s campaign was that it failed to do early persuasion, letting a voter advantage slip away in the three states that decided the election.) “Anyone can use the app, but only Democratic state parties get the data back and already state parties have begun to take advantage of this app to get more people involved in their communities,” said the DNC in a statement.

“There’s never been an agreement like the one being proposed now,” Martin said.  “There’s going to be a meaningful plan of action where we’re having conversation with voters, and adding capacities in state parties. There’ll be SWOT analysis with the DNC to identify weaknesses and create functional parties everywhere.”