Battleground Texas, the Democratic group trying to make the state politically competitive again, is relocating key staffers to Fort Worth as part of its increasingly energetic drive to help Sen. Wendy Davis in her race for governor.
While Battleground has said repeatedly it is focused on resurrecting the moribund Texas Democratic Party over the long term, the moves highlight the extent to which those hopes rest on Davis’ run for governor in the short term.
Battleground spokesman Ellis Brachman confirmed only that the group has ramped up staff in Fort Worth, where Davis has based her gubernatorial campaign.
“We're really excited about the Wendy Davis campaign, and we're going to be working closely with them, so of course we're moving some staff to Tarrant County,” Brachman said in an email. Davis spokesman Bo Delp, meanwhile, said the organization would “have some staff working closely with us here in Fort Worth.”
Neither would elaborate.
According to Democratic donors and operatives, though, Battleground has increasingly focused its energies on getting Davis elected. One person working for the group — who wasn't authorized to speak on the record — said that when phone calls to voters are made, volunteers say, “This is Battleground Texas calling on behalf of Wendy Davis.”
“We’re really focusing on Wendy now,” the worker said. Battleground staffers have also become a ubiquitous presence at Davis campaign events. At a recent one in Waxahachie, Davis supporters were asked to add their names to a Battleground Texas volunteer sign-up sheet.
Battleground director Jenn Brown, who ran President Obama’s successful field operation in the battleground state of Ohio in 2012, briefed donors and supporters about the group’s growing ties to the Davis campaign, and the relocation of staffers there, during a meeting last week at the Headliners Club in Austin, several of those present said.
Democratic operatives familiar with Battleground’s activities said decisions about which staffers go where are still being finalized and described the effort to coordinate activites with the Davis campaign as a work in progress. Given the size of the state, top staffers are spending a lot of time on the road, regardless.
According to an Austin Democratic strategist who was at the meeting last week and is familiar with Battleground's plans, the goal of the coordination between the two groups is to have a substantially integrated voter identification, registration and turnout effort so that the campaigns do not have redundant field operations.
Democrats have not won statewide office since 1994, so Davis can use all the help she can get. Her most likely Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, had more than $20 million in the bank at last count, compared with more than $1 million for Davis. The next campaign finance reports aren’t due until January.
The brainchild of Jeremy Bird, Obama’s former national field director, Battleground Texas launched in February with the goal of making the state hospitable for Democrats. The group raised $1.1 million in the first half of the year and reported more than $600,000 in the bank as of July.