Progressive Democratic group starts Arkansas operation | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Progressive Democratic group starts Arkansas operation

Posted By on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 10:08 AM

click to enlarge A NEW POLITICAL FACE: Progressive group sets up in Arkansas.
  • A NEW POLITICAL FACE: Progressive group sets up in Arkansas.

I should have included this with the earlier item about a hopeful report on Southern Democratic candidates. It's about a newish political organization aimed at bolstering Democrats in the South.

I've written before, including here, about Southern Progress, an organization chaired by former Miss. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and co-founded by Arkansans — George Shelton of Fayetteville and Amanda Crumley of England — with experience in the Clinton White House.

Today, a news release formally unveils an Arkansas-specific nonprofit offshoot of the group. Shelton, Crumley and Will Watson of Fayetteville and Marsha Scott of Hot Springs (another Clinton White House alumna now at Southern Progress) paid a visit to the Arkansas Times yesterday to talk about the new project.

They are Democratic, progressive and committed to making a difference  in the 2014 election cycle. Part of the plan is based on open-source sharing of voter information to help candidates find and target like-minded voters. The indicators will be more than political primary participation history, but include other information sources, much as Acxiom does to identify the sorts of people that might be persuasive to select merchandising pitches. In a world where increasing numbers of voters consider themselves independents, ringing a partisan dinner bell is no longer a simple key to victory through straight-ticket voting. (One question I posed is whether we're entering a phase in Arkansas where straight-ticket Republicans begin to resemble voting patterns of the old straight-ticket Democrat.)

This group understands  that Republicans have caught up on the technology and social media savvy that propelled Barack Obama. The GOP's ideological soulmates — think the richly funded Koch octopus — are also much farther advanced in grassroots networking. They hope to respond in kind. (Scott, for example, spoke admiringly of the grassroots work accomplished by Teresa Oelke in her employment by the Koch organization.)  Can Democrats still believe in Hope?

The group's release follows. Crumley will be setting up shop in Little Rock. Watson is working out of Fayetteville. They want to put Arkansas in play from the state legislature up, including lesser state-wide offices.

Yes, there's a website. And a Facebook page. And a Twitter feed.

Southern Progress, an independent political organization chaired by former Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove (D) and co-founded by two Arkansans, Amanda Crumley of England and George Shelton of Fayetteville, announced today the formation of Southern Progress Arkansas, a communications, research and data project based in Little Rock aimed at helping elect Democrats across the Natural State in 2014 and beyond.

Musgrove pointed to the volume of competitive races in Arkansas that present opportunities for Democrats in 2014 as rationale for why his group chose to put such a focus on the state. “The stakes are high for Southern Democrats in 2014, and especially for Arkansas Democrats,” Gov. Musgrove said. “Despite progress under Democratic Governor Mike Beebe, a secretive network of extreme far-right interest groups are hard at work in Arkansas and they are intent on reversing this progress.”

“We want to counterbalance the increasing noise coming from those far right groups and expand the opportunity for Arkansas Democratic candidates’ voices to be heard,” said Musgrove.

Musgrove pointed to the specific opportunities for Democrats in Arkansas this year: Democrats are within two seats of reclaiming a majoirty in the state House; the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races are two of the most hotly contested in the country; and the races for Arkansas Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor and other constitutional offices all pit experienced Democratic candidates against ultra-conservatives candidates.

Southern Progress executive director Amanda Crumley, a veteran national Democratic consultant from Arkansas, will helm Southern Progress Arkansas along with political campaign strategist Will Watson. They will be based in Little Rock and Fayetteville.

Crumley said that Southern Progress Arkansas is a first of its kind independent operation in the state. She said the organization will serve as a hub for communications, research and voter data and analytics.

“Our job at Southern Progress Arkansas is to hold conservatives accountable to their records in Arkansas and correct the record when they and these outside groups distort the truth about Democratic candidates in the state,” said Crumley.

Crumley said the organization would do this through aggressive research, media outreach, online organizing and social media activity. She also said the group would continue to work in Arkansas beyond 2014.

In addition to communications and research, Southern Progress Arkansas will also house a data and voter analytics operation that will enhance the resources available to candidates and provide an unprecendented level of support for communications and voter turnout.

Candidates and elected officials across the state have expressed support for Southern Progress Arkansas.

State Representative Greg Leding (D-86) said "I'm excited to see Southern Progress Fund launch here in Arkansas. With Arkansas Democrats in great position to win back the House, Southern Progress Arkansas could help tip the balance."

# # #

About Southern Progress

Southern Progress works to elect more Democratic leaders in the South, with a focus on state legislative and statewide down-ballot elections. We believe more elected Democrats in the South means great economic security and broader equality, justice and opportunity for everyone in the region.

We are working for both short- and long-term victories, with an eye towards legislative redistricting efforts in 2020. Throughout the South we are building a strong bench of talented Democrats while growing a sustainable progressive infrastructure state by state that engages the growing Rising American Electorate.

In 2013 Southern Progress Action Fund, an arm of the Southern Progress Fund, ran a statewide direct mail program targeting persuadable voters in Virginia in the final week of the Virginia Attorney General election to help secure victory for Attorney General-Elect Mark Herring.

About Ronnie Musgrove

Ronnie Musgrove was Governor of the state of Mississippi from 2000 - 2004. From his insight as chairman of Southern Growth Policy Board and the Southern Region Education Board, Governor Musgrove recognized the importance of building economic capacity through an educated workforce. Always a strong proponent of public education, Governor Musgrove focused his attention while in office on building a solid foundation for economic growth through Mississippi's public schools. Through his tireless efforts, Mississippi created a comprehensive approach to economic development, which resulted in the location of a Nissan's flagship auto plant in Canton, MS that brought with it a capital investment of $1.4 billion and 30,000 jobs.

About Amanda Crumley

Amanda Crumley runs Crumley Communications & Public Strategies. She has a 22-year track record of success in political, communications and public affairs campaigns. As a long time Democratic political campaign advisor, Amanda has devised communications strategy and advised candidates in high-stakes winning elections across the country.

Crumley is a veteran of three presidential and numerous local and statewide campaigns, and spent more than four years in the Clinton White House. She has served as communications director for Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, and as communications director on the winning gubernatorial campaigns of Governors Mike Easley (D-North Carolina) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia), and for gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides (D-California). In 2004, Crumley was the Deputy State Director for Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign in the winning battleground state of Pennsylvania. Campaigns & Elections, the nation's leading magazine for political professionals, named Crumley as a “Rising Star of Politics” in 2002.

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