Delegate Balance

Posted February 11, 2004 at 6:35pm

As Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) amasses more and more delegates on his march to the Democratic presidential nomination, his campaign is using new technology to manage his list of locked-in convention support.

Developed by Michelle Kraus, a 20-year veteran of the Silicon Valley high-tech industry — and a political junkie to boot — the software is taking the Kerry campaign, and those of some competitors, well beyond the Web fundraising and blogging that have gotten most of the media attention thus far this election season.

The technology allows the campaigns to collect and massage data on delegates based on the Democratic National Committee’s specs, along with the rules for delegate selection in every state.

“The algorithms from the DNC and

the various states are not a simple thing,” said Kraus, CEO of Digital Campaigns, the 5-year-old Palo Alto, Calif.-based company that provides various online services to political campaigns, specializing in get-out-the-vote strategies.

The technology also enables the campaigns to organize information on delegates into various categories, including age, race, gender, union membership, spouses’ names and commitment to the candidates.

“This is a process that in the past has been so difficult it made a lot of people’s hair go white,” Kraus said.

But Digital Campaigns must be on to something: In addition to Kerry, it was hired to manage delegate lists for ex-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s bid and Rep. Richard Gephardt’s (Mo.) erstwhile presidential candidacy.

Kraus, a longtime Democratic activist and donor, couldn’t be happier, and discusses the campaigns she’s working with as if they’re sweet delicacies.

“The three that are using it — they’re like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry,” Kraus said. “I’m not going to tell you who I think the chocolate is.”

Networking Women, Part 1. The Women’s Information Network, the so-called “old girls network” for those who work in Democratic politics and support abortion rights, held its annual Young Women of Achievement Awards ceremony last week.

The winners, culled from a list of 22 nominees younger than 35, were:

• Veronica de la Garza, executive director of the Youth Vote Coalition.

• Anna Ekindjian, development director of the Progressive Majority who has previously worked for the League of Conservation Voters and the National Organization for Women.

• Erica Smiley, field director for Choice USA and a former operative in her home state of North Carolina.

• Tracy Sturdivant, field director for the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation.

• Kristina Wilfore, executive director of the Ballot Strategy Center and Foundation and former communications director for the Center for Policy Alternatives.

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) and former NOW President Patricia Ireland served as keynote speakers for the awards ceremony.

Networking Women, Part 2. The Women Under Forty Political Action Committee, or WUFPAC, held a reception for female Members of Congress last week in the Rayburn House Office Building.

The PAC, designed to help young women running for Congress, attracted about 150 people to its event, including several Members of Congress and Emily Matthews, a 30-year-old businesswoman who is running in a crowded Republican primary in Texas’ 1st district.

“Ladies, we have to do something,” said Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), the only female Member who is currently younger than 40. “It should not be so unusual to have a woman serving in the House of Representatives.”

Michigan Man. Jim Sype, who has worked for just about every Democratic politician in the Great Lake State, has been tapped to be the director of the Michigan Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign for 2004. He’s charged with maximizing Democratic turnout in one of the most competitive states in the country.

Sype served most recently as director of political affairs for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, was political director for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in her successful 2000 Senate campaign, worked for Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) in his 1994 re-election, and has worked for scores of other campaigns. For a little variety, he spent some time in Texas in 2001, working for the runoff re-election of then-Houston Mayor Lee Brown.

Cautionary Tale. Automated phone calls to voters are now a staple of political campaigns. But something went dreadfully wrong when 13,000 Santa Clara County, Calif., voters received calls at 7 a.m. on behalf of state Assemblywoman Elaine Alquist (D), who is seeking a seat in the state Senate.

It turns out that the East Coast firm Alquist had hired to make the calls forgot about the time difference.

“I’m mortified,” Alquist told the San Jose Mercury News.

She fired the firm, the Spoken Hub — and began writing letters of apology to the offended parties. It remains to be seen whether they will pay her back at the polls during the March 2 Democratic primary.

Elizabeth Brotherton contributed to this report.