Friday, August 10, 2007

Behind Enemy Lines in Garden City

The LA Times ran an interesting article earlier this week on a Republican campaign worker in Berkeley, California and a Democratic organizer in Garden City, Kansas.

For my coastal and foreign readers, that's far western and deep Republican Kansas . The famous In Cold Blood murders happened in Holcomb, just a little west of Garden City.

Jacqueline Bujanda is the Democratic organizer in Garden City. Here are some interesting 'graphs from the story.

Rural Kansas businesses are boycotted for Democratic sympathies. At one county clerk's office, workers stared dumbfounded when Bujanda introduced herself as the new Democratic regional field coordinator. "There was total silence," she recalled, "as if what I was doing was just an unheard-of thing."

Garden City (pop. 27,000) was now more than 40% Latino, a demographic shift driven by the arrival of Mexican and Central American immigrants to work in the county's meatpacking plants.

When she first began her field-

coordinating, she pursued mostly Republicans, challenging a Midwestern tradition of conservative voting handed down over generations.

One day, Bennie Creeden scowled at Bujanda's pitch. "I'm not voting for any Democrat," he said, shutting his door. Nearby, retiree George Purnell had the same response: "Democrat is a dirty word in this community."

Bujanda now thinks her best chances lie not in the area's old guard, but with the Latino newcomers. Here, she reasoned, was an untapped voter base.

Bujanda wants to enlist 1,500 new Latino voters. She knocks on doors, patiently explaining to some immigrants what a Democrat is.

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