Race for state Senate seat will test grassroots campaigning

Could countless hours of field work — canvassing door-to-door and making phone calls — be the key to winning a contested Senate seat that had been characterized by Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien as a “slam dunk” for Republicans?

Democratic candidate Linda Newell thinks so. The single mother and her volunteers claim to have knocked on more than 37,000 doors since July in the traditionally conservative Senate District 26 south of Denver as part of an elaborate field strategy to defeat Republican candidate Lauri Clapp.

Since starting the massive ground effort in the summer, a race that was supposed to favor Clapp has turned into a toss-up, with the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund, a political organization that financially supports Democrats running for state Senate, classifying the district as a top-tier race.

Along with canvassing more than 100 precincts in the district, Newell supporters have also made a total of 12,700 phone calls. The campaign has been specifically targeting unaffiliated voters the city of Centennial, which is expected to be a deciding factor in the race.

It is currently unknown how much field work the Clapp camp has completed. Inquiries to the campaign have not been returned at this time.

But if Newell does win, it may end up being one of the biggest and underreported stories of Election Day in Colorado, where field work and community organizing — tactics that are often sidestepped by campaigns in favor of advertising spots and consulting fees — turned what was once an unwinnable seat over to a Democrat.

Also read The Colorado Independent’s continuing coverage of the SD 26 race.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.