While waiting for tonight's gubernatorial debate between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman to begin, I just checked out the scene outside the debate hall on the Dominican University campus.
There was the usual crowd of supporters, for both sides, all waving signs, some chanting. Perhaps the most powerful sign: "Yo soy Nicky." Handwritten, it was raised from among a crowd of Spanish-speaking union workers. It referred, of course, to Nicky Santillan Diaz, the undocumented housekeeper employed for nine years by Whitman before she was terminated after informing Whitman last summer of her immigration status. Santillan Diaz, in making public her story, tearfully told the media of being informed by Whitman, "You don't know me," after the firing.
Briefly leading the cheers from union workers before entering the hall was Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. Pulaski had told me over the summer that labor had put together the most aggressive micro-targeting campaign in its history in preparation for the fall campaign. The effort targets pre-identified, non-union voters that labor believes are sympathetic to their arguments. How's it going? Pulaski reports that the targeted list has proven to be even more accurate than organizers had hoped: Among voters contacted, he said, 77 percent have said they are voting for Brown.
That may be true. But the real test is whether organizers follow through and make certain those contacts actually vote. If that effort is successful, it may have more of an effect on the outcome than all those anti-Whitman TV commercials that organized labor put on television over the summer.