AZ Jewish News: Jewish Democrats launch local chapter ahead of November election

August 6, 2020

By Ellen O’Brien

The Jewish Democratic Council of America officially launched its Arizona chapter on July 9, bringing together a few dozen volunteers to meet its members and formally begin organizing efforts ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

“Our overall mission in establishing a chapter is to create a growing network of Jewish Democrats in Arizona who are politically active and ready to fight for our values at the ballot box,” said Blake Flayton, a JDCA student fellow from Arizona who co-led the chapter launch.

The new chapter is one of 14 in states across the country where JDCA is focusing its efforts in 2020. The launch event, which featured Arizona state Rep. Alma Hernandez and Rep. Aaron Lieberman, offered potential volunteers a chance to learn about the organization, including its methods and values, Flayton said. It was also meant to generate excitement for JDCA, which Executive Director Halie Soifer said is growing.

In the chapter’s first month, “we’ve seen a pretty good response; we’re continuing to grow the group,” Soifer said. “Because we’re still relatively new, it requires people getting to know our organization.”

JDCA was founded in 2017 and endorsed 58 candidates across the country in the 2018 midterms. For the 2020 election, JDCA has endorsed 89 Democratic candidates in 14 states “where we think the Jewish community can make a difference in support of Democrats running for office with whom we share our values,” Soifer said. Key issues for the group include protecting the right to vote, combating climate change, defending against gun violence, and supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship.

The chapter will host a series of events now through November, mainly remote phone and texting banks where volunteers will call or text potential voters and encourage them to fill out their ballot and vote for Democratic candidates in November. While those events are important for getting out the vote, Flayton also found that they’re serving as a space for volunteers to come together and share their passion for politics.

“I also find it’s a really great space of community because it’s Jewish Democrats in Arizona who are fired up and ready to go now that our state is in play,” Flayton said. “They bring their Jewish values to the table along with other values and who they want to see run the government, and I think that’s just super inspiring to see.”

In Arizona, the group is particularly focused on the U.S. Senate race between Mark Kelly and Martha McSally, which is among the key battleground races for control of the Senate. Current polls indicate it’s likely to be very close.

“Jewish votes can make the difference in some of these very close states and districts,” Soifer said. “We know that Jewish voters tend to be more engaged, and we wanted to channel that activism into making a difference in November.”

As for Flayton, he’s thrilled by the excitement he’s seen from volunteers in Arizona so far.

“I think a lot of people in Arizona now are aware that we’re a swing state, and just knowing that we’re a swing state has been incentive enough to really energize people and really, really convince them to get involved,” Flayton said.

“The energy in Arizona has been great … It’s been very promising and encouraging, because we get a lot of people who are willing to sign up for our events and willing to volunteer — it makes our job recruiting volunteers that much more exciting and much more rewarding.”

While events are entirely online right now, that hasn’t dampened the spirits of JDCA volunteers, Flayton said. In fact, being able to get on the computer or make calls from the comfort of their homes is easier in some cases than having to get in the car and drive to a community space.

“It’s odd; I thought it was going to be a problem and I thought it was going to be an obstacle in organizing and recruiting volunteers, but it’s actually been a great way to expand our network,” Flayton said. “It’s actually been quite interesting to see how conducive it is to a lot more volunteers wanting to get involved.”

Ultimately, Soifer said, Jewish voters are involved, and JDCA wants to make sure their voices are heard this election cycle.

“What we know about Jewish voters is they do turn out,” Soifer said. “They have a high turnout rate and are very active in their community. So while we’re only 2% of the population, we do have a higher impact on the election.”