From Campaigning to the Convention

Danielle Simms tells us how she became a delegate to the DNC.

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When you're a Democrat, knocking doors in a deep-Republican area like Lynchburg, Virginia, can throw more challenges in your direction than you'd expect. It wasn't unheard of to receive death threats when trying to persuade voters to support a candidate. More than one homeowner threatened to let their dogs out to get us "liberal canvassers" off their property. One woman told me that she would never vote for "that n***** Obama." I walked away from that door as fast as I possibly could.

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But when you are a volunteer, that's what you do: knock on doors. Volunteers knock on doors in the rain, in the snow, and in 100-degree weather. Canvassing, also known as "the ground game," is an essential part of any campaign. But no one had warned me how dangerous the doors I was knocking could be.

I do it because I love being involved in causes that will make America a better place. In college, I attended the first PowerShift youth climate conference in 2007 and came away an activist. Back at school I helped organize petition drives against mountaintop coal removal, held screenings of environmental films, and led town-hall events.

By 2008, my door-knocking career had begun. I volunteered for the historic Obama campaign and for the campaign of Senator Mark Warner. My fellow volunteers and I were determined to elect a progressive president and senator, and we knocked on as many doors as we had to in order to win that election — the issues at stake were way too important to give up. On election night, November 4, 2008, we were victorious — both Obama and Warner had won! For many of us, this was the first campaign we had volunteered on, and we knew the town halls, phone banks, and doors we knocked on had helped them win.

I stayed active after that. In 2012, I volunteered for the Obama campaign again. Later in the fall, I was an organizer for the League of Conservation Voters, persuading its members to volunteer on the Obama campaign, Senator Tim Kaine's campaign in Virginia, and Krysten Sinema's congressional campaign in Arizona. I phone-banked voters for days on end and, yes, knocked on doors asking people to volunteer and vote.

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And now, after all that time knocking on doors — for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, and again for Hillary Clinton this past year — I am attending the Democratic National Convention as a delegate from my congressional district. It's a big step up from my previous work, and I can't wait.

I decided to volunteer for the Hillary Clinton campaign early this year because she is the most qualified Democratic candidate. I loved her plans on repairing the Voting Rights Act and installing universal, automatic voter registration. For my big issue, the environment, Hillary understands that we need to take action on climate change. Her goal is for the United States to generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America, have half a billion solar panels installed by 2020, reduce oil consumption and energy waste, cut billions of oil and gas subsidies, and protect public lands. I was especially excited for her plan to develop an environmental-and-climate-justice task force, to eliminate lead poisoning within five years, and to expand solar and energy-efficiency solutions in low-income communities. I knew she'd inspire a new generation of women to break through the glass ceiling. So I've been doing my thing — I volunteered in Iowa, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, and made thousands of phone calls to get out the vote. I planned canvasses, maintained a volunteer listserv, planned precinct operations in my city for Primary Day, where we had a presence at EVERY polling place, and recruited dozens of volunteers.

Then, in April, I decided to run to become a Hillary Clinton delegate to the national convention. I wanted to be a part of the entire process of nominating the next president. I knew this would be a very difficult challenge. First, I filed paperwork with my local Democratic committee and state party to run for delegate at the congressional-district level. This basically meant I was the candidate.

Next, I launched my campaign: sent hundreds of emails, made calls, created flyers and stickers, collected endorsements, and arranged meetings leading up the 8th Congressional District Convention, where I would make my case to hundreds of Democrats who were delegates to the district convention. There, I and the other candidates each gave a 90-second speech, and all the district-convention delegates voted. And I won! My duty as a delegate at the national convention is to represent the 8th Congressional District and the Democratic Party of Virginia, and to show their support for Hillary by casting my vote for her at the convention until a clear majority is reached.

Just as Obama's DNC nomination for President in 2008 was a once-in-a-lifetime historic moment for African Americans and civil rights, building upon the hard work of civil-rights icons like John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, and many more, Hillary Clinton's DNC nomination will also be a major historic moment to break the highest, hardest glass ceiling, carrying on the legacy of leaders like Shirley Chisholm and Geraldine Ferraro. It's powerful for this generation to break these barriers and powerful to imagine the opportunities that Hillary Clinton and Obama are making for the next generation. Sanders delegates should be proud, too. His campaign and movement got a lot of people involved and ensured the Democrats have the most progressive party platform in history. My hope is that electing Hillary Clinton is seen as a continuation of Bernie's revolution — we cannot enact progressive policies without a Democrat in the White House — and as we've heard from Bernie himself, she's the best person for the job.

All in all, I can't wait for the convention. I think it will be an exciting time!

Danielle Simms is a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Lynchburg, Virginia.

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