A few months ago, Raven Payne and I profiled Sarah Smith, a congressional candidate from Washington’s 9th district. Today, her campaign is voicing frustration over being denied VAN access and, furthermore, not even being provided the documentation to obtain the more expensive replacement. This could be explained by the fact that Smith is attempting to primary a Democrat who has held the seat for quite some time. Sarah Smith, in a press release sent via email from her campaign (dated 11/9/2017), explains:
The DNC, the WA Dems, and the future of our party is in the people. This needs to stop. We are the state that brags about Attorney General Bob Ferguson fighting tirelessly against Trump’s unconstitutional “bans”. We’re known for Rep. Jayapal, a strong progressive woman who never stops standing up for her beliefs. And yet here, in our beautiful state, we are trying to snuff out competition against the establishment.
To this date, Smith’s campaign has been denied access to VAN, a tool used by the Democratic Party to aggregate voter information. This data allows campaigns to make more efficient use of their time and, in theory, be more effective in voter outreach.
It’s the Smith campaign’s current understanding that “Candidates require endorsements from 51% of the Legislative Districts and the approval of the state Party Chair to gain access to VAN.” This rule essentially shuts the door on her campaign unless she can win the primary but how can she win the primary without voter data?
There is an alternative, albeit, more expensive, third-party voter data platform called TargetSmart. There is one caveat though, Smith’s campaign needs a letter from the Washington State Democrat Chair Tina Podlodowski that formally denies them access to VAN before they can purchase TargetSmart. The Washington State Democratic Party has yet to respond to any of inquiries of this matter from the Smith campaign. Sarah Smith explains the difficulty of the situation:
We are hamstrung into paying four times the amount for another third party tool. The Democratic Establishment is attempting to fold our campaign by forcing us to hemorrhage funds trying to secure voter data. This isn’t free and fair, this is one more strategy by the party to control who participates… and Rep. Adam gets all the benefit of this choice. I have one thing to say to our state party: Do better, be better, demand better. We must protect the campaigns of every progressive challenger who decides to enter this race.
#ICYMI Our campaign has been shut out of VAN by our state Party, we are fighting to gain access to another system. We can't do it without your help. Every dollar matters and we need $3,500 in recurring donations to obtain crucial voter data! Can you help? https://t.co/Swn3euEBYy
— Sarah Smith (@SarahSmith2018) November 8, 2017
Not to be deterred, Smith proclaims that they have “never met someone like me, I’ll knock every door in this district myself if I need to. The more they push back, the more we push forwards.”