Warner Supporters On the Web: Early Activity
(March 31, 2006 grab)
(April 27, 2005 grab)

Draft Mark Warner for President Political Action Committee
About the Site:
Co-founded by Eddie Ratliff (Salem, VA Democratic activist), Steve Deak (Atlanta, GA Democratic activist) and Eddie Hartman (Los Angeles attorney) soon after the 2004 campaign.

Warner's appeal [Jan. 24, 2006 DMW press release]: "The group believes that a centrist Democratic candidate, who is able to win in southern states and America’s heartland, is necessary for a Democratic victory in 2008.  The group believes that Governor Warner uniquely represents the right answer to that call."

On March 9, 2006 Draft Mark Warner filed with the FEC to create the Draft Mark Warner for President Political Action Committee.  Deak stated in a press release, “Having a mechanism to raise funds for events, promotion, and materials allows this organization to focus on grassroots organizing and spreading the word about Gov. Warner in ways we never could before.  This takes the Draft to a much higher level and goes a long way in accomplishing our mission."

Eddie Ratliff responded to questions in a June 19, 2006 e-mail:
Are there any lessons, big or small you've learned in the past 1 1/2 years ...?
We started DMW at a time when Gov. Warner was not on the radar.  Indeed he was still Governor at the time.  For the first year, we were too timid to have any substantive contact with the Govenor's office for fear that such contacts could be miscontrued.  We really were and are super cautious about appearances.
At some point, and I believe it was in August of 05 just before we conducted our first event where Gov. Warner was appearing, we made the decision we probably should let them (his staff) know we planned to be there.
Our real goal was to keep this a grassroots effort without forming a PAC.  None of us wanted to have to deal with legal filings and financial reporting.  The biggest surprise (and lesson) was learning that any group that spends $1000 must form a PAC.
While forming the PAC was a big headache and a lot of legal learning for novices, it also caused us to be more aware and knowledgable of the political process in general.  At the same time, FEC rules regarding cooperation between PACs have in some ways complicated our efforts.  The limited contact we had before with the Governor's staff has become more scarce with the PAC filing.  That has forced us to make our own way and hope somebody likes what we're doing.  To fund the PAC, we obviously have to work harder and bring more people into the organization.

It looks like you were fairly quiet for the first six months to a year, and are ramping up activity with the PAC filing.

We were quiet the first six months to a year because Gov. Warner was still in office.  Virginians like to know their Governor is hard at work, not using the office as a mechanism for attaining higher office.  We paced our outreach.  We tried to maintain a  pace consistent with Governor Warner's.  It was a challenge since we were having little contact with his people.  At times, such as when his successor was being elected, we actually went out of our way to lay low so as not to detract from other campaigns.  With mid-term elections on the horizion, we are competing for attention when other races are on the voters minds.

Setting up informational tables at events such as the NHDP State Convention and Yearly KOS is clearly one of the major ways you're getting the word out.  Are there other things you're doing that are effective at this stage?  For example, what does this mean [May 29 press release]: "Over 16,000 key party officials and activists across the nation have already been contacted by the organization."  Are you sending out e-mails to lists or what?
We have a Letter of Introduction that is given to each of our coordinators.  That letter provides general background on Gov. Warner and hypes his record.  The letters are personalized for each state and contains some items specific to that state.   For instance, if we are trying to sell Gov. Warner as a pro-gun rights leader, we wouldn't hype that to South Central Los Angeles.  The message is tailored for the targeted audience.
We track all letters and the number sent.  They go to state and local party chairs and activists we believe are most likely to vote in the primaries.  The letters are also targeted to interest groups.
Most letters go out via email from lists we have data-mined from party websites and obtained through other sources.  Some are sent via snail mail but that's a small % of the overall number.
The letters have been super effective because we give people who have never heard of Gov. Warner enough to make them read on or visit the site.
By far, the events where we show up personally to promote a Warner candidacy are the most effective.  Even grassroots organizers can affect how people view the candidate.  In most instances, we are not just promoting our candidate.  We are also supporting the party.  This builds goodwill.
Voters who are looking this early out want to know where the candidate stands on issues.  The greatest challenge is knowing how to promote a candidate when he/she has not made their views known on most issues of national importance.  We are in effect, selling the candidate on their record.  Not putting words in the candidate's mouth requires real diligence.  Yet to sell him/her, you must have enough knowledge to keep people interested and coming back for more as the candidate evolves and makes their views known.

Also I'd like to elaborate a bit on the state coordinators.
We have organizations in thirty-three states.  We have thirty-three state directors or coordinators.  They are one and the same; the only difference being, the length of time
or level of prior experience.  Most of our state organizers are now organizing on the congressional district level.


Reprinted from the site:
About DMW [June 4, 2006]:
Draft Mark Warner was launched on the night of the 2004 presidential election.

Eddie Ratliff, a Salem, Virginia democratic activist was watching the election returns and monitoring the LA Times red-blue map to see which states democrats could win.  The map allowed internet users to click on all the states and create various electoral vote scenarios to determine possible outcomes.

Ratliff worked the map for hours seeking the right combination of blue states to add up to the magic 270 electoral votes needed to give democrats the White House.  “Win NJ-pick, up 15 electoral votes but lose Iowa, we’re back down by 7. Pick up Michigan, gain 7, but lose CO, we’re back down by 2. Pick up Maine, we gain 4 but lose NH (4) and it’s a wash.”

After working the map into early hours of the morning, it occurred to Ratliff how insane it seemed that democrats were hedging their bets on the electoral votes of just a few key states.  “Why are we doing this? This country deserves better than 1-4% margin of win,” he thought.  “Why would any democrat (or republican for that matter) want to just barely make it across the finish line?  That leaves half the country behind, divisive government & intrinsic stalemate. One may govern that way but, polls show the American people prefer democrats & republicans work together.”

After looking at all the 2004 democratic candidates and giving some thought to possible 2008 candidates, one leader came to mind that had barely received a mention in the national media; that leader was Virginia’s own Democratic Governor Mark Warner.

For months Ratliff had been watching Governor Mark Warner. Warner had at that time, only been mentioned as a possible VP candidate on the Kerry ticket.

“I wondered at first if I was the only one who thought Governor Warner may have national appeal,” Ratliff says. It turns out he wasn’t the only one thinking of Governor Mark Warner in presidential terms; A guy named Steve had created a blog at Warner2008.blogspot.com mentioning Mark Warner and calling for him to run.

Within days of the 2004 election, Ratliff created the DraftMarkWarner.com web site to connect with other Warner supporters and urge a Warner run in 2008.  He was joined by co-founders Steve Deak & Eddie Hartman.

Ratliff created the 2004 Virginia for Wesley Clark network and managed Clark’s Virginia ballot initiative. Clark was the last to enter the democratic primary in Virginia and the first on the ballot. Using the internet, Ratliff rallied Clark supporters statewide to collect nearly 13,000 qualified registered voter signatures in less than two months. Virginia has the most stringent petition requirment in the United States.

Steve Deak was a Loudoun County Democratic Party Chair and County Coordinator for Gov. Warner’s 2001 campaign. He now heads up DMW opertations in the South.

Eddie Hartman of Los Angeles, is a partner in Legal Zoom, the nations’s largest internet law firm, with defense attorney Robert Shapiro (O.J. Simpson fame). Eddie heads up DMW operations in Southern California and is building mass communications tools for the growing organization.

Since Draft Mark Warner launched, the team has networked with Warner supporters in over forty states and has ongoing operations in about half the country.

In August 2005, DMW conducted it’s first on-the-ground operations at a Warner event when Gov. Warner was the keynote speaker at the annual West Virginia Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Charleston.

State Coordinators:
thirty-three state directors or coordinators as of June 2006 including:
Arizona - Mark Reza of Payson. Senior Vice Chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party (2005-07).  Gila County Democratic Chair.

Iowa - Matthew Moore

New Jersey - Tom Wolfe

Vermont - Jon Dodson

Southern Regional Coordinator - Steve Deak of Atlanta
Georgia - Mike Love
Louisiana - Frank Flynn of Lafayette.  Attorney.
North Carolina - Lloyd Scher of Charlotte
South Carolina - West Cox of Williamston

Young Americans for Warner - Marshall Spevak
Copyright © 2006  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action