In our series Our Movement Monday, we talk with Texas Democrats across our state about their work and the challenges facing their communities.
Diana Robinson is chair of the Kyle/Buda-Area Democrats (KBAD), chair of the Hays County Democratic Party (HCDP) platform committee, and a precinct chair. An editor, writer, and graphic designer, she has become the de facto graphic designer and writer/editor for most HCDP and KBAD outreach materials. Diana is formerly first vice chair, secretary, and third vice chair of the Durham County Democratic Party (DCDP) in North Carolina; chair of the DCDP Communications Committee; a longtime member of the N.C. Democratic Party’s State Executive Committee; a founding member of the Progressive Democrats of North Carolina caucus; and chair and founding member of the Durham County Progressive Democrats (Durham Greendogs). A native Texan, she was born and raised in Lubbock; she graduated from the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and raised her family in Durham, N.C. She recently remarried, and she and her husband, Scott, moved to Buda, Texas, in November 2015. They are admins for the Texas Indivisible page on Facebook.
Thank you so much for sitting down with us, Diana! You’re the chair of the Kyle/Buda-Area Democrats (KBAD), a precinct chair, and chair of the Hays County Democratic Party’s platform committee. Can you give us a little background on your yourself and how you originally became involved in politics?
Diana Robinson: I’ve been interested in politics for as long as I can remember. When I was 8 years old, I stood outside my elementary school in conservative Lubbock, Texas, and tried to convince voters who were waiting in line why they should vote for George McGovern instead of Richard Nixon — I have no idea where I got my information or the inclination, because my parents weren’t politically involved, but I spoke with conviction. When discussing what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say either a U.S. senator or a photographer for National Geographic. In high school, I was involved in the Youth and Government Program as both a legislator and an editor; I was named the program’s state editor for Texas and the editor-in-chief for the national program. Participating in the national program took me to Black Mountain, N.C., for two summers, starting my love affair with North Carolina.
As an adult, I got involved with the Democratic Party after the infamous Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision that handed the election to George W. Bush. From that point, I volunteered for many campaigns, worked through the ranks of the Durham County Democratic Party in N.C., and was a member of the N.C. Democratic Party’s State Executive Committee. After volunteering for Obama’s 2012 campaign, I retired from political activism for a while. When I moved back to Texas, I wanted to get involved here. I heard about KBAD, went to a meeting, and got plugged in. I’ve been going full steam ahead ever since.
We are seeing immense growth across Texas communities and changing demographics. What kind of growth and change have you seen in voters in this area?
Diana Robinson: Hays County is the fourth fastest-growing county in the U.S., according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics — and most of that growth is in the Kyle and Buda areas. As Austin attracts more people due to job growth and its reputation as a liberal area, many of those people find they can’t find affordable housing there, so they are moving south of the border and into Hays County. We’re working hard to make sure these new residents are registered and motivated to vote.
KBAD (Kyle/Buda-Area Democrats) is a growing grassroots effort in Hays County. Can you give us a little background on the group and your own role in helping reinvigorate this grassroots effort in Kyle and Buda area?
Diana Robinson: KBAD was originally started by Donna Haschke and Judy Burns many years ago. While it was an active group, it wasn’t formally organized. In the summer of 2017, members decided to pursue a more formal organizational structure with bylaws and officers. A committee came together to study bylaws of similar organizations and crafted bylaws for KBAD. The bylaws were approved by vote in December 2017, and the first officers were elected in January 2018. I was approached about running for chair, probably because of my past experience in N.C. I’m so proud of our group of energetic officers and committee chairs: Each one of us is working hard to make KBAD a force to be reckoned with.
Aside from just holding meetings, we have events in the community. In March, KBAD and the Hays County Tejano Democrats held a forum for candidates who were in runoff races — from the gubernatorial candidates down to local races. While Lupe Valdez couldn’t participate, gubernatorial candidate Andrew White did, as did candidates for U.S. House District 21 and District 25, and for State House District 45. About 150 people attended — it was standing room only!
In June, KBAD held the Connecting the Blue Dots voter outreach workshop, where about 40 people learned about TDP’s electronic outreach tools and also participated in old-fashioned postcard writing. On August 5, KBAD will host an ice cream social at Kyle City Park, where candidates will speak, voters can get registered, kids can play games, Democratic neighbors can meet each other, etc. We’ll also collect items for a charitable organization at the event.
What strategies have worked best in recruiting new volunteers and building your membership base?
Diana Robinson: We have an active Facebook page and Facebook group, where we post event notices, articles of local interest, links from our Democratic candidates’ pages, and other items of interest. We are developing a website that will be another avenue of outreach; we plan to have it ready to launch in a few weeks. I recently designed a postcard to solicit volunteer involvement; our outreach committee chair, Lacy Waller Sousa, developed a volunteer interest form, for which we provided a link on the postcard. She has a group of volunteers who are writing and sending these postcards to people targeted through VAN lists as likely volunteers. We ran out of our first batch of postcards on the first day they were available, so we’re going to reorder a much larger amount.
An important aspect for recruiting volunteers is to provide many specific options and areas for volunteering and following up on their interests. Not everyone feels comfortable blockwalking, so make sure they know they can help in other specific ways, such as writing postcards, phone banking or text banking, cooking food for events, helping with setup and cleanup, taking pictures, providing space for events, providing Spanish translations, etc.
How do you keep your members motivated and inspired to keep doing the hard work of mobilizing the community?
Diana Robinson: We make sure people know that we are here, we are active, and we are making a difference — and we will win in November with their help. We’re not just sitting around talking about how bad things are, how awful Trump is, and how infuriating the Republican Party is. We are taking action to register and educate voters and to elect Democrats. We are providing ways that people can be informed and involved.
Numbers show that there are more strongly Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters in Hays County than strongly Republican and Republican-leaning voters. But the problem is that more Republicans vote. Our job is to get our Democratic voters to actually vote — and one way to do that is to educate them about the issues and convince them that their vote will count and will make a huge difference!
So many people here don’t realize how many Democrats are in our area, so they think their vote won’t count since Texas is a red state; but Texas is really a purple state, and it could be a blue state if all our Democratic-leaning people actually VOTE. It’s all about GOTV — getting out the vote.
What is your favorite aspect of grassroots organizing?
Diana Robinson: I like connecting with people who thought they were the only Democrats in the area and opening their eyes to all the Democrats around them — getting them out of the closet, so to speak. I also like to emphasize to people how important they are, how we Democrats are fighting to represent them and their concerns, and how every vote counts, regardless of where they live. If we can convince more Democrats to vote, we all win.
There are lots of new democratic clubs and groups pulling together across the state. What insights and tips can you provide community leaders in creating a successful volunteer efforts in their area?
Diana Robinson: Make sure you provide activities that match the volunteers’ interests — find out what they want to do. If they want to work for a specific candidate, connect them with the campaign. If they are interested in a specific issue, provide a way they can advocate for that issue. Provide adequate training so they feel prepared. Connect volunteers with their precinct chairs, so precinct chairs can include them in their efforts. If someone says he or she will blockwalk with you, get them to commit to a specific date and time, and follow up with them. Keep following up so volunteers know they are important and a necessary part of your efforts.
How can local volunteers get more involved?
Diana Robinson: We encourage people in the Kyle and Buda areas to complete our volunteer interest form at http://tinyurl.com/kbad-volunteer. Please follow our Facebook page and join our Facebook group. If you aren’t already working with your local precinct chair, send me an email, and I’ll connect you. Join our email list by sending an email to [email protected]. If you want to make a donation or become a dues-paying member of KBAD, visit our ActBlue page. Thanks to everyone! Together we can make a difference.