DNC Grassroots Fundraiser Jackie Bateman
Democratic National Convention 2012 Notebook: Young campaign vet unveils Charlotte imprint on DNC merch
by Mary Curtis, Creative Loafing Charlotte, NC
Though 2012 will be the first convention for 27-year-old Jackie Bateman, she’s already a veteran campaigner. The Mankato, Minn., native — who got her start fundraising for her former high-school teacher’s unlikely congressional run — has moved to Charlotte as grassroots finance director for Charlotte in 2012. She is already a fan of the city and is featuring the Charlotte skyline in new merchandise designed to raise money and appeal to young contributors.
Bateman is part of the team charged with raising $36.65 million for the 2012 convention without corporate cash or individual donations more than $100,000 (though Duke Energy has guaranteed a $10 million line of credit). She's responsible for the merchandise (she worked with designer Dawn Kussman of Fayetteville) as well as a just-ended contest with the prize of airfare and hotel during convention week for those who signed up online at charlottein2012.com for updates. And she oversees events designed to draw in donors.
“I like being in politics. I like the fast pace of it. I like being able to move around and meet so many people,” Bateman said. “I’m good at it.” Since the DNC kick-off event in September, the host committee has signed up 100,000 people across every state.
Bateman was one of those high-schoolers who, as part of a youth-in-government program, traveled to her state capital for a weekend of mock legislating. Her activism became real in 2005 when she was a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and heard that Tim Walz, her former global studies teacher and a retired Command Sergeant Major in the Army National Guard, was challenging a 12-year incumbent to represent her largely rural home district in the U.S. Congress.
“I honestly wanted to do communications,” she said, but a friend told her, “‘No, I’ve got that job.’” Fundraising wasn’t filled yet. “So I sent in my resume and I called him and he called me back, and he was, like, ‘Have you ever fundraised before?’ and I was, like, a little. I’ve been to a couple of fundraisers.
“That’s the beauty of working for a first-time candidate," Bateman said. "The communications director was a first-time communications director. We were all incredibly green — which was kind of the beautiful thing about the whole campaign,” she said. “I remember the day we got our first $1,000 contribution.”
Walz won. “No one thought that we could do it,” Bateman said. Though she said the campaign didn’t get national party support, the comedian and author Al Franken, who had a national radio show at the time, met Walz and became an advocate. Bateman got a call from Franken’s team when he decided to run for the Senate; she stayed for his close election and the recount for the current senator from Minnesota.
As deputy finance director, a favorite duty was call time, sitting in a room with the candidate for eight to 10 hours, making phone calls to voters. (When she now occasionally runs into Franken, he will always say, “'Remember when we did call time,'” she said.) Bateman also planned events that featured such guests as actor Bradley Whitford and Democratic political adviser Paul Begala, the benefit “of having a candidate that knows everyone,” she said.
In her next job, raising funds for the state party in Minnesota, Bateman found out that selling the person is a lot easier than selling the party. “Everybody takes everything out on the state party,” she said. But it’s where she started doing more grassroots fundraising. “Our state party was really funded on getting 15,000 people to give $25, building our e-mail list and building our direct mail list and having low-dollar events.”
The Charlotte host committee is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501c3 with the support of many of the city’s boosters of all parties. Bateman, though, is a lifelong Democrat — the only one in her high school class who supported Skip Humphrey in his Minnesota gubernatorial race against Norm Coleman and eventual winner, former wrestler Jesse Ventura. She packed some favorite vintage outfits and headed from St. Paul to Charlotte when she got the call from the convention finance director.
In her Charlotte-based grassroots finance job, Bateman is responsible for the merchandising, Internet and e-mail marketing, social media outreach and low-dollar events. Since August, Bateman has lived close to convention headquarters Uptown, and has attended concerts at the Neighborhood Theatre and the Visulite as well as a NASCAR race.
She drove down with her supportive mother, who is, like the rest of her family, not political at all. “I love my parents. I consider them ‘Joe voter.’ They call me up and say, ‘So I saw this commercial,’ and if they tell me the messaging we were going for, I’m like, ‘That’s working.’”
And her thoughts on Minnesota’s most prominent GOP presidential hopeful? Bateman disagrees with most of Michele Bachmann’s political positions. But, as she said, “Minnesota likes to have its balance.”
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Root, NPR, Creative Loafing and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her “Keeping It Positive” segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 on TV’s Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.