Jason Kander might have fallen a bit short in his bid to become a U.S. senator last fall, but when he put out a call for summer help in Manassas, some of his 194,000 Twitter followers didn’t hesitate to answer. In the days since President Donald Trump’s election (and Kander’s own 3-point loss to Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.), the former Missouri Secretary of State has been crafting a new kind of political organization: “Let America Vote,” a group Kander says is designed to “create political consequences for politicians who’ve made voting more difficult or failed to stand up for voting rights.” But with the 2018 midterm elections still a long way out, the Democrat turned his eye toward the statewide races in Virginia as a good place to start. His team of organizers, largely culled from the staff of his Senate bid, saw an opportunity to make an impact in Northern Virginia and made plans to open the group’s first field office in Prince William County.
Yet Let America Vote is still a new entity, so recruiting interns and volunteers to start knocking on doors was a challenge — at least until Kander fired off a fateful tweet to his tens of thousands of followers.
“Jason sent out one single tweet in March before anyone was even on the ground here, and from that one tweet, we got like 200 intern applicants,” said Ben Tyson, the group’s national field director, in an interview in Let America Vote’s Manassas office. “People were telling him, ‘I’ve been following you since November, I saw the gun ad, I heard you on [liberal podcast] Pod Save America, you give me hope, I want to be involved, sign me up.’”
Indeed, the former Army captain may be best known for a 2016 campaign ad that showed him assembling a rifle blindfolded, arguing that his familiarity with firearms gave him a unique appreciation for the value of gun safety laws. But Kander’s staff believes they never would have enticed roughly 90 interns to knock on more than 100,000 doors in the last 51 days if there wasn’t a bit more to Kander than just a viral video.