The 2014 election cycle is stacking up against Democrats in Montana. Two Republicans have already made clear their plans to oust U.S. Sen. Max Baucus. Re-districting has dramatically altered the legislative map in key parts of the state. In the middle of it all, the Montana Democratic Party recently named a new executive director: 28-year-old Forward Montana CEO Andrea Marcoccio.
Marcoccio has not only spearheaded Forward Montana's efforts to train political candidates and increase voter turnout, she also worked as a field organizer in Montana for President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. Now the Rhode Island native and former semi-pro soccer player is preparing to ramp up grassroots operations for the Dems in 2014, replacing former executive director Ted Dick, who stepped into the position in late 2010.
"We've just gone through re-districting, which means the Democratic Party has a great opportunity to win back the House and the Senate," Marcoccio says. "So we're gearing up majorly, doing candidate recruitment, making sure all candidates are really excited."
Marcoccio's emphasizing the need for a ground game in the next election—lots of door knocking and face-to-face interaction with voters. But she's not the only one. Shaken by a rash of conservative defeats last year, Republicans across the country have pushed for serious change in the way the party operates. The Republican National Committee launched a new online project earlier this year aimed at attracting a more diverse voter base and bolstering the party's grassroots efforts nationwide.
Montana Democrats may face stiffer competition on the ground in 2014, but Marcoccio's not terribly concerned. Democrats have spent years perfecting the art of face-to-face voter interaction, she says. When it comes to knocking on doors, for Baucus or any other candidate, "we'll be there first."
Marcoccio is the first woman to be named director of the Montana Democratic Party in two decades. Party leaders were "excited" to have a young woman at the helm, Marcoccio says, particularly one with a mind for maintaining the momentum of the previous election cycle. And while she doesn't take the party helm until April, Marcoccio's already looking for outlets for her competitive streak. "I am looking for pick-up partners to go and play soccer in Helena," she says.