Hoping to get more progressives elected to local office, the Jackson County Democratic Party has enlisted the help of one of the West Coast's top campaign strategists.




Cathy Allen of Seattle will help groom up to 15 potential local candidates when the county Democrats hold their one-day, no-cost Campaign School on Jan. 12 in Medford.




The crash course, designed for Democrats who plan to file for or are seriously considering running for public office in Jackson County, and for campaign managers who assist them.




Allen, the founder and president of The Connections Group, will help potential candidates understand the rigors of campaigning and raising money, organizers say.




"She is incredible; she is one of the best we could ever get," said Paulie Brading, chairwoman of the Jackson County Democratic Party, noting Allen's record as a political strategist and stints as a journalist.




Brading said with the political tide beginning to shift in Jackson County now is the time to begin recruiting candidates to run for county commissioner, city council seats and other top-level posts.




Encouraging to Democratic stalwarts is that Jackson County, once seen as a conservative bastion sidestepped by Democrats seeking statewide office, has this election cycle emerged as a regular stop on the campaign trail.




A significant change in the county's demographics combined with widespread dissatisfaction among independent-minded Republicans with President Bush and GOP party politics that is benefiting Democrats, Brading said.




"It's becoming more and more difficult to feel comfortable being a Republican," she said, adding that many of Southern Oregon's independent-minded Republicans feel "orphaned" by the GOP, which once stood for fiscal responsibility and efficient government.




Now, it is just a matter of channeling that dissatisfaction into votes locally for Democrats, Brading said.




Campaign strategist Cathy Shaw, the former mayor of Ashland, said it might not be that easy.




"Some people just can't bring themselves to color in that bubble for a Democratic candidate, but also cannot color it in for a Republican either, said Shaw, who wrote "The Campaign Manager: Running and Winning Local Elections," one of the definitive university texts on local campaigning.




covers politics for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at csrizo@hotmail.com.