Down Ballot

November 2, 2020

This pic is from a few days ago. Six of us assembled along the Covell Blvd bike over-crossing in the dark early morning, ready to greet commuters with waving signs at they headed off to work.

Turns out, not that many people are heading off to work at 7am these days. Cars were few and far between, hilariously enough. Still, we stood with our signs, mostly talking and drinking lattes in the 40 degree temps. I enjoyed it!

Working on Kelly’s campaign has been both fun and an education. I started out on the Communications Team with a larger role at the beginning, and a couple of months into the campaign stepped back a bit in favor of sanity and balance. Quite out of character for me to make such a smart, self-care sort of choice. And quite in character, I felt sorta bad about it for the next several months. Can’t win for losing.

Still, I ended up doing all kinds of things as just a member of the campaign’s Comms Team, rather than its lead.

[And just to clarify, I have remained co-lead of the Sister District/IY Comms Team, which has been hecka busy since March.]

Anyway, re: the campaign Comms Team… what a lot of stuff I’ve learned — we’ve ALL learned — about running a campaign. A fascinating juxtaposition, as we are all witness to a national presidential campaign. So many campaign elements are the same, and the challenges of running a campaign in a pandemic are also the same for the big races as they are for the way way down ballot races like Kelly’s.

For example fundraising, budgeting, endorsements, managing the campaign team, and, particularly fun, the nuts and bolts of building a message and ways to get that message out there. We had money people, exceptional designers, writers, data people. Everyone smart, creative, enthusiastic.

There are just trillions of decisions and pieces to coordinate — just like, but maybe even harder than, a huge home remodel project! Ha!

I got to do campaign social media, phonebanking, texting, lit drops, letters to the editor, lawn sign distribution, postcard writing… all of it just like the big campaigns, only at a regional scale.

And lots of Zoom meetings. Countless, really.

It was incredibly fascinating to be immersed in the minutia of Kelly’s campaign, while working in such similar ways on electoral activism with SD/IY, while observing the national campaign/s. It has been a YEAR of intense politics on absolutely every level. For example, as I was on the sending end of texts, I developed a gentler reaction to the hundreds of texts I received from dozens of campaigns. Before, I surely would have been beyond annoyed by now.. but I’m not, because a person’s on the other end who simply cares about a candidate, or a race, or our flipping country enough to take the time to take that action. I am also that person.

Anyway, down ballot, up ballot, it’s all pretty much the same. And it’s been a welcome obsession during this pandemic year. I have worked intensely with dozens of people I didn’t even know before, many I’ve still not even met in person. (How weird is that?) And many, I hope, will remain friends after this.

Though.. what is after this? We don’t know what happens next. We are in a frenzied sprint to the finish — Tuesday’s election — without a sense of who will win, what will happen when one or the other comes out on top. We’re planning for scary contingencies and can’t imagine there will not be continued work no matter which way this goes. We assume we reach an end of some sort when suddenly we find ourselves without long lists of things to do, no meetings to attend, no calls-texts-postcards to send, no canva designs to come up with, no Facebook posts to make. There must be an end, an exhale, a regrouping.

But we built this enormous capacity. We have a newfound knowledge base and institutional depth that is immeasurable. We have created a massive — no exaggeration — infrastructure of volunteers and practices that really shouldn’t just be shut down. The FACT is, there has been a democratic club in Davis for decades and decades. But SD/IY have come along and completely reimagined political activism in this town. Hundreds of volunteers, 100,000 calls to voters, 3 million texts, 80-100,000 postcards sent and teams that hum. We built the plane as we flew it, but ended up doing a great job on the fly. We have been well-led and enormously effective. We’ve empowered hundreds. Our leadership team’s incredibly professional, smart, creative and impressive. Imagine if there hadn’t been a pandemic.

What it all becomes is still to be figured out. People who got involved four years ago out of the shock of the 2016 election loss (“loss”) and who thought they’d just channel their despair, anger and growing angst into postcard writing (which became so much more) and wanted to make sure THAT never happened again, and have been in the fight right up until this very moment — a moment when we hope to see trump profoundly defeated and hundreds of democrats elected (yes, up and down the ballot), and a return to something normal — now realize they have a deep well of experience and capacity… which is powerful.

We can’t just let that go… but what becomes of all of this?

Stay tuned.

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