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Sunday July 12, 2020
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Covid Campaigning

With door-knocking out, candidates look for alternatives.

by James Leonard

From the June, 2020 issue

"I will not be going door-to-door until the stay-at-home order is lifted," says Ward 3 city council candidate and democratic socialist Evan Redmond by phone. "It would be irresponsible."

Late May is usually when candidates competing in the August primary start hitting doors, using dedicated voter lists. It's by far the most effective way to campaign. But Governor Whitmer's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order ruled that out.

So they're thinking of alternatives. "My initial goal prior to the stay-home order was to knock 10,000 doors," says Ward 3 candidate Travis Radina, an administrator at the U-M Alumni Association l and the city's LGBTQ liaison. "Now I am thinking about [raising] more money so that we can add another or a couple more mailers."

"People are going to be pretty wary about face-to-face contact," says Ward One candidate Lisa Disch, "and they should be through this whole summer." The U-M political science prof says instead she's "phone banking."

Jack Eaton, Ward Four's three-term incumbent and a retired labor lawyer, emails that he hasn't knocked doors since the shutdown. But he has "been traveling through the Ward and engaging people who are already outside, while practicing social distancing."

Before the stay-home order, "I was going out and talking to a lot of households," says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist running against Eaton. "It only lasted a month." These days, "I am doing what I can on Twitter [and] Facebook."

Jen Eyer, a partner in Vanguard Public Affairs and former county board member who's also running in Ward Four, says she's "doing Zoom meet-and-greets" for now. If hitting doors is permitted later in the summer, she says she would "wear a mask, knock on someone's door, and then step way back, maybe all the way to the sidewalk." She knows that might not be enough. Even if the state gives the go-ahead, "some people may not appreciate it."

Eaton puts it in perspective. "The challenge that the pandemic presents for campaigning is insignificant," he says, "compared to the impact it is having on the economic well-being of our residents."

And don't forget their health. Candidates' "walk lists" target people who voted in past primaries and skew strongly toward folks over sixty-five. For them, traditional campaigns could literally be life-threatening.     (end of article)

[Originally published in June, 2020.]


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