On Saturday, just as we've done on every Saturday save one, over the past few months, a group from Team HOPE went up to Ripon, Wisconsin to help Fred Clark in his primary election against a fake Democrat. The people that went with me are all experienced canvassers from the South Suburbs of Chicago, each who have been through an election day in April (Illinois has municipal elections in odd-numbered years).
As usual, the experience was pleasant. Although Ripon is where the Republican Party was founded, as well as the home of recall target Luther Olsen, the people I talked to on Saturday were eager to go out and vote for Fred. Most people remembered that there was an election today (Tuesday), although a few needed the reminder. After all, that's why we do GOTV.
There will be two names on the ballot in the District 18 Democratic primary to determine who will face Republican Randy Hopper, but Jessica King is the only candidate running a campaign in the primary election.
King's opponent has refused to return phone calls, has not responded to media requests and has not participated in any forums or public meetings.
But our focus these past months hasn't been the second Democrat most likely to defeat a Republican state senator, but the THIRD Democrat most likely to win. And, from the beginning, that Democrat has been Fred Clark. The internal polls have made that clear, and external polls have verified this.
We have canvassed in two parts of the 14th District, including Portage and Berlin. In Berlin, I knocked on the door on one family on my list and came to found that they attended the same church as Luther Olsen. "Which is why we won't be voting for Olsen," he told me. His wife was standing behind him and nodding her head.
Fred Clark is remarkably popular in the part of the state senate district that he represents in the state house. People find him accessible -- to the degree that they expect a phone call from him in person when they have a question or suggestion. I'm not sure I would have believed it if I hadn't come across one voter in Portage who mentioned that he had just talked to Fred, based upon a question to a canvasser a couple of weeks before!
When we got to Ripon, we found that our GOTV staging location was in the middle of a neighborhood, right across the street from Ripon College. James, our trusty field coordinator from the campaign, was there waiting for us with turf to go. He mentioned that he had turf in Olsen's neighborhood, and so I picked up that turf. I wondered aloud if I'd come across him, but I was told he was in Berlin at their town festival. Clark had been in the area just weeks before.
I headed out, and the first door I knocked on was that of a 93 year old gentleman. He was in a wheelchair, and he struggled to hear me over his barking dog. No, he wouldn't be voting. I passed Olsen's house and then started to come across the Clark signs in people's front yards. There were actually lots of signs, red signs for Olsen (you could take one from outside his garage) and green signs for Clark. Must make living in the neighborhood kind of fun.
Just as I got off of Olsen's street, I came across another canvassing crew that came up from Hazel Crest. They were taking pictures of each other next to a Clark sign in the yards of a door I had just knocked on. I told them to wait, and came back with my camera, so we could get a picture of all three. Given my luck with pictures, I took three pictures and in each one, a different person looked great! But I have to choose one to post, so this is it:
Representative of the Democratic Party, Bernie noted.
I continue knocking on doors, and one fellow wants to shake my hand. "Thanks for volunteering," he said. "We really appreciate all your work." That's Wisconsin.
Another lady, 79 years old, told me, "It's a bummer that they are making us spend all that money for no good reason." I remember only because she said "bummer." She was really clued in.
I came across a principal of a school (i don't recall him saying what level), and he told me that volunteers had already been there last week. I mentioned that we were doing GOTV and this was how we win elections. Don't worry, he said. We'll be voting.
I finished up that packet and I still had time before others would finish up. So I took out a second packet in the same neighborhood. On one street, they had a Garden walk going. As I was knocking on doors, the owner was taking people around his front yard showing off his flowers and such. I had never seen anything like that, and was glad I didn't have to knock on his door. But, across the street, I came across a home that had a 2008 Obama "O" on their van. The name on my list was Heather, but her husband answered. "Why aren't you on my list," I teased. "Heather gets all the attention," he replied. We talked awhile, and she mentioned that she had just dug the car magnet out of storage to put back on her car. She seemed really excited, and I walked away reminding myself that voters out there aren't the same as activists. They don't share our angst or even our daily debates over this action or that.
But they will determine who wins, both in August and in November of 2012.
As I was finishing up, I snapped this pic of the scenery where I was canvassing. Yeah, it was a tough trip.
We head up to Wisconsin every Saturday, until the recall elections are over. People in the Chicagoland areas are free to join us. This Saturday, we'll be headed up to Dave Hansen's district in Green Bay, as he is the first one to have a general election. You can RSVP for the trip here. I'll leave you with Hansen's commercial...