promoted by Rosi
Stephen Yellin, aka “Mr. Liberal” here. As a blogger at Blue Jersey since 2005, I’ve been able to take some of the lessons learned from writing here in the blogosphere, and put them to good use as a candidate.
I want to give you all a final update on my campaign for Township Council in Berkeley Heights, in Union County . With E-Day just 48 hours away (45 in New Jersey, since the polls open at 6AM EST), I can truthfully say that I have a good shot at victory on Tuesday.
It hasn’t been easy, running in a Republican-leaning town in a Republican-leaning year. So why do I have a “good shot”? Read on below to find out…
When I began my race for Council in Berkeley Heights back in April, I knew it would be an uphill battle. My town has not voted for a Democrat for President going back to the 1970s (I don’t know if it voted for LBJ – the records don’t go back that far), and President Obama got 44% here in 2008 – even as he got 57% statewide. While Berkeley Heights is in Union County (a Democratic-leaning county), its political makeup is similar to Morris County as a whole – a county that has not elected a Democrat county-wide since Watergate.
So, why did I think I even had a chance?
First, I have an excellent running mate. Linda Weber and I were prepared to run as hard as we could to win. To date, we have knocked on about 2300 doors, or over 90% of our target. Between today and tomorrow, we will have reached every single potential voter for us over the course of the campaign. Berkeley Heights has a lot of hills to climb, and steep driveways in many places. It certainly has helped me lose a lot of weight!
In addition, we’ve had a detailed game plan from the beginning. We know how many votes we need, and what districts to get them from. Since there are 6 candidates running for 2 seats (see below), we only need a plurality, not a majority, to win. In a town like Berkeley Heights, it’s much easier as a Democrat to accomplish the former than the latter!
Second, while we have been outspent, we have not been outworked. My four opponents (2 Republicans, 2 Independents) have essentially declined to follow our example of talking to voters in person. To the best of my knowledge, the 2 Independents have not gone door-to-door at all, and 1 of the Republicans has stayed in their district.
The other Republican told me point-blank, “I don’t believe going door-to-door helps you get any votes.” This is precisely the kind of attitude that voters in any town, anywhere in America, dislike in their politicians. To win an election in most places, you have to prove you deserve the votes of your constituents. As one voter said to me yesterday, “You got my vote – you actually came to hear what I think.” Or, as another voter put it less tactfully, “You’ve got b-ls to be introducing yourself to voters – I like it!”
In addition, we’ve had a wonderful group of supporters, many of whom have helped repeatedly without pay. Last week, several friends of mine from my undergraduate school (Drew University) covered over 300 doors in an “unfriendly” district (less than 20% of the voters there are Democrats). The smiles on their faces as they came back 3 hours later left me amazed – and the pizza we bought them afterwords certainly didn’t hurt!
Our opponents have covered Berkeley Heights with lawn signs and billboards – we’ve covered Berkeley Heights with people. Maybe I’m just a “cockeyed optimist”, but I truly believe that having boots on the ground will always beat planting hundreds of signs in the ground. After all, can a lawn sign tell you why a candidate deserves your vote?
Third and finally, I had the opportunity to debate my opponents twice – the second time with 200 voters in the audience and the TV cameras rolling. If you watch the debate, you’ll be able to see for yourself why so many voters felt Linda and I clobbered the opposition (see http://www.glhstv.com/lwv – click on the .wmv file, and move the slider about an hour in to see my debate).
Much to my surprise, I got a chance to insert my “liberal” beliefs into the debate after all. One of my Independent opponents stated in response to a vague question on subsidies, “I don’t believe the government should ever be involved in the private sector.” Typical conservative rhetoric, right? Earlier on, however, the same opponent had proposed specifically helping senior citizens in Berkeley Heights in these difficult economic times.
“I want to get back to what [my opponent] said,” I replied a few minutes later. I paraphrased his statement, then added this:
“The seniors in our community – and I am in agreement with [my opponent] on the need to help them – will be surprised to know that [my opponent] is against Social Security and Medicare.”
Score one for American liberalism. That particular opponent hasn’t been seen publicly since.
In my closing statement (again, delivered without notes), I quoted FDR’s 1932 call for “bold, persistent experimentation”, and tied it to our concerns in Berkeley Heights. I also paraphrased Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” speech; when you consider Reagan got 80% of the vote in my town in 1984, I think you will understand why.
I know I am making headway, because my opponents are attacking me for the first time. One of my Republican opponents (the same one who disdains going door-to-door) spent 50% of their final candidate statement attacking me explicitly. As usual for a Republican, the attack consisted of my being a “tax-and-spend liberal”. Too bad the voters I’ve already spoken to know that, unlike this opponent, I haven’t raised their taxes or spent their money!
With the hours to E-Day ticking away, it’s time for me to sign off to prepare for more canvassing. I hope to let you all know, either late on Election Night or on Wednesday, whether I won my election. Regardless of how it ends, I can say with pride that I ran the best campaign I could. I stood up for my beliefs, ran a positive, issue-specific campaign, and worked my tail off to hear what my constituents had to say.
One final story: I was going door-to-door on Friday when I passed an elderly woman (in her 80s, I’d guess), crouching on her leaf-covered lawn with a rake in her hand. Since she looked to be in distress, I went over to see if she was ok. “I lost my glasses,” she replied. After a minute, I found her glasses in a pile of leaves. She thanked me, then noticed I was carrying palm cards and my walk lists.
“What are you running for?” she asked.
I told her I was running for Council.
“Don’t tell me anything more,” she said. “I will vote for you.”
I thanked her, and told her where to find me on the ballot (Column A, Row 9).
As I was leaving, she called out:
“Wait a second – what Party are you?”
I told her I was a Democrat. She wrinkled her nose in a clear sign of distaste (she wasn’t on my list, so she was a Republican). Then, she put her finger to her chin and paused for a few moments.
“Well,” she finally said, “One vote for a Democrat won’t kill me.” And with a big smile on her face, she went back to raking the leaves.
If my campaign as a whole has been successful, there will be many voters who agree with her.