Reflections on campaigning during the time of COVID
I had never run for political office before and, while our campaign did not end with a win, it has been an exhilarating and incredibly enriching experience.
What have I learned?
Early on, our team’s choice was to not door knock due to COVID. Was it the right choice? From a health perspective, yes. From a campaign perspective, maybe not so much. As human beings we have an innate longing to connect with one another. Hindsight being 20-20, with individuals and families self-quarantining these many months, perhaps me wearing a mask, ringing a doorbell and jumping back at least 10 feet may have been welcome by some if not many of our voters.
It wasn’t only door knocking though. We were looking forward to neighborhood gatherings – “meet and greets” – to introduce myself and our platform to our voters, learn about their concerns, and discuss potential solutions – nixed. We considered small house gatherings, nixed again. I thought about renting an ice cream truck and passing out ice cream sandwiches and literature – not even remotely considered.
We did focus on direct mail, phone calls, social media, and I was fortunate to have many endorsements. But without being able to follow up personally, I am not sure these strategies were as effective as we had hoped. Our last mailing was even sent first class in the hopes it might increase the likelihood of it being read. While these may have helped to reinforce my campaign’s messages to our voters, they were no substitute for saying hello in person (even without a handshake or elbow bump!)
I am so very proud of the campaign we did run — an honest, open, and truly grass roots effort that involved hundreds of people — those who had not been involved in our political process before. Two multi-generational examples: an elderly gentleman approached our table as he was heading in to cast his vote at Conard High School. He shared that mine was the first phone call he could recall over the years where he was able to speak about the issues with a candidate. There were also young men and women with whom I spoke at length. They were extremely knowledgeable about a range of issues, asked pointed questions, and were clearly weighing their choices carefully. I appreciated their thoughtfulness and commitment to improving our quality of life.
Talking with hundreds and hundreds of voters by phone reinforced a tenet I have believed all of my adult life — people care and they care a lot. Some, even many, may feel disenfranchised, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be involved. Just the opposite, their desire is for a real opportunity to be heard and to make change. In the weeks and months ahead, I hope to continue our dialogue.
My congratulations to Kate Farrar. She ran a great campaign. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to run for an elective office in the future. Either way, I pledge to continue to work hard in and for our community. And, my statewide justice reform work at The Justice Education Center will continue with the important addition of having a sharper eye on exploring avenues that can contribute to the quality of life in West Hartford — most particularly expanding supports and opportunities for our young people.
I am blessed to have made many friends and have learned so much about the issues that mean the most to the voters in our 20th district. To my voters and extraordinary campaign team, delegates, and supporters throughout our district and beyond thank you so much for your confidence in me. No words can express what your encouragement has meant and means.
A bit of rest and then onward to continue fighting the good fight.
Sherry Haller of West Hartford was the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate for the 20th House District.
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