My latest campaign job is now over, having ended on July thirtieth. It was a hard fought campaign, unpleasant at times (not on our side) but we prevailed.
Cindy Chavez is now the Supervisor for the Second District of Santa Clara County.
She won in spite of having not one but two local papers against her — one of them quite vituperatively so. She won in spite of having an opponent who was willing to run a campaign tying her to the disgraced former Supervisor. She won in spite of having the Chamber of Commerce and the Republican Party — and their assets — entering the fray supporting the other side.
She won by running, as Mercury News columnist Scott Herhold pointed out, the most disciplined campaign the county has seen in a decade. She won by working her tail off. She won by having a group of campaign workers and volunteers who were very good at what they do. She won by taking care of her people: it is amazing what it does for morale when the candidate comes by to answer questions and give encouragement.
I would work on any campaign for office this woman runs for. Ever. She was a driving force behind Measure D last fall, the measure that raised the minimum wage in San Jose to ten dollars an hour. She works for programs that benefit people.
In short, she cares.
At the election party on Tuesday, when I approached to have my picture taken with her, she hugged me and thanked me for my hard work — and, without me having to introduce myself, called me by name. She cared enough about the minions, us grunts who manned the phones and walked the streets, to know who we were. On Wednesday, I got a card from her thanking me for staying late at work — without pay — to enter data. I never knew she even knew that.
I only wish I had been able to do more. Not that it was needed in the end (she won by ten percentage points) but because I believe in Cindy Chavez, what she stands for and who she is, and what she can and will do for the people of Santa Clara county.
It was an honor to work on her behalf.
I was part of a diverse team of people from all sorts of backgrounds, with all sorts of stories. For the most part, we got along: there were occasions where we didn’t, but that’s true of any workplace. We were a team, one of which I was proud to be part of.
Being part of this team was important to me: after the primary, the campaign changed from mostly phoning to walking precincts, which was beyond me at that point because of my injured knee. When my knee recovered, I was able to return to working along everyone else, to being part of the team again, to having my own stories at the end of the day about the people I encountered. Fewer than others, perhaps, as I ended up driving my coworkers a lot.
We had our moments — even me. I am prone to insecurity, and pick up stress in those around me, which is not a helpful personal characteristic. I worried more about parking regulations than I should have — I would have been more efficient had I ignored things like “No Stopping” signs more, and spent more time at doors. Not that I didn’t do my part: driving people can be very tiring.* And on the Saturday before the election, due to injury and work schedules of other team members, I ended up distributing door hangers with polling information all by myself. The day before the election I did likewise (for reasons of efficiency, if nothing else). I got to talk to some interesting voters, and enjoyed myself.
It seems odd to think that at this stage of life I have found something I enjoy as much as working campaigns. It’s not all beer and skittles (or even beer and pizza**), and like every job I have held in my life, ever, I worry that I am not measuring up, that I am only marginally competent. But I am getting better.
I told one of my supervisors at the election night party that campaign work is addicting. It really is. I feel like I am working to make the world a better place, that I am helping along the process of representative democracy; that, in some very small way, America is better for what I do. It may be delusional, but all of us need meaning in our lives, and this helps me find that meaning.
On a less exalted level, campaign work makes me stronger: it forces me out of my shell, and has made me develop a thicker skin. The work is an exercise in letting go: each new interaction with a voter is unique, and you can’t be thinking about the offensive twit you just dealt with. You hang up, or walk away from the door, and you start fresh with the next person. And for every voter who hangs up, or who shuts a door on you, there are other who are friendly and enthusiastic.***
My boss at the Census wrote in my LinkedIn recommendation that I was best suited for projects with defined goals. He is right, and a campaign is just that: you work towards a goal, election night arrives, and you are either successful or not, but the project (except for the analysis — and the drinking) is done. Then, in a few months, there will hopefully be another campaign to work on. The trick is finding things to do between campaigns.
I am now probably going on to another gig, which I can’t really talk about yet — if for no other reason than I haven’t signed the paperwork yet. I am a little leery of talking about any job until I have actually been put on payroll.
In the meantime, I have a couple of weeks to just bask in the glow of a well-earned victory.
*A useful side effect of all that driving was that I now have a rudimentary grasp of the geography of a large chunk of San Jose. I went to the San Jose Giants game on Wednesday, and was able to get to the stadium without getting lost or resorting to Google Maps. I got turned around getting out of the park (it was inevitable), but was able to get home by remembering that Alma turned into Minnesota, which intersected with Bird, which ran to I-280.
**Campaigns run on pizza, caffeine and chocolate, but there can be too much of a good thing: when our group was broken up into small teams, one team selected as their name (and slogan) “No More Pizza, Man.” This was greeted with cheers and laughter.
***While walking and knocking on doors, I discovered that people are usually nicer than over the phone. Oddly, I encountered were people who announced they were voting for the opposition, but who then wished me luck. One woman went so far as to commend my efforts, even though she strongly opposed my candidate.