Maryland’s Primary results on April 26 exceeded expectations of many. Hillary won 63 percent of the Maryland vote, won three other primaries on the same day, and with the prior week’s victory in New York, appeared to mathematically secure the Democratic nomination. All the state’s volunteers held a watch party that primary night featuring U.S. Senators and Congressmen as speakers. We celebrated the outcome and our concerted effort. Not as many hours and resources were used as in Missouri’s Primary, but an important notch – another important step – toward possibly winning the presidency was taken. I stayed 45 minutes and left to pack to drive home early the next morning.
The paid staff would clean up their offices Wednesday and wait a couple of days for new assignments, or no assignments. With the Primary season winding down and the dwindling number of states with primaries still left, some staffers spin off the Hillary campaign and pivot toward swing states that may be in play this fall election (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada and Iowa). Maryland’s volunteers would request to keep the campaign printers, campaign material, and offices for the November campaign. I headed home looking forward to catching-up with Rebecca, knowing springtime on the farm meant lots of bush-hogging to do, and preparing for my next campaign journey.
Each Primary has left indelible imprints of certain individuals I’ve met. This one was no exception. One gentleman I met somewhat exemplifies our shared experience with this wacky campaign. I noticed the USMC letters on his mailbox while canvassing. I also noted the canvassing turf listed him as a registered Democrat, but he addressed and stopped me while standing on his front porch and me 30 feet from him. After identifying myself and my candidate, he waved his arm as for me to keep on walking. I stopped and read his name from the turf, and his wife’s, and he said that was correct, but that they were certainly not going to support her. I asked who he would support – that I had to check one of the boxes on my turf list – and he asked if there was a “box on that sheet that says, “Anybody but Hillary?””. I chuckled and told him that option was unavailable, but that I was curious what candidate he supported. He stated he remained undecided and then launched into his concerns about our country.
He, too, was troubled about the uncivil discourse in this campaign. Having served 27 years in the Marines, his military experiences shaped his political views. On Hillary, his main concern was anecdotal, second-hand conversations with other Marines who worked in the White House during Bill Clinton’s two terms. But, our conversation quickly dove into the role of a public citizen and lack of participation in our Democracy and communities. He thought that Democracy does not mean the absence of rigor. Yes, we do not struggle with tyrannies and dictatorships; however, our freedom should then be rigorously applied toward other worthwhile pursuits that make our lives more meaningful and the future more livable for our children. Another topic of concern included our educational system maybe focusing too much on students plugging into our casino economy and not teaching active citizenship. After ten minutes of discussion, he walked out to me, shook my hand, commended me for my involvement in the process, and asked if he could get me a glass of water. Occasionally, I thought, open dialogue reveals more what unites us than what separates us. I didn’t get his vote, but maybe received much more.
I met another memorable individual on Election Day. My activities that day involved lit drops at the polls, last-minute canvassing, and rides to the polls. We received a call from the supervisor about a voter requesting a ride in Annapolis. I volunteered because I was vaguely familiar with the city due to my recent canvassing there. The address appeared to be an assisted-living facility. I entered an office where three people were working, identified myself and my purpose, and asked for Mary (name changed for privacy purposes). The lady behind the desk eyes got big, and asked if Mary had personally called us. I confirmed, and she then referred my request to another lady sitting nearby, and her eyes got big, also. I was even more puzzled when they spoke with yet a third lady, later identified as the executive director of this facility. Their surprise became apparent to me when they explained that this was a facility for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Then, I’m sure, my eyes got big.
That morning, Mary had repeatedly expressed to the staff that she wanted to vote in the Primary. The staff considered printing a ballot-like document to appease her or hoped she would forget it. They did not imagine how serious Mary was about voting. I explained to them that when Mary had spoken to us on the phone, she even read from her voter registration card where her polling site was located. The director considered the situation and stated that Mary could leave the facility if permission was granted by one of her children and if I would sign her out (at this time, liability issues and medial concerns started crossing my mind). Mary’s daughter was called in California and gave permission for Mary to vote. I told the staff I would like to meet Mary before taking her to the polls to assess her capabilities and my abilities to safely address them. Mary came out, dressed properly, with her wig almost straight, and expressed delight when introduced to me. We chatted a bit, and I verified her registration card was valid and current. I signed her out, asked for a good number from the facility in case of any concerns, and we left to participate in the Election Day pageantry.
Mary was delightful and inspirational! She was just giddy that she was going to be able to vote for “her girl.” She stated she had never missed voting in her lifetime – even when stationed overseas with her husband. When her daughter had sold her car and had placed her in this facility, she was very concerned that she would be unable to vote again. In our fifteen-minute ride, she did not repeat herself too many times, and seemed knowledgeable of most races being contested that day. At the polling site, I informed her that I could not assist her in the booth. She understood, offered her voter card to the poll workers, collected her ballot, and performed her civic duty all by herself. Afterwards, she appeared exhausted requesting my arm to support her as we left the polling site. Returning to the facility, she repeatedly expressed her gratitude to me, stating she would call her daughter that night and tell her that she was driven to the polls that day by a Tennessee farmer. I wish more citizens would take voting as seriously.
In all, Maryland held special memories for me as I drove home. On the way, I received a call from a regional field organizer for the Virginia Democratic Party. He received my bio from the Hillary campaign and asked for an interview concerning a field organizer position starting May 15. I pulled off the freeway and discussed the position with him. He appeared intrigued with my work history, campaign experience, and familiarity with Northern Virginia (having lived there for seven years). Since that interview, I have provided him with references. It seemed I may be hired for a paid position with the campaign. It pays a little more than farming – but not by much. Nevertheless, I began this campaign not looking for a job, but for a role. A role in selecting the most qualified candidate to be our next President.