After Missouri, I studied my options for the rest of the primaries. Since Bernie’s campaign appeared to be in it for the long haul, states with later primaries – which historically had not played a significant role in the nomination process – were now in play. Maryland, Kentucky, and New Jersey primaries all fit my schedule and also offered friends and family where I could find home stays. So, on April 9, I left for the April 26th Maryland Primary and to stay with my sister near Baltimore.
Maryland is as blue a state as Tennessee is red, but Hillary needed a large victory to stop Bernie’s momentum (he having won 8 of the last 9 primaries). With Hillary holding a 20-point lead in the initial Maryland polls, I was curious about what ground game the campaign would consider appropriate. Instead of the big campaign office in St. Louis, four small offices were opened all within 30 minutes of each other near Baltimore. One field supervisor appointed one field organizer per office, who were each then reliant on whatever volunteers they could find. I decided to work out of the Severna Park office, near Annapolis, because it appeared that staffer would need the most help.
My second day there involved a Hillary event in Baltimore. I explained to the supervisor what roles I served at prior speaking events and offered my assistance. He thanked me, but explained they already had the event staffed. Disappointed, I chose to attend the event early anyway. I initially stood in line with the other early general admission guests, but noticed the supervisor off to one side and again offered my assistance. Again, he stated they had ample volunteers. I went to my car and considered leaving when I recognized the Hillary Advance Team I had worked with in Nashville and St. Louis. I remembered their names and they remembered me, stating they were glad I was there to help with possible hecklers. This speaking venue presented potential problems with its configuration and size, and they also anticipated likely crowd concerns and immediately gave me some responsibilities. I explained they would have to get approval through the supervisor, but he quickly deferred to whatever the Advance Team wanted. My persistence paid off in this instance.
As anticipated, the event was problematic. The building was too small for the crowd, only one bathroom, standing room only, and the event started late. Difficulties included separating the VIPs from the general audience, the local volunteers exhibited more interest in seeing Hillary than controlling the crowd, and two separate group of hecklers attended. One group infiltrated the VIP section adjacent to the podium and starting screaming negative chants once Hillary appeared. The crowd immediately drowned them out by shouting, “Hil-la-ry, Hil-la-ry.” Since I was in the back, the Advance team reached them first to escort them out – all three of them still shouting inaudible insults. The second hecklers shouted insults and held up a tee shirt with similar insults. They had chosen a spot in front of the camera well to be easily depicted by the media. I reached one protestor and explained that I was his last chance to stay in the event but he would have to lower his tee shirt and stop the disruptive shouting. He continued and I motioned to the local police (we had consulted before the event the sequence of such an occurrence) to escort him out of the event.
The Advance Team realizes the importance of free speech. Anyone may attend these events. The point when one becomes disruptive takes many forms. They usually can wear clothing with derogatory statements and can film the event. But, since these events are organized and paid for by the campaign, there are limits to free speech before one is removed. Examples include, shouting insults, holding up derogatory signs or clothing, and asking guests to sign petitions that are not promoted by the campaign. This presidential cycle has certainly created many disruptive moments, and we still have six months until the election! My next blog describes the last two weeks in Maryland. Thanks for reading.