Kathleen Graham Kelly, a retired NYSUT staffer and one-time member of the Niskayuna (Schenectady County) Teachers Association, is in Orlando as a volunteer for the Working America Coalition, an AFL-CIO political action committee. Working alongside Eric Metzer, a retired UFT chapter leader, and Doug Matousek, a retired NYSUT labor relations specialist, Kelly is canvassing on behalf of Hillary Clinton and other AFL-CIO-endorsed candidates. Here are some reflections from their first few days on the campaign trail:
The flight down was very easy. My biggest fun was renting a blue VW Bug as my rental car when I arrived!
Thursday was our training day. I drove to the headquarters located at the Letter Carriers Union Hall. I am part of a team of 12 canvassers. All the rest of the team will be on assignment until the election; I have volunteered for two weeks. The people are all union members from different states and different unions.
The biggest change from when I did this in Cleveland (for John Kerry in 2004) is that everything is electronic. No more lists of names and addresses. No more written scripts or paper charts to record voter preferences. We were each handed an i-Pod Touch mobile device. Each day, it is loaded with neighborhood data (called turf) with targeted names of people who are swing voters — people who sometimes vote Democratic and sometimes vote Republican. This is the persuasion phase of the campaign. Our goal is to find out how people are leaning, and if they are leaning toward Hillary Clinton. We hand out fliers comparing Clinton’s record to Trump’s. If they are leaning toward Trump, we say “thank you” and leave.
We are also handing out fliers in support of Patrick Murphy in Florida’s U.S. Senate race against incumbent Marco Rubio.
At the end of the shift, we sync our data and then we know how many houses we went to, and the individual response rates.
We are canvassing in Orange County, around Orlando. This is the battleground part of Florida. We learned the southern part of the state is firmly Democratic and the northern part of the state is firmly Republican. We are in the I-4 Corridor, which is the swing part of the state. And Florida is a big goal for the election.
The big factor for me is the heat. I went out yesterday to learn the ropes from a letter carrier from Florida named Fred. He is used to walking a lot and is used to the heat. After 90 minutes in the heat, I felt so sick. I made it until 3 pm and asked him to take me to my car.
The heat and humidity are quite a challenge but, once I get my own turf, I will have more flexibility with the times that I canvass.
Last night, the hotel lost power for 3 hours so that was an adventure itself.
Why am I doing this canvassing, you ask? I volunteered because I think this is something I can do to make a difference and this election is important. I fight that cynical feeling that one little person can’t make a difference.
So for tomorrow, I am thinking: water, a towel, my sneakers and lots of breaks in air conditioning!