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Adventures in Government - State Legislators and Canvassing

Saturday, April 29, 2017

This was a pretty busy day for me. There were two major events: a town hall with my state legislators and several hours of knocking on doors. Usually I'd break these up into separate stories, but between my job and a sudden multitude of events going on, I've fallen quite behind on my reports. So, I'll unfortunately have to be fairly brief.

LD10 Town Hall

Once again, my state representatives (Kirsten Engle and Todd Clodfelter) and my state senator (David Bradley) held their monthly town hall meeting at a local library. This time, it was at the Wilmot-Murphy library, which had a lot more seating and space than the one they were at last month.

They got us up-to-date with the budget discussions which, basically, weren't going super well for the Democrats, and even Clodfleter (a Republican) seemed pretty frustrated at the education budget.

The AZ legislature passed a school voucher program, which naturally means that public schools, which were already poorly funded, are now going to be even more poorly-funded, while private schools reap the benefits instead.

On a related note, Arizona continues to have a teacher shortage, largely due to low teacher pay and poor funding in general. (My own company, Fangamer, employs a former AZ school teacher who couldn't stand continuing to work in the AZ education system.)

The state of Arizona has a few lawsuits filed against it for failing to meet education funding standards guaranteed in the state's constitution. Apparently, this is a common problem in Arizona: if the state isn't doing what it's supposed to do and nobody can get the state government to pay attention, then they bring a lawsuit to force the state to acknowledge a problem. Unfortunately, this method takes a long time and is expensive--probably more expensive than simply giving our schools appropriate funding to begin with. On the other hand, it's good to know our tax dollars are going to the worthy cause of putting lawyers' kids through college.

The legislators also spoke about an effort Democrats are making to review the tax credits and exemptions within the state to see if there are any that aren't doing what they're supposed to do. For instance, apparently there's a tax credit available for people who have private runways that allow them to park their private planes at their own houses. (It's not clear exactly how that's a public benefit.) Unfortunately, the Republican legislature isn't interested in even considering a review like that, much less getting rid of any of those credits.

There were several interesting characters among the audience, including one lady who urged the legislators to increase taxes (which makes sense, given that our state budget isn't covering all of the things it's supposed to cover), and another lady who suggested that anyone who says they support increased taxes to pay for public services was a liar. The latter lady was a former state legislator, who recalled a time when the state's politicians were generally more moderate and inclined to compromise.

Regardless, it was an educational, productive event. I enjoy attending these events, since it helps me to get a clearer understanding of state and local issues. The fact is, not all problems need to be solved at the federal level. People still often look to their congressperson for help, though, regardless of the problem, so it's important to know when and how to direct people when they come with a problem I can't solve from Washington.

I'm looking forward to the next LD10 town hall!


I finally got the chance to start going door to door! So, I put on my favorite Hawaiian shirt (because I'm a dork, and also canvassing in a suit in Tucson sounds like torture), grabbed my map and clipboard, and found my first door.

Before I could even introduce myself, the person who answered the door looked at me, said, "not interested," and slammed the door on me.

If you ever want to learn how to deal with rejection, I recommend spending an afternoon canvassing. You'll get the hang of it real quick. Luckily, I already have plenty of canvassing experience, so I was already prepared.

And, really, rejection is nothing compared to the nervous knot you feel in your stomach every time you get ready to knock on the door of a complete stranger. That part hasn't quite gone away for me yet. It's just something to overcome every time.

Unlike when I canvassed for Hillary Clinton leading up to the 2016 election, though, my canvassing wasn't targeted. I just basically knocked on every door in the neighborhood.

Targeting is important since, really, you can't knock on every door of every home in the district. That's just impossible for a single person, especially on my schedule. Instead, targeting would allow me to focus on introducing myself to people who are 1) registered to vote and 2) who are already likely to actually vote for me. It makes a lot of sense.

On the other hand... I don't really want to only introduce myself to the people most likely to support me. I also want to introduce myself to people who disagree with me and to people who have no interest in voting. In the end, if I win, I'll still need to represent the people didn't vote for me. I don't want to be a distant, unapproachable figure to anyone in the district. That's not how the job works.

Still, there are many practical and strategic reasons to go with targeted canvassing, so I'm sure I'll switch over... eventually. Maybe.

Or, better, maybe I can have volunteers do the targeted canvassing, and I can keep doing things my way. I really do want to meet everyone...

Anyway, despite my day starting with a door slammed in my face, I think I had a pretty good day. I didn't knock on as many doors as I wanted to, but it wasn't bad for half a day.

I visited 82 homes. Of those, 20 people answered the door when I knocked. Of those, 17 people gave a positive response, and several ended up talking with me for a while. The other three (including the first house) did not seem interested for whatever reason.

The vast majority of the houses simply didn't answer when I knocked, though. For some, the residents were clearly just not home. For others, the residents clearly were home, but for whatever reason didn't answer the door even after repeated knocking.

Those houses kind of felt like a waste of time. That's one reason I need to get better about asking for donations: so I can invest in some door hangers. That way, if nobody answers the door, I can still leave behind some information so they can look me up. That way, none of my canvassing time feels like a waste!

Regardless, I kept track of everything on my map. I hope to spend more and more time canvassing as time goes by. It's pretty fun, and at the very least the walking will help me shed a few pounds.