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February 11, 2023 Newsletter
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Notes from the Road in Pennsylvania

Posted on February 10, 2023

Blair Hines is a landscape architect and powerhouse door knocker to help elect Democrats in close elections. For the 2022 midterms, Blair spent 10 days canvassing in New York and Pennsylvania. Here are two of his stories.

I was born in Philadelphia and grew up through college years in the area. So I looked forward to working in Pennsylvania and connecting with all the many people I would meet.

Reading, PA

Very urban city of beautifully built stone and brick townhouses with the street numbers in stained glass over the doors. Easy to navigate and a pleasure to walk the neighborhoods.

This city has dramatically changed since I was last in the area 45 years ago! Now the City is largely Hispanic and Dominican. One noteworthy fact: compared to all the many places where I have canvassed, I would guess that people were at home upwards to 50% of the time: mostly grandmothers and mothers looking after pre-school aged children. Most did not speak English. The campaign had Spanish Lit on the candidates, and to a person they were very pleased saying ‘Gracias’ and gesturing their appreciation or thanking me in broken English. I think that having Spanish Lit was so important and I’m guessing made a difference in the turnout.

One interesting interaction: As many of you who have canvassed GOTV know: you are visiting low voter participation households. I went up to an address with a woman about 50 smoking on the concrete steps and not looking happy: “not voting” she said when I introduced myself. Why.. “no reason…makes no difference”. As I turned away I realized that she was in no hurry just sitting and passing the time—so I said, “So, you want to hear my best pitch?”

She smirked and said “Sure. Give me your best pitch.” (Context: It was during the Phillies World Series game.)

I said: “If you would vote for only one person and leave all the other candidates blank: vote for Shapiro for Governor, because the Republican is an election denier and if you deny an election when you don’t win you have Venezuela or Nicaragua.” She smiled, ‘good pitch’. I don’t know if she voted or not but I used that line 4 or 5 more times and each time it had real purchase for Hispanics as well as non-Hispanics.

Pittsburgh Area

The area is a warren of ravines and hills north of Pittsburgh with patches of housing, woods and an occasional farm or industrial site. Some fairly nice suburbs and new condominium developments, some older modest homes lining rural roads.

As those who have canvassed know, you don’t always meet the Democratic woman at the door and often meet the Republican husband. No matter: 5 times I had the man say: “I am a Republican. I always vote Republican, but I won’t vote for an election denier.”  These were the most important conversations because we talked about what Democracy requires. I went off script because I thought it was more important to support this person’s thinking outside the partisan box than pitching specific candidates. Sometimes I would bring up the issue of election denial and they were clearly bothered, particularly when I mentioned that I had talked with other Republicans who drew the line and would vote Democratic.

Want to knock doors for the Wisconsin Supreme Court elections in March?  Contact Alix Smullin at canvassing@swingbluealliance.org