So I wanted to share an article I wrote for the Maryland Sierra Club’s seasonal newsletter The Chesapeake. I worked as a summer intern(and helped into the fall) on a Congressional election in the 1st Distrct of Maryland. The race was between Frank Kratovil and Andy Harris. I wrote this shortly after my guy Kratovil was declared the winner after the absentee ballot count. Check it out Here, and I’m also posting what I wrote below.
Hey Sierra Club members, as some of you may know, there was a very close contest in the 1st Congressional District of Maryland. The Sierra Club endorsed Frank Kratovil in his face off against long time environmental foe State Senator Andy Harris. At the beginning of the year and into the summer Frank Kratovil was trailing Andy Harris by double digits in the polls. The Harris campaign had lots of special interest money and resources. All of the political pundits that rank races by competitiveness all around the country labeled the seat as “safe” for Andy Harris’s taking. At one point I read that Andy Harris had said that the 1st district was one that a conservative could win every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Frank Kratovil has just been declared by the AP to be the winner after an absentee ballot count added significantly to his narrow vote lead. As Kratovil said when addressing supporters Tuesday night “this might not be a Sunday”.
What’s fantastic about this race being so close, is that I watched the Sierra Club make a difference. I oversaw, and coordinated many of our efforts over the summer, working as an intern from our College Park office. Without getting too deep into the tax code and how my number one priority was to not violate it and earn us a day in court with IRS, lets just say doing outreach was interesting. Our rules had it to where I couldn’t talk to anyone about voting for Frank besides our members and my mother. Okay I couldn’t talk to my mother either. Every action and breath I took had to be run through our national compliance office to make sure the rules were followed. I don’t like rules, but I liked the Sierra Club so I played along. I gained from this an infinite amount of respect for our Sierra Club organizers and leaders who have to do so much with so many rules, and such little money. They could teach Wall Street a thing or two.
We did a pretty good job at contacting our members and getting them involved. Throughout the summer myself and volunteers made thousands of phone calls to our members in the 1st District. We asked people a few simple things. One was whether or not they knew about the race, and who we had endorsed. The other was whether or not they would vote for Kratovil, wanted a sign in their yard, or wanted to write a letter to the editor supporting him. My reasoning behind this was that if we could get people involved on a small level, aware of the race, thinking about the race, talking about the race, following the race in the news…we could get them more involved later on when they were really needed. In the later months when the race was tight and canvassing and phone banking opportunities were everywhere, we’d know who to call. Of course, when we found very enthusiastic people, we’d try and plug them into Kratovil campaign activities(and boy were there a lot of them) right away!
I was inexperienced at a lot of this when it came to outreach for an election. I made a lot of the strategy up as I went along, and probably made some mistakes. But the key part of our strategy I was counting on came to fruition in the end. The race tightened, people got enthusiastic and pumped up, and the Sierra Club had a nice list of people to call and tap into. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I’d estimate we collectively made over 1,000 phone calls and canvassed over 1,000 doors just in the last two months. It paid off.
But the real heroine in the last couple months has been the Sierra Club’s Conservation Coordinator Alana Wase. Thanks to an anonymous donor(I know who you are, thanks!), we could afford to set Alana loose right at the same time I had to go back to school, so I got to just become another volunteer assisting her. She’s really responsible for our most productive moments, and deserves far more credit than me. I’d also like to give special thanks to Janet Schollenberger for all the work she did with outreach to Baltimore County group. David Prosten for helping with Anne Arundel, and tolerating the phone scripts I gave him and his group. Betsy Johnson for making phone calls, and telling me I was doing a good job even when that may not have been entirely true. Laurel Imlay for showing me how to do things competently, and for lending me her mother for a phone banking session(best phone banker ever).
And of course, to everyone else I don’t have the space or memory to name. Those who agreed to canvass, make calls, give your time, your money, and your vote, thanks a million. We just helped Frank Kratovil pull off one of the biggest upsets in this election cycle in the country. We taught Andy Harris that if you vote against the environment, there will be consequences. It goes to show that nothing it set in stone. Nothing is a done deal. All it takes is for a group of people to believe, roll up their sleeves, and go to work. That’s what the Sierra Club is all about.