Politics is often not a very visual subject, but come election season, there’s enough red, white and blue in the air to captivate anyone’s attention.
Campaign volunteers wave signs at football games and call you out of the blue to ask if you’ve made up your mind about candidates. They say it’s all about getting their message before the eyes and ears of those elusive undecided voters.
With Election Day just one month away, I set out to capture a bit of the campaign scene in the most nonpartisan manner I could, spending a similar amount of time with volunteers supporting the candidates for governor, Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna.
Political viewpoints aside, all these volunteers agreed on one thing: It’s important to make a personal connection with voters. Whether holding a sign or talking with someone on the phone, “you can reach one person who nobody has reached before,” said Inslee volunteer Ibrahim Adow (shown below, in black shirt.)
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, I met about a dozen Inslee volunteers working the phones to reach out to voters. Vinny Spotleson, shown in the foreground in the sketch, said phone banks are especially important in tight contests like this year’s governor’s race.
Do people pick up the phone? Not always, but when they do, interesting conversations may take place, and people appreciate hearing from a fellow voter, said Spotleson. The calls also produce some interesting soundbites that volunteers have been writing down on a green poster board that hangs on the wall. Here’s one that made me laugh: “Voting is like a marriage. I don’t want to commit until the very last minute.”
Inslee campaign field organizer John W. McCoy is a 32-year-old Iraq war veteran. From his desk at the end of the room he can see everything that’s happening in the windowless space in the basement of the campaign offices. McCoy said volunteers have made more than 430,000 calls since June.
I found the “Jay drum” sitting next to campaign signs in a nearby storage room. McCoy said it was played by a campaign staffer who “keeps a really good beat” in summer rallies throughout the state.
Among other Inslee volunteers I had the chance to talk to and sketch was Darryl Johnson, a member of the Service Employees International Union.
Arun Jhaveri, on the right, introduced himself as the former mayor of Burien, a city he suggested I visit for some sketching. Jhaveri made about 60 phone calls before he had to leave.
Megan Wilson is a high-school senior working for the campaign as an intern. Wilson is 17 and can’t vote yet, but wants to “make sure as many people (as possible) vote they way I would.”
Michael Arbow chats with a fellow McKenna supporter as he and his four teenage sons hold signs and greet football fans on their way to last week’s WSU-Oregon game at CenturyLink Field. Arbow said this was the first time he has volunteered for a campaign since supporting Reagan in the ’80s. He also pointed out that the person who got him interested in politics was actually a Democrat, Henry “Scoop” Jackson.
Instead of holding a sign, Joan Wilson said she preferred to approach people and hand them stickers. The McKenna supporters were not the only ones holding political signs at CenturyLink. Wilson was good at letting me know who were Republicans and who were Democrats.
It was interesting to find a high-ranking McKenna campaign official among the group of supporters at CenturyLink Field. Walter Liang is campaign chair for McKenna’s campaign and served as Secretary’s Regional Representive to the U.S. Department of Labor under President George W. Bush.
In this sketch you can see McKenna campaign field organizer Annie Zhou, center, and volunteer Boyd Marler, right.
McKenna supporter Nat Jackson, of Olympia, is taking sign waving up a notch with his “Rob Mobile.” He said he and a friend purchased this old Ford van for $1,000 and are going to “run the wheels off it until they pop,” taking McKenna’s message across the land.
What has drawn your attention around Seattle lately? Send me your suggestions of interesting places and people to sketch via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. Have a great weekend!