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Campaigning in a pandemic: Forget doorbelling, now there's Zooming

  • Updated
  • 2 min to read

If there’s one silver lining to running an election campaign during a pandemic, it’s efficiency.

With the large geographic size of the 16th Legislative District, connecting to voters from Dayton to Prosser takes hours by car, Senate candidate Danielle Garbe Reser said.

Instead she can now attend more events in one day virtually with the potential to reach more voters in a shorter period of time.

“This virtual approach has reduced our costs and is better for the environment, too,” the Democratic candidate said via email.

The face-to-face connection once synonymous with local campaigning has been replaced with online everything. COVID-19 has brought the virtualization of all things social, and local politics is no exception.

In outreach to local candidates from county to state races on how they’ve adapted to COVID-imposed restrictions, all of them said canvassing was the first campaign practice to go.

“We had hoped to be out knocking on doors all spring, so we have been calling voters instead,” Garbe Reser said.

Walla Walla County Commission Republican candidate Jenny Mayberry and 16th District Position 2 state representative candidate Carly Coburn, a Democratic Progressive in Pasco, said they had been looking forward to the door-knocking. Position 2 incumbent Rep. Skyler Rude, R-Walla Walla, had mixed feelings.

“Honestly, I do not miss the labor-intensive aspect of door-knocking,” he said, remarking on the 5,000 doors his campaign reached in 2018. “But I do miss that personal interaction that happens on the doorstep.”

The now-ubiquitous Zoom — as it did for schools in the spring — has filled some of the appetite for face-to-face communication.

“Even though I can’t have someone host an in-person ‘house party,’ I can still have them host a ‘Zoom house party’ where I can speak and meet folks,” Coburn said in an email.

Still, the platform has left other candidates less satisfied.

“I do not think that Zoom is particularly effective to introduce a candidate to a large number of people,” Mike Mitchell, candidate for Walla Walla County Superior Court judge, wrote.

Mitchell, Coburn and Pos. 1 state representative candidate Mark Klicker, R-Walla Walla, highlighted their investments in a campaign website and Facebook page to spread information about their personal profiles and platforms.

Perry Dozier, a Republican candidate for state senate, spoke of his “One-on-One with Perry Dozier” videos on Facebook that let him replicate the intimacy once captured on doorsteps.

“We want to bring Perry into the conversation and interact with audience-submitted questions,” said Logan Dozier, the campaign’s communications director and son of the candidate.

As if the COVID-imposed campaign challenges weren’t enough, candidates have to contend with another restriction: advertising on social media platform Facebook. Facebook, the largest ad-seller in the country, banned political ads in Washington in late 2018 after the state attorney general sued the company for its failure to keep up with Washington’s uber strict campaign finance disclosure requirements.

Subsequently, local candidates that might have flocked to Facebook have steered their advertising resources elsewhere — including newspapers, Spanish-language radio, television and direct mail.

“The upside is knowing campaign dollars are being reinvested in 16th district communities, from Prosser to Dayton, by supporting local newspapers,” Rude said.