By Ted Lam, Fiona Woods, and Carl Mason

Six hours of driving and six hours of canvassing? Yes! And it was even more fun than we expected. We left Oakland before 5 AM on Saturday October 6, heading south toward Sanger, CA. Bagels, coffee, and great conversation made for a delightful three hour drive.  A millennial, a Gen Xer, and a baby boomer cruising toward the sunrise; intensely agreeing on politics while sharing music, pop culture, and social science insights.

Almost before we knew it we’d arrived in Sanger. While SwingLeft’s cheerful and super efficient organizers Stacey, Sharon and Norberto were giving us a quick update and walk through of the Political Data Inc. (PDI) app, who should show up but TJ Cox, the candidate we were there to canvass for! He spoke with us briefly and told us why he’s running for Congress: to help this neglected district get the attention and resources it deserves. CA-21 has a high poverty rate with many residents on Medicaid. TJ was especially proud that a foundation he started has built health clinics all over the valley, including the United Health Clinic in Sanger.  When we were out canvassing, many of the people we talked to were surprised and moved to find out that TJ was the force behind the Clinic’s creation.

IEB canvassing in Sanger for TJ Cox
Carl, Fiona and Ted canvassing in Sanger for TJ Cox (that’s TJ between Ted and Fiona)

You’d be shocked (not really!) to learn that David Valadao, the incumbent Republican Member of Congress against whom TJ is running, has voted with 45 over 98% of the time. Valadao has consistently voted against his district’s interests, including voting against the ACA, voting for cuts to Medicare, and failing to follow through with the discharge petition to protect DREAMers.

The three of us canvassed together from 9 AM to 3 in the afternoon, talking mainly to Democrats and to those who “declined to state” a preference on their voter registration. That’s because at this point in the election cycle, it’s much more about getting out the vote than persuading people to change their preference. While it was jarring to meet so many people who professed to have no knowledge of the election, it also felt productive. Nearly everyone was friendly and talking about TJ was easy. Perhaps we’re being overly optimistic, but we feel confident that we made a difference — that at least some of the people we spoke with will turn up at the polls because of us.

Lunch break! Ted, Carl and Fiona canvassing for TJ Cox in Sanger
Lunch break! Ted, Carl and Fiona canvassing for TJ Cox in Sanger

After lunch, the canvassing went a bit slower — not only because we were hauling around bellies full of excellent Mexican food, but because fewer people were home (or willing to answer the door). We left campaign literature with personalized post-it notes at every house. By day’s end, SwingLeft canvassers had knocked on 710 doors and had 174 targeted conversations — plus many more contacts with potential voters. Our trio even got three people to put up TJ Cox yard signs in very noticeable locations!

IEB canvasses for TJ Cox in Sanger, photo by Ted Lam
So inspiring when we spotted lawn signs for TJ Cox! Photo by Ted Lam

As the temperature approached 80 degrees (still unusually cool in the Valley), we wrapped it up, debriefed with the SwingLeft team, and headed for home. The drive back was even better than the drive out: after several weeks of the excruciating-to-watch Kavanaugh hearings, the satisfaction of having done something positive was cathartic.

You can make a difference too!

Can’t get out to canvass yourself? Donate to support one of the great groups listed above. You can even sponsor a canvasser in CA-21 by donating to Valley Forward, which helps employ people living in the district.

Read Ted’s recent article about why he spends his time canvassing, and his article about canvassing for TJ Cox in Mendota before the primary.

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