In April 2007 at the Annual 2 Cities and 3 Towns Democratic Breakfast (the 2Cs and 3Ts being Amesbury, Newburyport, Newbury, Salisbury, and West Newbury), John Walsh came to speak. John had been Deval Patrick's campaign manager and had recently been chosen to head up the Massachusetts Democratic Party.
If you've ever seen me at a public meeting or a debate, you will often see me scribbling things down on small scraps of paper. Months later, usually when the wallet becomes painfully large, I'll pull these notes out. After months of campaigning, I finally got around to the wallet cleaning this week and came across those April scribbles.
What John Walsh said that morning in April resonated with me as I was about to embark on a campaign. He talked about a new (and yet very old) way of campaigning, "going to where people are and talking to them about what they feel is important." John talked about how busy people are in their lives, but if you can find a way to connect, there is an "accumulated wisdom" that can recognize and solve problems and inform public policy and decisions.
Grassroots campaigning was really what I was doing, although I didn't telegraph it during the campaign.
- I started knocking on doors in late June, when most experienced local campaigners were telling me to wait until after Labor Day. It was time consuming. There are 1200 or so voting households in Ward 4. I knocked on all at least once, most twice, and some three times.
- Modern political campaign theory talks about 'targeting voters.' I did the opposite: I knocked on the door of every registered voter whether they were unenrolled, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Green. Once the signs came out in the fall, I made a point of talking to folks with Fowler signs because I knew they were going to vote. If I didn't win their vote, I always learned something.
After introducing myself, I would always ask one basic question to start off: "What are your concerns about City government?"
My slow slog through the summer and fall helped me understand what was on people's minds. Those conversations helped me become a more knowledgeable candidate. And as a Councillor starting in January, I want to continue to find ways to keep the channels of communication open, so that that accumulated wisdom can help Newburyport be a better place for all of us.