Jess King supporters knock on Ephrata’s doors

By on August 9, 2018

Nick Martin stood on a wall at the East Franklin Street home of Dan Sweigart as dusk and a thunderstorm loomed over a gathering of Jess-King-for-Congress supporters. Martin is the candidate’s field director, and he was offering suggestions and strategies to those supporters who were about to embark on an evening of knocking on doors.

Be positive, he said. Be honest. Be respectful. “You will be knocking on the doors of a lot of Republicans,” he said.

King is running as a Democrat.

Martin told his small audience of canvassers that they will meet some people who are already King supporters. “Ask them if they want to get involved with canvassing or phone work.”

They will meet people who lean towards King or towards Lloyd Smucker. “Enter the persuasion cycle,” Martin said.

“And you will meet people who totally disagree with you,” he said. “Be respectful.”

King hopes to unseat Republican Smucker in Pennsylvania’s newly redistricted 11th congressional district. The district includes all of Lancaster County and the southern half of York County. Smucker is running for his second term.

As Martin was wrapping up his remarks, King arrived in a car driven by one of her supporters. Martin announced her arrival. She stepped out of the car, walked across the street and greeted the gathering, who received her warmly with smiles and handshakes, but no bombast or political hooha.

These modest efforts, repeated daily, week in and week out, the King campaign hopes, will add up to a win in the Nov. 6 general election. King’s campaign grind is evident on her website, which lists 24 campaign events from Wednesday, Aug. 8, through Saturday, Aug. 11. The events include phone banks, door-to-door canvasses — like the one Tuesday evening — and meet-and-greets with the candidate.

Jess King shared some of her political philosophies with a small group of volunteers Tuesday night as they prepared to knock on Ephrata’s doors. (Photo by Dick Wanner)

She can’t be physically present at all the events, but she needs to be there for the meet-and-greets, which are the meat and potatoes of a grassroots campaign. Her Saturday meet-and-greet schedule begins at 11:30 a.m. in Red Lion, York County, moves to Glen Rock at 1:30 p.m., Spring Grove at 3:30, across the river to Marietta by 5:30, then to Mount Joy at 7:30, and finally — just speculating here — home to her husband and two daughters in Lancaster.

Congressman Smucker’s website and Facebook page don’t provide that level of detail about his meetings with voters, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t meeting with them. He does hold periodic town hall meetings by phone with constituents.

From his public statements, his website and Facebook comments, Republican Smucker is an unabashed supporter of our current president’s politics.

King has said she doesn’t feel that she fits comfortably into either party, but she clearly has a space under the Democratic tent. Three of her key issues are Medicare for all, free college education in public colleges, and removing corporate contributions and other big money from Washington politics.

King’s campaign is financed by individual donors, and she doesn’t accept contributions from corporations of super Political Action Committees (PACs). Prior to the Tuesday evening canvas, one of the group asked Martin about contributions from Silicon Valley, which is rife with tech-savvy rich people. Martin said those donations were significant, but they all came from individual donors who share King’s beliefs.

After sampling some of Dan Sweigart’s homemade chicken corn soup and grabbing a baggy of chilled grapes, this writer joined two of the canvassers as they prepared to knock on doors. Ginny Di Ilio is retired from her HR job at a local bank. Mike Eichenlaub is employed by West Earl Township in the public works department.

They began their canvas outside Di Ilio’s Brickyard home, checking the campaign’s canvassing app on Eichenlaub’s phone to see where they were headed and who they were going to talk to. As the sky grew darker, thunder rumbled in the distance and the promise of rain was about to be delivered, they set off. They knocked on three doors, two Republicans and one voter identified by Eichenlaub’s phone as “other.” Nobody was home at two places. One of the Republicans was home, but nobody came to the door. At the third house, as lightning began to streak the sky, the canvassers spotted a Republican gentleman and his Democrat wife, giving up their spot on the porch and getting ready to move indoors.

Nick Martin, in the blue Jess King cap, shared his thoughts about strategy with a group of canvassers as they prepared to spread out through Ephrata on Tuesday night.

Getting right down to brass tacks, Eichenlaub asked, “Who’re you going to vote for?”

“I’m not voting for Smucker,” the Republican said. “I don’t like what he stands for and I don’t like his support of Trump. I’m voting for Jess King.” The Democrat by his side smiled and nodded.

That was the high point and the last point for the canvassers, who had spied actual rain speeding in from the west. They called it quits for the night and headed back to Di Ilio’s kitchen, where they shared a beverage, talked politics and planned their next night of canvassing.

While they couldn’t claim Tuesday as a huge success, they did record on the campaign’s canvassing app that they had found a voter for King.

Maybe not so much for King as against Smucker, but a small victory, nonetheless. King and her supporters hope that small victories, eked out in exhausting, non-stop campaigning, will lead to a big victory in November.

Jess King, Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s 11th Congressional district, met with a small group of volunteer canvassers Tuesday night in Ephrata.


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