The word “sign” represents the last few weeks of campaigning pretty well, both as a verb–a total of 122 people provided their signature and address on my nomination papers, giving me a spot on the ballot–and as a noun, with a few dozen lawn signs with my name on them now appearing in New Bedford front yards. Other highlights include attending my first meet-and-greet (thanks for hosting, Kristin Raffa Cahill!) and meeting parade-goers at the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament.
My lesson on lawn signs is much like what I learned with my first campaign purchase of buttons. I was skeptical about the buttons: who was going to wear them, and what effect would they have? It turns out that plenty of people have been sporting them around town (thank you!), and they tell me what I’ve experienced myself: they’re a great way to talk up my candidacy without being too in-your-face, and they make for a great conversation starter. They appear to be a decent teether for the toddler set, too, given Nick’s interest in biting them. Lawn signs have followed the same pattern (except that we don’t let Nick bite them). I was a bit concerned, particularly after seeing some prices, about whether they were worth the investment of others’ contributed cash. And they’re not cheap: after quite a bit of calling around locally and getting quotes online, the best price I could find was $5/sign (at Express Printing in Fall River), and that doesn’t even include the metal stands ($0.80). As I waited for my order to print, I was pleased to read that there is actually evidence that, in a “low-information” election (like School Committee, since it doesn’t exactly receive top billing), signs can make a positive difference. Phew!
Thankfully, by the time my signs had arrived, I already had a good starter list of addresses to house them. We fit in sign deliveries over the past week or so, and as I learned from my grandmother this weekend, they’re working! Indeed, she got a call from a friend the other morning who wanted to know who Colleen Dawicki was, because she saw my sign on Brownell Avenue. My grandmother subsequently put us in touch, and not only did we have a long chat about a whole range of New Bedford issues, but she offered to host a sign in turn!
Of course, good sign real estate isn’t everything (but if you have a high-traffic lead, I’d love it), and there’s a reason “signs don’t vote” is an expression in the political world. While I won’t get too excited about hearing from friends about sign-sightings, it is providing some nice wind in the sails!
On the ballot!
The other “signs” I’ve been concerned with relate to my efforts to get on the ballot. The lift wasn’t heavy: just 50 registered voters needed to sign their names and write their addresses sufficiently legibly to be validated by the Election Commission. Nevertheless, this being my first rodeo, I decided to follow the advice of collecting far more signatures than required. My strategies for signature-collecting included asking folks at my campaign kickoff, collecting them along parade routes (both the Cape Verdean and Portuguese Feast parades), asking for them while door-knocking, and grabbing the errant one or two in my travels around the city. All in all, I ended up with 122 (though a Dartmouth-dwelling friend and a parade-goer’s child were included), of which the Election Commission certified 67. My understanding is they stop when they have a sufficient number above 50, and they didn’t even look at the third of three pages I submitted (but hung onto it in case there was an issue). Even though I went far beyond the number required, I’d probably do the same push again. After all, it gives voters something to do while they hear my spiel!
I’ve heard from many candidates past and present that “meet-and-greets,” or coffee hours, are great ways to reach voters. This involves having a supporter host their friends and neighbors for a social gathering that gives the candidate a chance to share more about their background and ideas while learning about the concerns and ideas of a set of voters. As I learned during my first one of these, it’s a pretty high-impact opportunity: the kinds of people who are interested in attending such events are likely to be deeply engaged in their city and therefore have important perspectives from which I can learn. In the case of my first such event, a number of those perspectives included parents and teachers, which I continue to seek out in order to shape my approach to the campaign, and hopefully, to my service on the School Committee. I’m hoping to do a few more of these this fall (and have one lined up already), so let me know if you’re interested in hosting!
The latest stats:
Time spent: averaging 6-8 hours/week
Amount spent since last post: $531.25 for 100 signs (I saved money by getting hand-me-down wire stands!), $136.51 for brochure printing (to use when door-knocking and at events)
Amount raised since last post: $100 (the contributions have slowed…probably time to pester my Treasurer about this!)