On Saturday morning, I started my day with a 30 minute conversation with an unaffiliated voter about what needs to change in Annapolis and how we're going to do it. He started off skeptical, but by the end of the conversation I had not only earned his vote, but he had also become an advocate. There was only one problem.
"I want you to talk to my neighbor over there."
His neighbor had a line-up of Republican signs for every GOP candidate on the ballot this year, including my opponent, Bob Flanagan. I'm normally not deterred by a single GOP sign, even if it is my opponent's, but I do like to follow my "list" of voters who are likely to turn-out and may be interested in hearing what I have to say. This yard checked the first box, but certainly not the second.
I tried to tell my new friend that I didn't think that would go very well and that I would probably annoy his neighbor more than anything else. I still remember what he said in response: "If you plan to reach across the aisle in Annapolis, you can start by knocking on his door. I promise he is reasonable." I couldn't help but notice a smirk on this gentleman's face as he finished his comment, confirming that this was in fact a dare and not just an evaluation of my fitness for office. I accepted.
When I rang the doorbell, a very pleasant woman answered the door and was soon thereafter joined by her husband once I said the word "candidate". I acknowledged that I saw the signs in the yard, but that I had been encouraged by their neighbor to stop by. The gentleman smiled, "It was good that you did that."
He then explained to me how he was a Rush-Limbaugh-listening-Fox-News-watching Republican that was "tired of the crazy policies coming out of Annapolis", but that he was excited by the prospect of a "big tent Democrat". He had only voted for one Democrat in his entire life and that was when he was 21 years old (he is now in his 70's). We talked for 30 minutes, which is a long stop for door-knocking, but a much appreciated opportunity in the context of 3 minute evaluations and "not homes" that make up the rest of the day.
I heard him out on his concerns. He heard me out on my responses. I explained that tax fairness and fiscal responsibility were important principles of governance that superseded party ideology. He agreed. I argued that we had an obligation to ensure an infrastructure of opportunity for all Marylanders, including strong pre-K through 12 education and job training, he agreed. I told him that I was tired of the presumption that party ideology was a reflection of what kind of person you were as opposed to what caucus you would like to work with in achieving the goals of government. He agreed.
Don't get me wrong, there were some issues like immigration and marriage equality for which we just could not get on the same page. What I appreciated about this voter is that he was willing to move on. So often we find a point of disagreement and spend all of our time in that rut while breezing over the areas in which we agree. Those are lost opportunities. This gentleman seemed to get that.
When I left, he told me "Mr. Coale, I truly appreciate you stopping by my house, especially with all those signs in my yard. I can't promise you my vote, but I think I will be taking one of them down."
Oh and by the way, the pleasant woman who answered the door listened to most of the conversation, but did not say much. Towards the end, when I was getting ready to leave, she said "We need new people, like you, in government." I'm going to count that as a vote.
Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!