Friday, October 10, 2003

Win the precinct, win the primary

Yesterday I finally walked the 2nd precinct in the 32nd ward for John Fritchey, a state rep who is running for ward committeeman against Terry Gabinski and the old Rostenkowski organization (Congressman Luis Gutierrez has recently taken over the slot).

I encourage every progressive to work their precinct. There is no better way to flex progressive power.

The weather was spectacular, the Cubs had a day off so the timing was perfect.

My precinct is in Wicker Park, between Hoyne (2100 W) and Leavitt (2200 W), Wabansia (1800N) to Schiller (1300 N).

We're collecting signatures for candidates, so this was an easy ask. I also collected signatures for the Obama for U.S. Senate campaign.

It's basic door-to-door work. You ring the bell and ask the person if they are willing to sign a petition to put a candidate on the ballot. You can tell if they know what's going on when you explain who the candidate is and what they are running for, but no one (and I do mean absolutely no one) knew what a ward committeeman is. (It's a surprisingly important office that defines the character of the political party. It's a non-paid position and they don't make laws. What they do is run the party, so if you elect the 'wrong' ward committeemen, you get an old school patronage organization where voters matter less. If you elect good ward committeemen, you get a policy-driven progressive political party that people feel good about supporting and participating in (with?)). See for a list of ward committeemen.

Some highlights of the 2 and a half hour walk around a *gorgeous* neighborhood. One house had an Obama sign in the window (the only Senate candidate sign up) and I hope the woman will work the precinct with me. Most people who signed seemed like Fritchey / potentially Obama voters. And everyone I spoke with needed a little education about how politics works, which I provided in 30 or 45 seconds. And that means votes in March for progressive candidates if I keep in touch with them over the next few months. And that means implementing progressive policies.

There simply is no better way to build power than to work your precinct.

I ended up collecting 25 signatures for Fritchey, a little less for Obama. I met some good people and have a sense that the precinct is potentially winnable for the Fritchey campaign.

If you'd like to be a precinct captain, but are just not sure what to do, email me and I'll walk you through it. But here's a hint: go talk to your neighbors. Practice makes perfect. (Example: I began the night with this pitch: "Would you be willing to sign a petition to put a candidate on the ballot?" and lots of people would say "Thanks, but no." That's not good. After a few of those rejections, when I gave the people an easy out, I switched to "We're collecting signatures to put a candidate on the ballot. It doesn't mean you support him, but we need the signatures just to get on the ballot." which doesn't leave the person with an easy or natural way to say no. Some did "This is a bda time for me, sorry" but most then signed the petition, and then wanted to hear a bit about Fritchey and Obama. One guy said "yeah, I'll sign. This is America." Which was awesome.

My line about Obama to people turned out to be something like this: "His name is Barack Obama. He's a state senator from Hyde Park, so he knows how to be a good senator already. He's a law professor at the University of Chicago, and I think he's the most intelligent and progressive of all the candidates running. Plus, if he wins, he'll be the only black U.S. Senator in the country."

Fritchey's website is here; Obama's website is here.

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