With the coronavirus disrupting campaigns across the state, plenty of candidates have decided to spend some extra time doing good instead of doing politics.
The statewide stay-at-home order has put a stop to most traditional knock-on-doors campaigning, but volunteers can still be pointed toward campaign-led community service.
“We’re all trying to figure out creative ways to connect with voters, who understandably aren’t too interested in hearing about politics right now,” said Tim Rosales, a strategist for Republican Ted Howze’s Central Valley congressional campaign. “So we’re finding different ways to be relevant.”
For Howze, a Turlock veterinarian, that’s meant putting together “Operation Compassion,” an effort to provide food and other supplies to seniors and disabled veterans.
Rep. Josh Harder of Turlock (Stanislaus County), his Democratic opponent in the November election, is also involved in charity work, both as the district’s congressman and as a candidate. In a tweet this month, Harder talked about doing a shift with the Salvation Army to deliver food to home-bound residents.
“This a scary time and we have lots of folks in our community with real needs,” he tweeted. “If you’re healthy and able, consider volunteering.”
In Orange County, Republican Brian Maryott is another politician who found his campaign upended by the virus.
While some of his staff is still working the phones and doing the other duties as part of his challenge to Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, Maryott gathered his volunteers and supporters to team up with a local charity to assemble care packages for 50 homeless families.
“It was a huge success,” said Patrick Snow, Maryott’s campaign manager. “People want to help, and we want to be a leader for the district and set an example.
“We set aside some of our normal campaign schedule and replaced it with something important.”
Similar examples abound, with candidates and officeholders alike replacing some of their normal fundraising mailings with information about how to deal with the coronavirus, suggestions about where to get help and admonitions to “stay safe.”
In an April 1 mailing, Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Democrat running for an open San Diego congressional seat, announced that he was temporarily suspending all campaign activities and re-purposing his effort “to meet the urgent needs of our community as it battles the coronavirus.”
For Ammar and other politicians, working for the community during a time of crisis can be a higher level of campaigning.
“Campaigns are about showing how we’ll lead,” he said in an interview. “We don’t wait to provide leadership sometime down the road, but need to show it now.”