I'm one of the luckiest supporters of Tim Kaine here in the Commonwealth -- I got to canvass with Kaine in my own neighborhood today!
Along with many DFV members and other familiar faces from last year's elections, I volunteered this morning at the Coordinated Campaign Headquarters in McLean for today's canvassing kickoff event. As a precinct captain, I was incredibly proud to be able to walk through the neighborhoods of my own precinct, streets that I've canvassed previously for Dean, for Moran, and then for Kerry/Edwards, this time with the actual guy who is on the ballot!
After revving up over 100 volunteers ready to pound the pavement in precincts all around NoVA (including my fellow bloggers Kenton of 750 Volts and Jim E-H of DFV), Tim Kaine and a small caravan of us drove from McLean to the Seven Corners area of Falls Church. My ethnically diverse precinct is composed primarily of garden apartments, garden-style condominiums, public housing, and a few streets of single-family homes and townhomes.
This area is unfortunately best known for the crazy Seven Corners intersection (Rt. 50, Rt. 7, Sleepy Hollow, Wilson, Hillwood, and a smattering of access roads all meeting together!) and more recently made infamous by what folks around here call "the Sniper Home Depot", the shopping center where FBI analyst Linda Franklin was murdered in Fall 2002. Snipers Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad shot Franklin from the trunk of their car while parked in the parking lot for our precinct's polling place.
Politicians rarely come here. Most residents of my garden-style complex are not native English speakers and many are undocumented workers. There are other precincts with a much higher density of reliable voters. But Tim wanted to come here, and seeing him in action today with my neighbors makes me even more confident that he'll make a great Governor of Virginia.
We started out in a neighborhood of townhomes, and given that it was a perfectly beautiful sunny Saturday morning, there weren't many people at home to answer the door when Tim knocked. I'm sure the people who came home today to Tim Kaine "door-knocker" flyers have no idea that it was Tim himself who wrote "Sorry I missed you!" on them.
Our group of canvassers included a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors - Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross - a few other volunteers from the coordinated campaign, and a reporter and photographer from the Washington Post.
On a side note, the whole time we were knocking on doors, we were closely followed by a lone Kilgore lit-dropper, who apparently followed Tim's car from headquarters in McLean so he'd be on Tim's heels all morning as we met voters. It was pretty pathetic, really. I've never seen a Republican canvasser in my precinct, and I've lived here nearly a decade.
After walking one neighborhood where we met a few voters at home and Tim got some pictures taken by the photographer, I suggested that Tim take a quick detour to a local park before heading for Dulles to fly to the big unity rally in Williamsburg. Every weekend, this park is usually packed with my neighbors from Central and South America playing game after game of soccer, and I thought Tim would enjoy meeting lots of voters at one time. Tim thought it was a great idea, but when we got to the park, no games had started yet and crowds had not yet arrived. Tim was not disappointed, though - he just agreeably said, "Okay, why don't you show me around?" and we hopped out of the car and started walking around the neighborhood and local shopping center.
Almost all of the voters we met were native Spanish speakers, and I listened with admiration as Tim conversed comfortably in fluent Spanish, making each person feel at ease, making every little child feel special, asking each person about what concerns them, and listening patiently as they talked.
Some politicians have that gift - the ability to speak to perfect strangers and help them feel at ease - and seeing Tim do this just as well in Spanish as in English was really inspiring.
I brought Tim into one of my favorite political places in my neighborhood - the local laundromat (or lavandería, as I learned today), where I had great luck registering voters last summer. As usual, the place was packed, and Tim chatted amiably with voters and their kids as they folded their laundry or waited for their cycles to finish. While Tim was making the rounds, my neighbor from two doors down walked in to buy a soda and said, "Hey, I see your bumper stickers all the time, but now you bring the candidates to our neighborhood! You've hit the big time!" I gotta confess, it was pretty cool.
Photo ops of Tim in a laundromat may not have been what the campaign was hoping for today, but it was a great way to meet a lot of people from diverse backgrounds. The thing is, a fake stands out in a laundromat, and a snobby fake stands out like a sore thumb. Tim fit right in. (Well, as well as you could fit in at a laundromat without an actual bag of dirty laundry slung over the shoulder.) I was impressed.
Most people we met this morning, regardless of their backgrounds or native language, brought up the same three issues - jobs, traffic, and education. One issue that Tim probably doesn't hear everywhere in the Commonwealth, but he heard often here, is the issue of day laborers being cheated out of their pay by unethical employers who pay with a bad check or refuse to pay the agreed-upon wage after the work is completed. Tim was just great on this issue - he told the workers who expressed this concern about two new laws passed in the General Assembly this year patroned by Delegate Adam Ebbin, one of which makes paying wages over $200 with a bad check a Class 6 felony (rather than a misdemeanor, which it was previously) and the other which increases penalties for failure to pay wages.
I know not all of us will be able to canvass with Tim Kaine before November. So I'll share with you what I learned about Tim from spending some time with him close up. He's as smart as you hoped he'd be, quick on his feet, and able to respond thoughtfully to a variety of concerns. He's not the slightest bit snobby or pretentious. He was respectful to his planners and handlers, but still willing to be spontaneous. He's a tough campaigner and fearless about greeting new people. He's not afraid of criticism and he doesn't give up easily. He's appreciative. He listens more than he talks, and when he talks, he shows that he's listened.
He's going to be a fine Governor.