Campaign Canvassers Plug Candidates, Sway Primary Voters

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April King said she has been volunteering for Gale Brewer's political campaigns for about three years. She handed out flyers in the West Village on Tuesday afternoon. She said she has also donated about $75 a year to Brewer's campaigns. (Photo by Hope King/NY City Lens)

April King said she has been volunteering for Gale Brewer’s political campaigns for about three years. She said she has also donated about $75 a year to Brewer’s campaigns for the past three years. (Photo: Hope King/NY City Lens)

Across from P.S.3, on the corner of Hudson and Christopher Streets, April King approached pedestrians politely.

“If you haven’t voted, vote for Gale, please,” King said, as she handed out pamphlets.

Dressed plainly, King, 72, wore a name tag and a Gale Brewer button pinned to the right side of her shirt. Brewer was one of four Democratic candidates running to replace Scott Stringer as Manhattan borough president in Tuesday’s primary elections.

“Gale was my rep for the past 12 years,” said King, who lives on the Upper West Side. “When she got term limited out, I volunteered to help her.”

King, 72, said she believes last minute canvassing efforts can help undecided voters. This certainly appeared to be true in voter Jeffrey Fennelly’s case.

Fennelly said this was the first time he’d been out of touch with the city’s politics and he used campaign literature to become more informed.

“I was swayed today,” said Fennelly, a social worker. “I learned about Gale Brewer. She was apparently endorsed by all of the [Democratic mayoral] candidates for borough president.”

Campaign worker Cesar Fuentes, 71,was all smiles as he handed a woman a flyer for Ralina Cardona, a City Council hopeful attempting to unseat two-term Democratic incumbent, Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“Have you voted yet?” he asked passersby.

By five in the afternoon, the native Puerto Rican had been standing outside of his building at 2080 1st Ave. in East Harlem for 11 hours.

Sporting a navy suit and striped tie, despite temperatures in the high 80s, Fuentes said he had been volunteering for the Cardona’s city council campaign for about a month.  He said he voted for Mark-Viverito eight years ago,  but now he is ready for a change.

“The people [here] are poor,” he said.  “They are homeless.  And they are building buildings for the rich.”

Having spent 25 years in East Harlem, Fuentes said he was happy to use his influence in the neighborhood to help gain votes for Cardona.

“She has a very good soul,” he said.  “She cares about people.”

But while some canvassers are true believers, others are simply in it for a day’s pay.

Will Franklin with Stringer Campaign materials

Will Franklin said a friend told him he could make some extra money handing out flyers for the Stringer campaign and encouraging people to vote. (Photo: Chuck Stanley/NY City Lens)

“I know nothing about this guy, I’m gonna be honest with you,” Will Franklin said, pointing to the stack of Scott Stringer flyers in his hand. Franklin, 37, said a friend told him he could make some extra money handing out flyers for the Stringer campaign for comptroller and encouraging people to vote.

A former sales and marketing representative for a tobacco company, Franklin said he voted for Stringer out of appreciation for a day of paid work.

“You’ve got to pay the bills,” he said.

Some actively look for work for the extra cash. Laura Holden, 27, said she found her job to canvass for Arthur Schwartz, who was running for reelection as district leader of the West Village, through Craigslist.

“I found it under the gigs section,” she said.

A former copywriter for Sony, Holden said she had searched Craigslist for campaign jobs specifically. She said the Schwartz campaign was paying her $12 an hour.  Holden was posted outside of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center polling station on 13th St. from 1 p.m. to 8 at night on Tuesday.

A search for “primary election” on Craigslist nets about a dozen job postings going back to mid-August. Most of the listings advertised the possibility for canvassers to make up to $200 for those willing to work the full 15 hours that polls were open.

Laura Holden stood as close as she could to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, where over 600 West Village residents had voted by 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

Laura Holden took her job seriously and stood as close as she could to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center voting site. An estimated 600 West Village residents had already voted at the site by 1 p.m. (Photo: Hope King/NY City Lens)

Whether their motives were money, loyalty or a thirst for change, sidewalk campaigners who advocate for their candidates up until the last minute clearly have some influence on final ballots.

Drew Kunin, a freelancer in the film industry, believes voting is his civic duty. He said that no one will convince him to vote, not even a campaign worker’s plea.  “But with people who are not high profile,” he said. “It does help.”

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