By Stephanie Fewsmith, NARAL PRO-CHOICE VIRGINIA volunteer
“Hi there, my name is Stephanie and I’m a volunteer with Ralph Northam’s campaign. How are you today?”
Over the last several weeks I have started many conversations this way. Many of them are short and sweet, some of them turn into a longer discussion. One of them resulted in me being invited to sit down on a lovely woman’s front porch, and have a lengthy conversation about her daughter coming to visit, the beautiful weather we’d been having, and why I’m supporting Ralph Northam for governor of Virginia.
Knocking doors and making phone calls was not something I ever pictured myself doing. I do a lot of volunteer work, but I’ve always been a little on the shy side and figured someone else could do the work of talking to strangers for the candidates I believed in, while I shared my support for them on Twitter and Facebook. I also come from a safely blue state, where our occasional Republican politicians didn’t seem to greatly threaten our human rights, so I had internalized a sense of complacency about state level politics.
That was until I moved to Virginia, and participated in my first Lobby Day with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and the Women’s Equality Coalition in Richmond while the General Assembly was in session. Seeing the anti-choice bills put forward, and the pro-choice bills struck down by our Republican-controlled state House and Senate, and learning about the restrictions that were already on the books shook me to the core. Having not only a Democrat, but a firmly pro-choice Democrat as governor became my driving focus. I knew I had to do everything I could to support the “brick wall” in that office.
Fortunately, when I first heard Lt. Governor Northam speak, I knew we had a candidate I could count on. After an absolutely horrid election year, it was so refreshing to hear this man with his old Norfolk accent speaking so genuinely about his beliefs, and especially about his plans to continue to fight for Virginia women.
I was so inspired, that I decided I couldn’t just stay home and tweet to my measly 140 followers like I usually do. I needed to grab my comfy shoes, a water bottle, and get knocking.
Now, even for those folks who have more followers than I do, I still recommend pounding the pavement. When you spend all of your time online, it is genuinely surprising how nice people are when you talk to them face to face. Yes, even when you’re a stranger interrupting their Saturday with a knock on the door. I have had a lot of fun conversations with people, from those who had no idea there was a primary coming up and no idea who they wanted to vote for, to those who were already strong supporters. While I enjoy dropping Northam knowledge on folks, one of my favorite parts of canvassing has been listening to the issues people are concerned about. I have heard everything from very specific concerns in local neighborhoods to general anger about the results of the 2016 election. People are energized. Whether that’s with anger or excitement, most folks I’ve talked to seem ready to be involved as volunteers or active voters.
In addition to connecting with the community, volunteering for Ralph Northam’s campaign has provided some unexpected benefits: I’ve become more educated on statewide issues, the campaign process, and the candidates. Plus, I’ve formed some very close relationships with other volunteers, conquered some of my social anxieties, and had a reliable weekend exercise program to boot! For anyone who has been hesitant to volunteer, now is the most crucial time. We are in the final stretch before the primary, and I can’t wait to get out the vote! I hope you’ll join me.