Sunday, October 28, 2012

Walking neighborhoods for Wyoming Democrats can be educational and even exciting

I've been spending my October Saturdays walking neighborhoods for Democratic Party candidates. I canvassed for Mary Throne in HD11. Canvassing means you actually ring the doorbell of likely voters and talk to them if they answer. Sometimes those people are friendly and sometimes not. More and more homes, it seems, have "no soliciting" signs on front doors. Canvassing is technically not soliciting, but we usually treat it as if it was. Some houses carry more serious signs. "Beware of dog" is one that gets my attention. Candidates tell us to rattle the front gate. If a dog appears, go to the next house. If not, proceed. That usually works, but I've been surprised by dogs a few times. They were friendly, thank goodness. A husband and wife team traveling the spread-out House District 7 yesterday pulled into a driveway and were greeted by two pit bulls. They moved on to the next house. Even dog people think twice about dropping off a leaflet to a pit bull-patrolled residence.

Other signs? "Protected by Smith & Wesson" with a large drawing of a handgun aimed at my face usually commands a few paranoid thoughts. Ditto for "No Trespassing." Not too many of those, except in the very rural areas of the county.

Most Saturday's I've been conducting "lit drops." This calls for the lit dropper to place a door hanger on a doorknob or, if it's windy as it usually is, inside the screen door or under the doormat. It was windy yesterday in HD7, where firefighter and friend of the working man Joe Fender is contesting a Republican for an open seat. I found a number of handy jack-o-lanterns and flower planters on those houses that had neither a mat or a screen door. The houses on the shady side of the streets also carried another hazard -- ice. I was wearing boots but slipped a few times. Nothing serious. Made me appreciate those people who actually shovel or snowblow their sidewalks and driveways.

Another thought occurred to me. Many people never use their front doors. They drive into the garage and enter that way. In some developments, such as The Pointe, houses have no mailboxes. The mail is delivered to mailboxes clustered for each neighborhood. So the only people using some sidewalks are political candidates, the UPS man, neighbors and friends. Yesterday, I didn't see a whole lot of activity in The Pointe. Saw two people walking their dogs, two joggers, a couple of kids, and cars driving down the street. It was a cold day so people were inside -- I can understand that. Still, it might be a bit more neighborly to clear your sidewalks of snow and ice.

Last Saturday, I did a lit drop for Lee Filer in HD12. His opponent is David Knisely, who attended last week's TEA Party rally in Lions Park. It's another open seat and one that Democrats need to win. We have some great candidates in Laramie County, the state's most populous with 16 percent of its people. It's growing, too. This makes it a real challenge for candidates. Wyoming is a state that likes personal contact with those running for public office. The county has more than 41,000 housing units, according to 2010 census figures (and 2011 updates). That's a lot of walking and riding and talking and hand shaking. Both Filer and Fender have a great shot at winning open seats. It's also good that they are running against TEA Party extremists.

There's another hazard that doesn't get much attention. People are on high alert for strangers in their neighborhoods. We've recently had some high-profile child abductions in Wyoming and Colorado. One girl in Westminster, Colo., was abducted and killed. So it wasn't too surprising when someone called the cops on me last Saturday. I was walking the Harmony Meadows neighborhood in Lee Filer's district. Nice, new affordable houses. Most were occupied, although I did see foreclose signs on two abandoned houses.

I was just about finished with my rounds when a Cheyenne police cruiser drove by slowly. I waved; the car stopped. I walked up to the car's window, expecting it to open. Instead, the police officer got out of the car. He asked me what I was doing. I held up my colorful door hangers and told him. He seemed suspicious. Another police car was coming down the street. The cop explained that someone had called 911 and reported a suspicious man in a blue T-shirt was rattling doorknobs. I was wearing a blue Lee Filer T-shirt. I had hung a number of flyers on doorknobs. I may have rattled some in the process. The policeman asked me about my car. I pointed to the corner and said that's my red Ford Fusion right over there. He looked at the car and back at me. He said O.K., and then walked over to talk to his colleague in the other car. As innocent as I was, I also was a bit shaken. It's no fun getting rousted by the cops. If I was a paranoid type, I might think that some Republican called out of spite. I may have looked suspicious to someone. Maybe an oldster heard the doorknob rattle and then saw my tall shadow pass their window. Two kids had yelled hi to me out of a window and I yelled hi back. Maybe their parents thought something untoward was happening with this guy in their yard. Who knows? I pay attention when I see strangers walking through my neighborhood. Some suspicion is a good thing.

We're rapidly running out of weekends in this election cycle. Thanks goodness, one might say. Hasn't this gone on forever?

Maybe not forever, but it's been a long time. Let's hope we get some Dems into the mix in the Wyoming House and Senate. This one-party state needs some diversity. In this case, we're not only talking cultural and gender diversity but a diversity of opinion and process. Results, too.

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