“An Aussie on an American Campaign Trail’

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A mixture of nervousness and trepidation overcame me as I walked into the campaign office  for David Alvarez. Being in a foreign country and working with a different set of strategies and concepts, I was concerned that my campaigning skills were not up to standard.

I have worked on numerous campaigns in Australia over the past ten years, but understanding how the Australian system of Government works always gave me that extra bit of confidence.

Anyways, walking in, I was initially introduced to the campaign managers and the field team and given material to familiarise myself about the campaign. I first learnt that David Alvarez (Democratic mayoral candidate for San Diego) was the unlikely recipient to run and won the primary votes from late 2013. At 33, he was bringing up a young family and was a successful and popular Council Member native to San Diego.

I was then introduced to an amazing, full of energy young woman who was coordinating the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) team. They were extremely well organised and already had more than a handful of successes and achievements under their belt. David had already done more than a handful of Asian media interviews and had attended many API events.

As it was nearing the Lunar New Year, the first task I was asked to perform was to be the “to go to” person coordinating David’s appearances at the TET Festivals which were happening on the following weekend. This was an interesting learning experience, as I started by contacting community leaders, whom I have not met, and had to introduce myself over the phone and via email.

There were two events  in the first three days celebrating the Lunar New Year by two rival Vietnamese organisations. As David was already crowned with celebrity status, the task was not difficult and we also managed to organise David to wear an “Ao Dai” (traditional Vietnamese jacket for males).

He definitely had a fan base following him and asking for photos to be taken. David walked around at both events, handing out red packets to young kids at the festivals which had campaign.

I was  assisting in organising a few precinct walks or GOTV (Get out to Vote), which in Australia we call door knocking in areas where a high concentration of the API community resided. One thing I found very intriguing was that unlike Australia where we have a compulsory voting system, in the US it is voluntary, and as a citizen you have the choice to register to vote.

On the sheets we used to talk to local residents during our walks, each voter who registers must disclose what their political persuasion was. You had the choice to not state what you support, but surprisingly many registered voters did disclose and on those same sheets you were able to identify how many elections they have voted in.

So not only were we encouraging the registered voters to vote for David Alvarez, but we were also encouraging them to actually go out and vote. In Australia you are pretty much going door to door coldly, but in the US you just go to the residences with registered voters.

And on Election Day, instead of standing outside the polling area handing out how to vote, as we do in Australia, we actually were allocated precincts and knocked on the doors of registered voters all day in our precincts, twice and even thrice to get voters out to the polling places to vote. To ensure we were not double dipping, we were allowed to go into the polling places, where they would stick up an updated list every hour stating who has voted and where they lived for cross checking.

I have to say all in all, this was the best campaign I have been involved in and despite David Alvarez losing to Kevin Faulconer (the Republican candidate) he still managed to snatch 45% of the vote, considering he was definitely an underdog and posed as a major contender. He definitely made the opposition work hard for their money.

David was an extremely gracious candidate, and if I had to be involved again, nothing would change, as there were great team work and dynamics happening in the campaign office.

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