I bet in the good ol’ days of pioneer caravans traveling across the country to settle in the Old West, they didn’t get stuck in hour-long traffic jams caused by overturned stagecoaches. My Canvassing Caravan wasn’t quite so lucky this weekend.
We had plans to wake up before the roosters, hit the road early, and just barely have enough time to hit two turfs that day–one in Christiansburg, and one in Salem–before driving back home. (My co-conspirator Kellen was planning to ditch me to go to Bluefield, WV to attend the huge Flaccavento/Ojeda joint rally.) Just after we got on I-81, as I was muttering about a truck veering into the fast lane to pass a slower truck on the right, my son asked “why don’t the trucks have their own separate lane?” That turned out to be a prescient question later, when we sat for almost an hour in bumper to bumper traffic because of an accident that had occurred in the right lane. One truck, three cars, and by the time I passed, a fire truck, ambulance, and three police cars.
By the time we finally got to town and picked up the rest of our caravan (aka my daughter, who’s a junior at Virginia Tech), we didn’t have time to hit two turfs. So we went to Salem City, to knock out just one, for Carter Turner, who’s running for the special election in House of Delegates district 8. It turns out that the number one issue on Turner’s platform is WIDENING I-81! He happened to be in the office when we arrived, so I got a chance to talk to him about it. We commiserated about the accidents, the trucks flipped over, the fear we as parents feel when we know our children are driving I-81, and the frustration of not being able to plan around the random congestion.
And then we went and knocked some doors. I love when the candidate I’m canvassing for has a great strategy for their particular unique district. I’ve been canvassing in Salem before, and voters here do not want to talk about political ideologies, don’t always vote for a party, but talking about I-81? You betcha! This was a topic that resonated at nearly every door we knocked.(Well, except for this one lady who told us that she doesn’t vote. Because “God will put who He wants in office.”?) I heard about accidents, relatives that had been injured, side road diverted traffic. People told me their secret back road techniques for getting off I-81 when there’s an accident. There is nothing people love to talk about more than traffic!
We hit about 60 doors between rain and thunderstorms, I got to spend some time with my daughter, we survived I-81, and best of all, I was reminded how diverse Virginia voters are. In Northern Virginia, people at the doors mostly grab your lit, ask you whether that’s the Democrat, and tell you that’s all they need to know. Sometimes they’ll want to gripe about Washington DC for a bit. But when you get outside of Northern Virginia, that’s often the last thing they want to talk about. Instead, they have a variety of pressing local issues that more immediately affect them and their families, kitchen table issues, I guess. A good candidate will understand those issues and focus on ways to solve them.