By KENDRA SITTON | Uptown News
While not as critical as the weeks leading up to the primary, the weeks afterward are still an important part of the prolonged elections in the U.S. Politicians would normally spend this time fundraising and meet-and-greets to keep momentum leading up to the initial vote. The top two candidates in crowded fields would also try to widen their coalition now that the field has narrowed. However, the coronavirus pandemic has virtually suspended several campaigns while others pivot strategy to follow public health guidelines.
Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party said the party is looking at ways to hold remote meetings and adapting voter contact so “organizing can continue without putting anyone at risk.”
Senator Toni Atkins is almost guaranteed to win in the general election, but she would normally be spending this time fundraising for other candidates. According to her campaign manager, she did not have any local events scheduled this week or next, but any upcoming events will likely be postponed.
Nora Vargas, a candidate for the County Board of Supervisors District 1, also announced her campaign would postpone all events and activities in light of the pandemic. She also launched a bilingual online resource to answer people’s questions on her social media pages.
Brian Maryott, a Republican candidate in the 49th Congressional District, announced on Monday, March 16, that he will be holding virtual town halls each Wednesday on Facebook at 6:30 p.m. until the crisis ends.
Democrat candidate in the 50th District, Ammar Campa-Najjar, said his campaign office was closed while staff worked remotely on March 13. At the time, he said he would not host events for more than 15 people and volunteer appreciation parties would be postponed. While the restrictions on events have changed, he offered to help field questions from the community as CA-50 has no representation while Rep. Duncan Hunter awaits sentencing.
For politicians already holding public office like City Council members Chris Ward, Barbara Bry, Assembly member Todd Gloria and City Council President Georgette Gomez, there is little time to campaign for higher office while triaging this crisis.
In the smaller campaigns for City Council in District 3, focus has also shifted. In an email, frontrunner Stephen Whitburn explained, “The biggest impact has been the cancellation of events and meetings we had planned to attend. I go to as many community functions as possible to chat with people and get their thoughts… Hopefully, this won’t last very long, and things will get back to normal. In the meantime, it’s still busy. Our website lists my cell phone number, and people have been reaching out about various neighborhood issues. I’ve also been reading up on how other cities have handled some of the problems we’re dealing with. So, there’s plenty to do, but I look forward to the community meetings resuming and seeing everyone again.”
Toni Duran, who made it through the primary by beating out Chris Olsen, said in an email,
“We don’t want to put volunteers or voters at risk, so now isn’t the time for face-to-face campaigning. My campaign is less important than the health and welfare of our entire community. People can still donate or sign up for later volunteer opportunities. However, I will personally be volunteering my time with nonprofits who are still providing critical services, in a responsible and safe way, to our vulnerable populations, and I encourage others to do the same.”
Later, she announced on Twitter that one of the organizations she will be volunteering at is Mama’s Kitchen, a nonprofit which brings meals to sick people. Since they typically rely on retirees who are self-quarantining, the organization put out an urgent call for volunteers.
For many voters, electoral politics are far from the most important story right now, and rightly so. The campaigns that succeed in November will be the ones that recapture the public’s attention after the pandemic ends.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.