With Maryland an uncontested state in this year's presidential election, activists of both parties swarmed to battleground states to campaign for President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry. We asked two, Republican Georgia Woerner and Democrat Cass Smith, to check in daily and share their experiences with reporter Patricia Meisol.
Four days in West Virginia
A 29-year-old science teacher at Roland Park Elementary-Middle School, Georgia Woerner waited in something of a reserve unit to be called up for the Bush campaign's "72-hour program" to get out the vote. Six days before the election, she received her deployment: Martinsburg, W. Va. She persuaded her mom to care for her eight pet lizards and promised her students a full report.
She's no novice; Woerner volunteered during the 2000 campaign, and got involved during the Clinton impeachment trial after hearing comments that character doesn't matter. Conservative and pro-life, she says, "I never felt like I had to do something until then."
Drive is a breezy hour and a half. It doesn't matter how long I travel to re-elect the president, this is just so important. Arrived Martinsburg 3 p.m and went directly to headquarters to call people. Staying at Quality Inn, but it has a pool and Jacuzzi. Worked from lists of registered voters; offered poll hours and rides, mostly to answering machines -- everybody is out, weather is beautiful.
Those who do answer the phone are mostly nice, but a few very unpleasant. Ton of food for volunteers. Laughing at stories of colleagues; voters tired of being called who say, "There's nobody home. No, no one's home." Pumped. Forgot Halloween costume. Not a lot to do in Martinsburg. Still making phone calls at 8 p.m. in office around the corner from Bush campaign headquarters. Caught a bit of football of alma mater, University of Miami.
Handed literature to people coming out of churches for four hours. Recruited by one of them: Man told me I should stop politicking on Sunday and be in church myself. Later, more phones. Watched Ravens fans become Redskins fans for an evening -- some volunteers sneaked away from phone bank to cheer Skins, mindful of prediction that a Skins win the Sunday before the election means the incumbent president wins too. Oops, Skins lose to Green Bay.
Door to door in Harper's Ferry with clipboard. Wrote down every vote, for or against, and noted who needed a ride to the polls. Nine Bush voters for every one for Kerry. This is fun. People handing out literature everywhere. Saw three people waving signs on corner for Kerry. Joined 15 Bush people waving signs on the opposite corner. Took it over -- Kerry people left. Energized by honks of passing drivers. Found fliers on the ground, dropped by unknown group, claiming Bush lies to the people and other nasty things with no basis in fact. Annoyed. Back at hotel, opened doors to adjoining rooms of volunteers and watched Saturday Night Live Presidential Bash 2004. Not nervous yet, hopeful, but keep thinking it's so incredibly critical to win. Scares me what would happen to this country if we don't.
More sign-waving, corner-battling with Kerry volunteers who called for reinforcements. We had more people. They had bigger signs. One offered me bottled water, then withdrew it. Did he have to be a jerk? Concerned when I saw the president on TV. He looked upset. Drove home to vote. Too exhausted to party in Annapolis, watched West Virginia come in early for Bush with roommate and boyfriend, then fell asleep before it was official.
Feel fabulous. Volunteers on both sides responsible for amazing voter turnout. Can chill for about a year from now, when we start looking at 2006 races.
Four days in Ohio
Cass Smith was nervous when her husband dropped her off at the New Carrollton Metro station early on the Saturday before Election Day. Would she meet anybody to talk to? At Farragut Square in Washington, would she even find the bus taking Kerry volunteers to Cleveland?
The last time Smith, 54, traveled by bus was 17 years ago, on her son's class trip to Gettysburg, and the last time she took to the streets to protest was during the Vietnam War in 1968. She packed "an activist's wardrobe": campaign buttons, extra sweater, two pairs of shoes, Dockers slacks, political T-shirts and a camera. "I am leaving the tiara at home," she said.
Found bus with help of a man carrying a suitcase like me. On bus, met people of different jobs, religions, gender, ages. Got talking points on Ohio -- they've lost 250,000 jobs. In down time, checked out mix of trees along the road. This is so exciting. Arrived 4:30 p.m. and spent evening putting stickers on school-bus-yellow door hangers telling people where to vote -- supposed to counter literature floating around the city giving false polling locations and election date. Expected to get Motel 6, got Cleveland Hilton. It's great.