Monday, January 16, 2012

Final Challenge Numbers

I've begun typing, deleted, and begun this entry again several times already. My brain has fairly turned to mush now that recall stage one is over, but I need to get this report out, functioning cerebrum or not.

When we started this challenge, it was meant to provide a fun way to push ourselves to collect as many signatures as we could. I went into this fully aware that I probably wouldn't reach 1,000 signatures, but the idea was to create a network of people who would encourage each other to rise higher than we might have otherwise. I think we did that. I'm proud of all of the challengers.

Bob Bergman, despite death-threats, managed to collect a grand total of 1,554 signatures. He's the only challenger who made it to 1,000, and then he went above and beyond by another half. Let's face it: Bob is amazing! He is the Recall Challenge King!

The title of Recall Challenge Queen goes to Karen Tuerk, who first threw down the gauntlet and made the initial challenge. As the challenge progressed and signatures were harder to come by, I kept telling myself that I was OK as long as I was still ahead of Karen, who'd I'd managed to barely keep ahead of until around Christmas. Around this time, Karen became a born-again circulator. While I succumbed to sinus pressure, Karen became an absolute recall fiend in Senator Fitzgerald's district, ending with 807 signatures for Walker and 283 for Fitz. Recall Fitz HQ spoke of her amazing work with apartments and trailer parks when I stopped in to spend my last recall day there. Karen's willingness to travel to Fitz's district and put in the extra work there was fabulous, and I humbly bow down to her and all her recall prowess.

While I exited the gate strongly, the wear of traveling for three family Christmases followed by some mysterious health drain (it all makes sense in retrospect, though that's a story for another day) shaped a poor second-half performance on my part. I ended with 679 signatures for Walker, 6 for Galloway, and 7 for Fitz. My initial response was to be disappointed that I only made 68% of my goal, but as someone else pointed out, that's 679 signatures. Yeah, I think I can feel good about that.

The tagteam of @wisocialworker @boxmansigns ended with 553 signatures for Walker and 28 for Fitz. I was happy to see that all of our Madison-area challengers took on Fitz's district. Excellent numbers!

Jenna Pope, AKA @BatmanWI, lost count somewhere around 450, though ended with at least 460. Like Karen, Jenna spent her last days in Fitz's district and lost track of her own signatures for him (she thinks 30-40) since she was focused more on gathering the signatures and encouraging other people to show up and help in the district. Excellent work, especially the encouragement part!

Though @amadorlicea found that working double shifts made the original goal unattainable, she still managed to pull in 25 signatures before all was said and done. Under the circumstances, I'd call that pretty impressive.

So there you have it. Our band of ragtag challengers collected a total of 4,078 Walker signatures, along with a side helping of around 350 Fitz signatures and a garnish of 6 Galloway signatures. Not too shabby. Good work, challengers! Thank you for volunteering your time and energy to bring about a brighter future for Wisconsin. You are all heroes in my book, (er, blog)!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wausau Wanderings

Having already received the gift of a new state senator, I wanted to help spread the joy and volunteered to go to Wausau on Tuesday. My signatures began before I even was ready to leave, since my doorbell rang right after I got out of the shower. I threw on the first clothes I could find and raced down as the man was walking away--the man who'd told me that he didn't want to sign while his wife was home had remembered the address I'd given him and stopped in to sign for Walker.

As I was driving to help with the Recall Galloway campaign, I democrabeeped a vehicle with Recall Walker and solidarity fist bumper stickers just south of Waupaca. Upon entering the building in Wausau, I was greeted by a familiar face: Aaron, UW-Oshkosh's organizer, was also helping out. Since I know I won't reach 1,000 signatures, I told him to send me wherever I was needed most. He chose a walk packet for me that included some expensive housing because he knew that I deal well with rejection.

I expected a walk packet with names and addresses, but when I reached my destination, the only thing inside the manila envelope was a map with streets highlighted on it. On the one hand, having a name list does filter out some of the hardcore Republicans, but it's also not a perfect science: I still wind up talking to people who tell me that they are registered Republicans. The advantage of hitting every door is that you don't have to look for house numbers as it's getting dark--every house is the right house. You also don't have to try to read paperwork in the failing light or mark down if people were home or not.

I parked my car and started my mission on Hilltop, and the first house I stopped at was a chilly reception despite the warm temperature. The response was only a little rude, but it seemed like a bad way to start under the dripping eaves. However, at the other end of the block I met up with an encouraging man who'd already signed, and the first house on the other side of the street was a woman who wanted to sign. As she signed for all three recall targets--Galloway, Walker, and Kleefisch--she told me that her mother-in-law would also want to sign, but that it was hard for her to get out. She gave me the woman's address, which was one block over and out of my highlighted territory. I finished out that side of the street on my way over, and I had an older woman who signed for Kleefisch. Apparently not all volunteers in Wausau carry all three petitions with them, since their first priority is Galloway, followed by Walker. She told me that Walker had come to speak to her granddaughter's class, and that she didn't think it was fair that Walker could show up at schools to talk when teachers were being reprimanded for discussing state politics. She gave me some unfrosted cookies from her new Packer cookie cutters before I left. I ran over to check on the mother-in-law on Brirawood, and she was home and answered the door when I rang. Her daughter-in-law had called ahead to warn her I was coming over because she doesn't always answer the door otherwise. She signed for all three while I entertained her excited shih tzu--it would be a day full of attention-seeking pups all over my walk terrain.

The duplex I stopped at next had child seats on the front porch in the first unit I rang. The woman who answered was thrilled to have her grandchildren, whom she called "Irish twins," staying with her for three days. The kids looked to be around seven and were absolutely adorable, and grandma was excited to explain to them what I was doing. She asked them to thank me, which they did. It was an interesting contrast to the woman in the neighboring unit, who gave me a sour negative response. At the duplexes across the street, a mother signed while her youngest children bundled up to go and walk their sister home from school.

After that, the road I was on got pretty steep, and the houses were much more widely spaced. At one particularly large home where I was prepared to face rejection, a young man who was home from college signed--his mother was a teacher. Across the street from him, another home had two large dogs running loose. They weren't overly friendly dogs, but I braved the front steps anyway. The man inside told me that he worked in the school system and he liked Walker, even going so far as to say he was his hero. Like the residents of the neighboring duplex units, the responses of these neighbors were quite contrasted.

Around 4:30 I made it back up to the more populated areas, and I had one man who, when I told him who I was and why I was there, slammed the door in my face without saying a word. I've had much more rude responses, so I made a mental note of the white pest-control truck in the drive, thought that perhaps his line of work didn't require a lot of polite exchanges, and promptly turned my attention to the next house, at which a young man informed me that the other residents would want to sign but weren't home at the moment. I took down their phone number and address for someone else in the office to pursue. I had another woman who asked where the office was located since she was on her way to a funeral and wasn't feeling in the mood to sign at that moment. A woman with a cast on her foot signed for Kleefisch, since the person she signed with also didn't have the papers for her at the time. I ended the night with six local signatures for both Walker and Galloway and eight for Kleefisch.

My worst response of the evening came from an older woman in a duplex. As she leaned over her walker, her white curls giving her the look of an octogenarian Methodist grandmother about to hand out cookies, she told me, "I do NOT want to sign and I hate you for what you're doing." I smiled, told her to have a nice evening, and left. I knew it wasn't personal, but I think it was a little harsh. I do need to sometimes remind myself that white-haired women in their 80s are not always sweet like the stereotypes; they have a right to be as cranky as everyone else.

By the time I was finished, it was about six, and I was just reaching the corner on Hilltop again when a red SUV pulled up to the sidewalk. A man hopped out and asked if I was with the recall Walker campaign, then waded into the snow between the road and the sidewalk. "I'm sorry. You stopped by my house earlier and I was rude. I slammed the door on you. I stopped to apologize." We were able to shake hands and agree that we could be civil even if we didn't agree. Before he drove off, he told me that he respected that I was out there working for something in which I believed. With the contrasting responses I received from neighbors, it was interesting to see the contrast embodied in a single person. Most of my day may have spent seeking out other people, but I both started and ended this day with people seeking out me.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Last and First Signatures

It's been a bit of a struggle to maintain steam on the recall front during the holidays, especially with the amount of traveling we've had for three separate family Christmas celebrations. When my husband and I were traveling to my parents' house for the third and final celebration on New Year's Eve, we stopped at our usual truck stop in Clark County. It's the only place I've found on the road where I can buy Sprecher's ginger ale. As we were checking out, the cashier noticed my button that says "Walker Recall: Sign Here." She told me she liked my button and asked if I had the sheets for her to sign. I did, but I asked her if she'd get in trouble for signing at work. She told me she wouldn't, and since no one was behind me in line, my last signature of 2011 came from my favorite truck stop in Wisconsin.

I decided that Sunday's snow combined with an early Packer game made it a poor day to collect signatures and opted to go out Monday instead. With a high of 22˚ and winds gusting from 20-30 miles per hour, it wasn't the best of outings. I started out on Koehler near Walgreens again, but when no one stopped and the wind kept causing trouble with my signing station, I tried around the corner again at the abandoned gas station. While setting up my ironing board on the sidewalk, I noticed that no one had bothered to remove the snow and ice. I ended up with five people stopping to sign. One guy had stopped to wash his car and only realized after pulling in that the car wash was closed, so he decided to sign instead. Another guy almost accidentally drove over the sidewalk on his way out, but I waved my arms in time for him to realize that there wasn't a driveway on that end of the lot. The fourth person was a godsend of a young woman who told me she really believed in what I was doing and had brought me handwarmers before signing my petition. I opened the first packet gladly and got the iron pellets warming. I wish I could have stayed out for longer afterward than I did, though. Since I only had used them an hour, I'd planned to see if any of the people from the homeless shelter who hang out at the library wanted to enjoy the rest of their up to ten hours of heat, but the library was closed, so no one was there. I used the warmers to thaw my feet out later, though.

When I got back to the office, I learned belatedly that other people have been chased away from the abandoned BP as of late because Kwik Trip now owns the property. I wasn't parked in their lot and was set up on the sidewalk, so the two police vehicles that had driven by hadn't bothered to stop at all, and I hadn't had any indication at all when I was there that the situation had changed. I wonder if it would have been different if more people had stopped to sign. Thankfully, the ice that made it difficult for people to walk up slight inclines is gone again, so having a level lot behind is less important; there are plenty of other places to safely and legally collect signatures. As long as Kwik Trip doesn't raise a fuss about me having actually brought the petition to one man in his vehicle in the lot behind me before I realized they owned the property now, I won't make a fuss about the fact that their sidewalks aren't cleared and might warrant a citation from the city.

Library Recap

The library is a fascinating place to gather signatures, and I've gathered around a third of my signatures there so far. My best day ever was at the library when they had their book sale at the end of November, raking in 119 signatures from the time the sale opened until the time it finished.

While I'm less likely to get flipped off at the library, since that's generally a tactic employed by people from moving vehicles, there are other factors that come with the library. Apparently different libraries have slightly different policies about how and where you can stand. In Oshkosh, you're welcome to stand outside near the entrance as long as you're not blocking it or bothering people. I tend to show up with my battered broomstick sign sticking out of my pocket, with the message "Recall Walker: sign here" visible over the top of my head for people entering or leaving the library. For the most part, I don't engage people: a good sign means that I don't have to ask people to sign my petition, because they know exactly why I'm there and will come to me. As a result, people who oppose the recall may not like that I'm standing there, but they can hardly feel harassed. I've had several people question if I can be there, and I've told them that I'm allowed to be on public property. Some have the information backward, thinking that public property means that I can't use it. Some of them are OK with it when they realize that I'm within my rights. Some of them are not.

I stand right next to one of the short outdoor structures that house the periodical dispensers, which means I'm out of the walkway and if taller people want to use the structure as a signing station for stability or if any people want to set their library materials on top of it, they can. Sometimes interesting characters hang around outside the library. I've talked to more than a few conspiracy-theorists there, and some of the homeless people that hang out there struggle with mental health disorders, so sometimes conversations that start out as seemingly unremarkable take unexpected turns. I've had people randomly share their spiritual and religious conversion stories with me. More often than not, people just want you to listen to them.

Lots of people walk past who have already signed, and many of them thank me for standing out there. On a cold day, a little love can go a long way in bolstering a circulator to continue collecting. That's not to say that everyone that comes to the library is a supporter or that they will all be polite to me. People are not in cars, and while sometimes that keeps people from being rude, other times they see my presence as an affront to their enjoyable library visit and feel the need to tell me how they feel about the recall or about me.

On the day of the booksale, I was having a conversation with a homeless man who was explaining to me why he doesn't vote when a middle-aged woman in a painter's cap stepped toward me and hollered, "Boohoo!" She angrily spit out some standard retorts about general elections being the proper way to recall, then shouted, "We had to wait, so you have to wait. We didn't try to recall Doyle." I was still talking to my non-voting fellow citizen, so I know I didn't take a step toward her or otherwise make any threatening gestures, but I did turn in her direction as she was storming into the library and hollered back, "Madame, people DID try to recall Doyle in 2009, you just never heard about it because it wasn't very successful." After she went through the door, I dismissed her from my mind, since she wasn't there to sign and, while she'd been angry and shouting, I hadn't felt particularly threatened. Later, a woman walking to the handicapped spots caught my eye because she had a slight hitch in her gate and I noticed that her hand was curled inward. Since I was only seeing her from behind, it took me a second to recognize the painter's cap and realize it was the same woman who'd yelled at me on her way into the library. Walking next to her was a woman I recognized as a librarian, and when they arrived at the woman's car, the librarian waved a friendly goodbye to her and walked back toward the entrance. It took me a second to register that this woman had asked the librarian to walk her to the car because she saw I was still standing outside. I was pretty dumbfounded. While she'd come up to me and started yelling and throwing insults, and I'd never taken a step back toward her, she was intimidated by me. All I'd done was politely offer a differing opinion with a fact embedded therein, though I did have to raise my voice a little to deliver it because she was still yelling at me and walking away. Somehow, she felt threatened by me. I was mortified that the librarian might think poorly of me, but this wasn't the first day I'd been there, and she offered me a smile and a secret thumbs up in front of her body as she rounded the entrance to go back inside. Later, a friend of mine who works at the library let me know that she'd heard from another librarian that some woman had walked up and tried to start something with me and then was afraid to walk past me on her way out, so I was happy to know that the librarians knew that I hadn't instigated anything or ever intended to harm the woman.

That same day I had a sweet older woman stop to sign, and as she noted the date, she observed that it was her son's birthday. I looked at her last name, remembered about a birthday party announcement, and asked her. It turned out that she was the mother of a local representative. I also had a Walker supporter who thanked me, because even though he didn't agree with me, he's excited to see people get involved with their government. He told me about his plan for government reform and that he's working on a few books. A woman randomly observed that I looked like a nutcracker because I was standing pretty straight up and down, limbs close to my body at that point for warmth, supporting my sign up straight with my elbow. I laughed, thinking to myself that some of my friends might find that an apt description for recalling the governor. Madrigal singers showed up in the afternoon, high school students dressed in long flowing garb. (If you're ever wondering how many madrigal singers you can get into a single revolving door slot at the library, the answer is four.) One eighteen-year-old girl signed but blanked on an exact detail about her address, so she left me her phone number so I could call her after I got home. Her friend said that she would be turning 18 in three weeks and would be signing then. Another madrigal singer said that she happened to like Governor Walker but she respected my opinion, to which I cheerfully responded that I respected her opinion, too. An older woman told me to get a life, while a hipster in Nightmare Before Christmas gear signed my petition.

When I had gone home for a brief hot lunch, I realized that after 20 minutes the skin on the back of my legs still felt cold to the touch despite wearing long underwear under thick jeans, so I added a third layer by pulling a pair of grey sweatpants over the top. That afternoon, a man in his late 30s to early 40s walked out of the library with his two young children, then began to grill me with typical finance-related GOP talking points. Like the man at Fleet Farm, he didn't stop to listen to my responses for logic and facts but instead talked over the top of me anytime I tried to answer him. He insisting on staying there and bothering me, despite my efforts to deflect him. I tired to remain polite because he had his children with him, but he was pushing it. When I maintained that the state constitution protected my right to collect recall signatures, he told me, "You don't know anything about constitutional rights." He proceeded to complain that "you people" were going to waste the money of "people like me with real lives and kids..." As it always does when people say, "you people," I'm sure my smile got a little edgier. "I'm sorry, do you know anything about me? What makes you think that I don't have a life?" His response? I must not, because I was wearing sweat pants. I know that I was starting to lose my patience, because I addressed him with the D-word. "Dude, it's cold out here, I'm wearing three pairs of pants. What does that have to do with anything?" Before the conversation could degenerate, a woman whisked up to the sidewalk and asked if she could sign my petition. "I'd love to have you be my 105th signature today!" I told her. As she was signing, I ignored the man while she raved about how happy she was to sign. I didn't get the impression that she had heard the conversation before she got there, and I was grateful for her sudden influx of enthusiasm. While the man looked like he wanted to say something more, he changed his mind, took his kids, and left.

So many people talked to me while I was there, expressing a range of beliefs about the recall resting on an even bigger range of reasons. The most touching moment of my marathon day at the library, though, was when a woman offered me her gloves and scarf if I got cold. I had gloves of my own and a bomber cap on by that point, so I was OK, but in seeing how long she was at the library and with whom she was interacting, I think the woman may have been staying at the homeless shelter. I was very touched by her generosity--her offer didn't come from shared politics, but from concern for a fellow human being standing out in the cold wind. That, my friends, is someone who truly had a real life and a real soul to go with it.

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

Last week I had to take a few days off from public locations because my car needed work, and there aren't any good public locations within easy walking distance from home. Nick printed walk packets for my neighborhood, and on Tuesday and Wednesday I walked a packet and a half each in my general neighborhood.

There's a reason why we tend to collect signatures in public locations over going door-to-door. About half of the people aren't home when you stop by, and it's not like a normal canvass because there's no literature to leave behind. I'd thought about leaving behind my phone number and/or address in case people wanted to follow up with me, but I wasn't sure how my husband would appreciate calls coming into our home, especially since the names pulled for me to visit included a lot of "no data" individuals and "independents." When I used to consider myself an independent, I believed fiercely that it was nobody's business how I voted, and while I consistently voted one way, I did NOT want to talk about politics, ever. Turns out that studies suggest that's typically how independents feel, with two-thirds of them not being independent at all. Last summer, the people most likely to aggressively chase me off their front steps where people identified as independents, so I tend to approach independent voters with caution.

For the most part, I didn't have too many aggressive or combative people on my walks. I had one middle-aged woman who ordered me to "get the fuck outta here," and one retirement-cusp blowhard who might have gotten ugly if I'd engaged with him. He wanted to know why I would recall the Governor of the Year, among other misguided talking points. I certainly had plenty of answers to his Walker praises, beginning with a critique of that so-called award, but I told my blowhard that I wasn't there to try to change his mind, I was only there to collect signatures from people who wanted to recall the governor. "I wish you ROTTEN luck!" he hollered back. "Thanks! Happy new year!" I called over my shoulder. Since I collected twice as many signatures that day as the day before, I don't think that his wish had the desired effect.

An older gentlemen in a larger lakeside home who identified himself as a Walker supporter told me rather solemnly that he was sorry that I was involved in all this. I was sort of taken aback by this response. I'd never met the man, so I had to ask myself why he would respond in the same tone as if I'd told him my mother was dying of cancer. Perhaps he thought of me as a sweet, young girl, naïve and misled. I told him not to be sorry, that I wasn't sorry to be involved in the recall at all. I didn't want my tone to sound flippant, but I also didn't want him to think that I was not the mistress of my own fate; I don't just blindly follow where I'm led. In the end, I'm not sure how my response appeared to him, but I thanked him and wished him a happy new year.

Unsurprisingly, I found that people in my neighborhood with more impressive homes nearer to the lake were less likely to sign and more likely to identify themselves as Walker supporters. The people in rental properties were more likely to want to sign. There were people in both groups, though, that went the other way. I visited around 230 doors in about eight hours over two days and only had 17 signatures to show for it, and two of those actually came from people who weren't on my walk list but were in an apartment parking lot I passed. One of the women hollered out and asked me what I was doing as I circled a nearby building with individually numbered housing units all connected together. She ran over as soon as she heard, and her friend offered to sign if I'd bring the petition over to her vehicle. "It's cold out here!" Only half of the people are home, and for nearly ever house that told me 'no', there was a person who told me that s/he had already signed or who wanted to sign on the spot.

It is surprising, though, that sometimes people still get confused about what it means to recall a politician. By now, it seems everyone in the state should know what is going on and what it means. One gentleman sent me on my way, and while I was visiting the adjoining duplex apartment, his wife poked her head out the window to ask me to come back when I was done. Before I returned to their apartment--they both signed--I spoke with their neighbor, a woman who had no clue what was going on politically. I told her a little of why we were collecting signatures, and I gave her my phone number in case she decided she wanted to sign. I may follow up with her again, but I didn't feel comfortable taking a signature from someone who had so little understanding of what was going on in the state at that exact moment.

Overall, I was happy to find that most of the people in my neighborhood, even if they didn't agree with me, could be polite about it. While they may be less productive, there are a few advantages to doors that you don't get from public signing locations. People are where they live, and while that gives some a greater sense of entitlement to do as they feel, when you ask for them by name they are less inclined to be rude to you. Also, you are suddenly a real person looking them in the eye. I'm reminded of the women in Eau Claire who rolled down their windows to yell something at me, made eye contact, and changed their minds. Some of these same people might holler out their windows at you or flip you off if they drove past, but they remember their manners when you become a real person. I had one registered Republican of retirement age even thank me for coming to her door. "I don't agree with you about recalling Walker, but I appreciate you volunteering to offer this service to people." I thanked her and shook her hand--I can see her apartment from my yard, so I'm glad to know that even though we don't agree, that we can respect each other.

After all of the abuse many of us have received out collecting signatures, doors can actually be a pleasant reminder that most Walker supporters are not like Carl Sosnoski, who felt entitled to threaten my Yoda Bob by saying he would be 'killed' pretty soon. (I've heard rumors that other recall petitioners saw the video and thought that he had harassed them as well, though I'm unable to confirm. I've been lucky not to deal with this man. I have also never been followed home by Walker supporters, which has also happened to people in our office.) In light of responses like Sosnoski's, it's refreshing to find out that most of your neighbors, even when they don't agree with you, aren't like this man, and it's probably refreshing for your neighbors to know that circulators are real people, too. Let's face it: both sides tell bogeyman stories about the other. And both sides do have a bogeyman or two in their closets. However, they're not indicative of the majority. Perhaps we will eventually heal this deep divide in Wisconsin politics. When I walk through my neighborhood, I can believe that it's possible.