Jennifer Draper Carson was speechless when she turned up to see some 30 canvassers outside her brother’s Highlands neighborhood home Saturday afternoon, ready to knock on doors and turn out the vote in Denver’s school board elections.
It wasn’t that she was surprised. Rather, it was that the pace of the final days of campaigning had claimed her voice, leaving her unable to manage more than a strained whisper.
“I wish I had a white board,” she croaked.
The races to decide three seats on the DPS board are nearing the final hours, and campaigns are working overtime to make every minute count. Across Denver this weekend, this meant that unpaid volunteers, staffers of advocacy groups such as Stand for Children Colorado and cheerleaders such as Mayor Michael Hancock were out knocking on doors and urging that ballots be completed and returned, marked for the candidate of their choice.
“I’ll hope that when the mayor speaks, people will listen,” said Matt Carberry, get-out-the-vote director for Anne Rowe, who is campaigning for the District 1 southeast Denver seat being vacated by the term-limited Bruce Hoyt.
He and more than a dozen Rowe supporters were joined by the mayor in targeting about 100 homes east of Washington Park on Saturday.
“These are people who have voted in municipal elections in the past, and who we have spoken to and were undecided and have not yet turned in their ballots,” said Carberry.
Rowe, who is opposed in her race by Emily Sirota, was welcoming the pleasantly seasonal weather that accompanied the final weekend of campaigning.
“I only had one chance to stand out in the snow,” she said, alluding to the storm earlier in the week.
She wasn’t alone.
“Emily was out in the rain and snow, so this is a much more welcome weather weekend for us,” Sirota campaign spokesman Kevin Paquette said on Sunday.
“It’s been crazy. We’ve had a ton of people, basically going all over the district,” he said, including teacher volunteers provided through the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, voter outreach specialists hired through Rocky Mountain Voter Outreach, independent teacher supporters and other Sirota boosters.
“Our philosophy has been that it’s people at the door that gets people to vote,” Paquette said. “The more we have contact with those voters, hopefully we can swing it in Emily’s direction.”
Spirits in the Sirota campaign are running high, he said, despite the fact that Rowe has outraised her through the most recent campaign finance reporting period, $196,845 to $87,293.
“I think it’s going to be a close race, and I think the difference is going to be the boots on the ground,” Paquette said. “We want to be careful. We’re not taking anything for granted. We have a plan in place, and we feel like if we carry out that plan, we should be successful.”
“We’re not saying anything about the opponent”
Optimism is also being voiced by the campaign of District 5 northwest Denver incumbent Arturo Jimenez, who is battling to hold off Draper Carson, who has outstripped his fundraising by more than $100,000. Draper Carson volunteered for the Jimenez campaign in 2007, but now hopes to deny him a second term.
Ed Augden, retired after teaching in DPS for 31 years, was walking the streets of his Berkeley neighborhood this weekend, knocking on doors of likely voters whose ballots were still outstanding. Augden said he was one of at least 20 who were out in northwest Denver for Jimenez on Saturday.
“If it’s going to be decided based on who’s got the real grassroots, then it’s going to be decided for Arturo,” said Augden. “I would imagine most people have made up their minds. The question really becomes, for Arturo, getting his people to the polls.”
Augden credits Jimenez for his leadership, accessibility and his support of neighborhood schools. And he believes Jimenez has shown restraint in defending his seat.
“Another candidate could have taken Jennifer Draper Carson apart, with the literature, and he’s just not that kind of candidate,” said Augden, who did not support Jimenez in his first campaign.
“I would be more aggressive than he has been, but that’s just not his style. He is a leader and in fact he has forged alliances on that school board that I did not think he could do.”
In addition to deploying unpaid volunteers such as Augden, the Jimenez campaign has also hired Rocky Mountain Voter Outreach, as well as Lopez Campaign Enterprises. Campaign manager David Sabados wouldn’t detail how many paid canvassers are out in the field, but emphasized that the bulk of the Jimenez effort is coming from volunteers.
“I was just out picking up more bottled water for them,” Sabados said mid-day Sunday. “We’re out today, and we’re going to be out Monday and Tuesday, right up until seven.”
Ballot drop-off sites
They’ll likely be crossing paths more than a few times with Draper Carson supporters, who are augmented by paid and volunteer members of Stand for Children Colorado. Stand members were plentiful among the few dozen canvassers who gathered Saturday outside the home of Douglas Draper – the candidate’s brother – in the 3400 block of Grove Street.
Some admitted they needed grounding in some of the basics, before heading out – such as, what was the name of her opponent, and what – if anything – should be said about him?
“We’re not saying anything about the opponent,” they were told, by Greg Hatcher, an organizing coordinator for Stand for Children Colorado. “If they ask who her opponent is, you can tell them it’s Arturo Jimenez, but we’re just talking about Jennifer.”
Kayla McGannon, newly named interim executive director of Stand for Children Colorado, said volunteers have made more than 15,000 phone or door-to-door contacts with voters this campaign season for Draper Carson, Rowe and citywide at-large candidate Happy Haynes, who is pursuing the seat being vacated by the term-limited Theresa Peña.
If voter contacts made by paid Stand staffers were factored in, McGannon said, “the (voter contact) number would be significantly higher.”
Peter Schottenfels, campaign manager for Haynes, said her campaign also was making a final days push to get out the vote, despite being perceived as a likely easy victor against a field of four others on Tuesday.
“We’ve had a field program going since the summer but the final four days are our big push,” said Schottenfels. “We have a dedicated volunteer base going to voters’ doors, and they’re finding that folks are genuinely excited to vote for Happy.”
End near after months of work for candidates, campaign workers
All the DPS candidates, and their campaign workers, are glad to see the finish line in sight.
Rowe, co-owner of a publishing business and the mother of three daughters, said, “After Tuesday, I’m going to have to get back to work because college tuition is coming up.”
On Election Day itself, said Rowe, “My husband Frank and I are going to go play nine holes of golf in the morning.”
Draper Carson, despite her voice mostly abandoning her at crunch time, does not foresee Tuesday offering much rest or recreation.
“Canvassing, I guess,” she said about her Tuesday plans. “I don’t know. Ask Greta” Twombly, her campaign manager. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing – but what else would I be doing?”
Told that Rowe was going to be on the golf course, Draper Carson showed no uncertainty on that point.
“I hate golf,” she said.