Canvassing Stories

“Hi, I’m here on behalf of Courtenay Rogers.  She is running for state representative in your district.  She plans to focus on education and traffic in the area, along with other local issues such as improving infrastructure as the area continues to increase in popularity and grow…”

These words have become ingrained in my mind over the past month of knocking on hundreds of doors for the candidate for District 63.  It’s difficult to describe what the experience has already been like up to this point.  I’ve had people yell at me, threaten to call the cops, and tell me I’m ruining this country.  I’ve been pulled to the side by a man who recognized the “Courtenay Rogers” sticker on my chest and stopped mowing his lawn just to run over and tell me he wanted more information on Courtenay because he was so unhappy with the incumbent and impressed by her that he planned to support and vote for her.  I’ve knocked on countless doors that didn’t open, helped chase down two dogs that ran out when the door did open, and searched for a half-hour for a house that didn’t exist. It’s these little stories of my experiences with the vastly diverse group of District 63 residents that have stuck with me and made me fall even further in love with the county I hope to move back to when I finish school.

Without a doubt, the best part of the experience has been the countless conversations I’ve had, and hearing how much the people of this District care about their community. I’ve had conversations with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; I’ve talked to elderly couples, single parents, and young couples who just moved in.  Seeing the transformation in demeanor within a few seconds from the moment they answer the door (surely thinking I’m trying to sell something) to the end of my introduction (when they realize I’m there because I care about making their lives better) gives me the energy to continue knocking on each house when the heat index is pushing 100 and the clock is ticking close to the third hour of canvassing.  In an election year that has contained so much fracture and frustration for people on the national stage, it’s amazing to repeatedly witness the look of relief when I converse with constituents about Courtenay Rogers and they realize that, for the first time in nearly two decades, there’s someone running for office in their district who truly cares about them. A representative who wants to fix the issues that adversely affect them every day and properly represent them.

In a county known for voter apathy, it was a relief when the first several dozen houses I went to didn’t care at all about Courtenay’s party affiliation and told me they were registered to vote and looked forward to supporting her.  In a county known for voting red, I was genuinely unsure of what reaction to expect the first time I told someone that Courtenay is running as a Democrat. When the inevitable question “Democrat or Republican?” was finally asked, I initially assumed the conversation was over when I answered, “Courtenay is running as a Democrat”.  I admit that when I saw the immediate reaction of doubt in the man’s face after answering him, I wasn’t sure exactly how to proceed. But he, like the majority of the people of Williamson County I have had the pleasure of meeting so far, pleasantly surprised me.  Instead of shutting the door once hearing her party affiliation, the conversation continued with a question that, regardless of ideology, has proven time and time again to nearly always end with the same result:

“Well is she running against anyone?”

“Incumbent Glen Casada.”

“Then tell her she has my support.”

Regardless of ideology, this district has continually shown me that they’re ready for change.  Whether they respond this way due to recognizing the incumbent’s name or because they’re simply ready for someone different, they all recognize that this election is not about their party or a false sense of loyalty.  For this district, it’s an election about one thing: whether next year’s State Representative for District 63 is going to improve the lives of its constituents, or continue wasting voters’ time and money on other issues.

My favorite example of this scenario occurred two weeks ago. I had just knocked on my final house after an hour of canvassing in 95 degree heat, and was about to give up on the door being answered when the door slowly opened and I was greeted by the kind smile of an elderly lady who invited me inside so she could avoid standing in the heat.  Though I generally politely decline an invitation to enter someone’s home, she was incredibly enthusiastic when she saw I was there for a candidate.  As she closed the door behind me she pointed me towards a table near the entrance full of pictures.  It took a moment, but I recognized a younger version of the woman in each of the framed photographs: one standing next to Ronald Reagan, shaking his hand, another with George H.W. Bush by her side, and half a dozen others with older politicians I did not recognize.  She went on to tell me that she was excited to see me knocking door to door and that she was a lifelong Republican who had been involved in politics in her younger years.  As the conversation continued, I found myself simultaneously incredibly thankful that I was meeting this incredible woman, and increasingly disheartened that as she talked it seemed more and more likely she would not consider voting for a Democrat in the local election.

It was at this point she told me that before I told her the candidate I was knocking on doors for she wanted to know a bit about me.  As I told her about myself, her husband walked up and shook my hand.  It was at this point they asked me to pitch my candidate to them: “I’m here on behalf of Courtenay Rogers, who’s running for state representative in your district.  She wants to focus on education and traffic in the area, along with other local issues…” as I handed them the pamphlet, I saw them both look over it and thoughtfully soak in every word I said.  When I finished, the man asked, “Is she a Democrat or Republican?”  Believing this was likely the end of our conversation, I informed him she was running as a Democrat.  He looked at me intently and asked “and what exactly does she want to do with education?”   

To answer his question, I outlined the problems in the district and how Courtenay planned on working to fix them and pointed him to the number on the back if he wanted to call and ask her more specific questions.  When I finished talking, the lady looked at me and said she had voted Republican in every presidential election, and that though she didn’t like either Presidential candidate this year there was a good chance she and her husband would be voting Republican again.  Over the years, however, she had learned how important it was to vote for the candidate and not the party, and that she was glad I had knocked on the door because it was a relief to hear that, despite her party, there was a representative that had deeply thought about solutions to the local problems facing  this county.  With that, they both said they would be looking more into Courtenay and that, for the first time, they were likely to vote for and proudly support a Democrat for office.

This story isn’t an anomaly.  It’s a consistent theme in Williamson County and the whole of District 63- voters are tired of being poorly represented and recognize that for the first time in far too long there is a legitimate candidate running in their district.  Courtenay Rogers isn’t just a candidate with a plan to help improve our district- my experiences canvassing have proven that she’s much more than that.  She’s a candidate who can bring this District unity because she’s not trying to run on a faux platform of irrelevant national issues that the state legislature has no ability to affect, and is passionate about helping the people living in this District.  I will continue to canvass for Courtenay because the people I’ve met are an inspiration, and I truly believe it’s time for District 63 to have the leadership they deserve.  I hope you’ll join the cause regardless of political ideology and support Courtenay Rogers for State Representative.

You can vote for Courtenay in the Democratic Primary on August 4th and the November General Election, and volunteer to help out with her campaign by filling out the form on the volunteer tab.

Sean Fishkind is a Senior at the University of Tennessee majoring in Kinesiology with a double minor in Psychology and Political Science.  He is involved in Student Government, is a part of the Student Advisory Board for his major’s department, and is on the Education and Programming Committee for the Office on Violence Against Women at UT to help prevent sexual assault.  He is a former Williamson County student and resident with plans to return to Williamson County after completing his bachelor’s degree and obtaining his Juris Doctor degree.  In summers, he is a counselor for Camp Will, a Williamson County Parks and Recreation camp for special needs individuals aged 6-23. He began volunteering for Courtenay after finding out what district she was running in and looks forward to seeing the success she has in the General Assembly.