Frozen pens, rain-frazzled hair and thermal-insulated snowsuits aren’t typically the things of political campaigns, but cold weather campaigning has been the only option for the candidates of the 2nd Suffolk District over the last few weeks due to a unique race that has transpired over one of the worst winter stretches in years.
Snow came down and the temperatures dipped into the teens for several days earlier this month, but nonetheless candidates Roy Avellaneda, Dan Ryan and Chris Remmes – all Democrats vying for election in next week’s March 4 Primary – have not taken a day off or curled up on the coach to make phone calls.
There simply is not enough time.
The three candidates have been out in the thick of it; and oh the stories they have to tell.
“I was at a Senior Center the other day and bringing in several boxes of pizza for a meet and greet,” said Avellaneda. “I was all scarfed up and had my big rain boots on as I carried the boxes. I took a step and slipped, and literally fell completely on my back. This was in front of a bunch of people who were inside looking out at me. I landed flat on my back. When I got up and went in, one guy told me that any guy who would break his back for a state rep seat had his vote. That’s been the reaction across the district. Everyone is amazed the candidates are coming out. Most say that because I’m willing to come out in this weather, then they are impressed enough to vote for me.”
At the Dan Ryan campaign, they have learned a few tricks through the experience of trudging through the snow and ice to get our their message.
“Normally, you would go out for about three hours at a time, but that’s not possible in sub zero temperatures,” said Adam Webster of the Ryan Campaign. “You go out for 15 minutes and come in and warm up and then go out again. We’ve been doing everything a regular campaign would have done in warmer weather, but the cold has made it trickier. You do learn how to deal with strange, cold weather things like how pens freeze up all the time. They freeze really quick in this weather, so you learn to have a stash of pens in your pocket so you always have a warm one ready. You learn these little things as you go.”
Candidate Chris Remmes said going door-to-door in the snow requires a different tack and attention to the details of how one dresses.
“I’ve knocked on more than 3,600 doors already in the district,” he said. “Generally, with the weather situation, I think it’s mostly attitude. You work on 80 percent attitude, and the other 20 percent is warm clothing. I have figured out how to dress properly for sure. However, you have to keep in mind what you look like when people answer the door. You can’t wear a big knit ski cap or a ski mask even though it’s very cold. So, my Red Sox hat has gotten some major wear.
“Also, earlier in the campaign – in January – you only had a limited time to campaign because it got dark at 4:30 p.m.,” he continued. “You can’t go to a door or hold signs in the dark. So you have to plan carefully ahead, and I tended to do two-hour clips at a time and then take a break. That proved to be about what I could tolerate.”
Meanwhile, there is also a bit of strategy involved in figuring out how to be efficient and how to keep the campaign rolling even when the rest of the world has seemingly stopped in its tracks due to bad weather.
“We’ve focused a lot on a real neighbor to neighbor and friend to friend approach with our campaign,” said Webster of the Ryan Campaign. “Instead of only going out and knocking on the doors of strangers, we’ve developed a network of supporters reaching out to people and luckily that can be done from the warmth of their homes. We have been knocking doors and holding signs too, but networking has proven important.”
Remmes said he has found that indoor activities have proven helpful, and his campaign has moved in that direction this week – including two house parties in Chelsea.
“In the last week or so, we’ve done a lot of host parties, which is a good way to meet people,” he said. “Chelsea is going to be a central piece of this election, so my last two parties are going to be in Chelsea. We’ve naturally also done a lot with social media and phone banking, which helps us take a break from the cold.”
Avellaneda said it has been interesting to learn how to stay efficient and on the move in times where there are snow emergencies or blizzard warnings.
“You can’t predict the weather,” he said. “When it comes to door knocking, we find ways to continue. For example, there was one blustery weekend when we planned to hit a neighborhood of single-family homes, but we couldn’t because of the snow. So, we changed up and concentrated on a few large apartment buildings that we were going to do later. Where we were going up elevators and through hallways, we could campaign in the warmth when it wasn’t compatible outside. That was a day when you weren’t allowed to drive the streets. You can’t stop though because you can’t take a Saturday off. There’s just not enough time in the campaign.”
And that campaign is quickly coming to a close, with voting taking place next Tuesday, March 4. Because there is no Republican on the ballot, the winner of the Primary likely will be the automatic winner of the April 1 General Election.