Election inspires influx of campaign rookies

Increase in volunteerism by campaign rookies
Friday, October 29, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:33 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Jenny Chicone awoke one morning to discover only remains of her “Bush must go” political yard sign.

“All that was left was a stick — a charred stick — coming up out of the ground, and it was pretty sad looking, and it got me motivated to become an activist,” Chicone said.

So, for the first time in her 50 years, she set out to volunteer for a political campaign, becoming one of the thousands of grass-roots volunteers working in Boone County this election season.

Although there is no official count, representatives of both the Republican and Democratic headquarters report an increase in volunteerism, and both say about half of their volunteers are campaign rookies.

Susan DiPietre, head of the Republican headquarters, said volunteers for her party are most concerned most about the “safety of the country” and are eager to get President Bush re-elected. She said they’ll do just about anything to help Republican candidates gain votes, whether it’s greeting people at the headquarters, stocking yard signs and bumper stickers or going door to door to talk with voters.

Even when volunteers are not officially campaigning, the work they do at home or on their own time is equally important, DiPietre said.

“When they’re not here volunteering, because it’s something that’s so important to them, they are spreading the news and talking to their friends and family and neighbors and getting the word out about who the great candidates are,” she said.

Chicone said the close presidential election in 2000, coupled with Bush’s stance on issues such as stem-cell research and the environment, have Democrats fired up to work for change. Along with the demise of her yard sign, it’s those kinds of issues that drive her to participate in phone banks and to canvass Columbia neighborhoods to encourage votes for Sen. John Kerry.

“So many things are now black and white,” she said. “People feel very strongly, so even if their efforts don’t amount to anything, they at least feel good about themselves by trying to become active and trying to make a difference.”

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