Volunteers in small, big towns face different campaign challenges

Monday, November 1, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:41 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In the final days before Tuesday’s highly anticipated election, campaign volunteers have been fighting to bring the last few undecided voters to their side.

The challenges vary, however, for volunteers in small towns such as Moberly and those in bigger cities such as Columbia.

At the Boone County Republican Headquarters in Columbia, more than 2,000 volunteers have helped out. The Democratic headquarters reports similar numbers.

By contrast, about 200 volunteers have been pitching in at the Democratic headquarters in Moberly, 35 miles north of Columbia.

Shari Barnes is one of them.

“Financially, there are more problems,” Barnes said of campaigning in a smaller town. “That’s a greater challenge because it’s hard to generate as much money as you need for a countywide election in a smaller community than you would in a greater populace.”

Barnes works closely with Treva Mongler, a lifelong Democrat. They say working with other counties is crucial to their strategy.

“We work closely with Boone County, and we obtain signs, literature. We contact the person running for their office or their managers, whomever, to obtain as much material as possible to get the word out,” Mongler said.

Ernie Lee, who’s working at the Boone County Republican Headquarters this election season, has experience with small-town and big-city campaigns. Although Columbia has more volunteers, it carries the challenge of reaching a lot more people, he said.

“In a bigger city — especially like Columbia, where you have a lot of people move in and out — we’ve got a tremendous student population here, so it makes it a big challenge to reach out and identify those voters and ensure that they vote,” Lee said.

Barnes said small-town campaigning is the foundation of the Democratic Party.

“There’s a better grass-roots organization in a small community, I think,” she said.

Although door-to-door campaigning is done in Boone County, Lee said the parties in Columbia rely more on other methods, such as phone banks.

Strategies and challenges differ, but volunteers’ goals are the same. “That is to get your candidate or to elect your slate of offices,” Mongler said.

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