By Ted Lam
I drove to Discovery Bay early Saturday morning and got to my fellow canvasser Rae’s house by 6:30 AM. She offered me a cup of good coffee and then we got in her car and drove the two and a half hours to Mendota. When we got to Mendota’s Rojas Pierce Park, we met Karl and Sophie of Kitchen Table Resistance San Leandro, who coordinated with Swing Left for the two days of canvassing. By 10:30 AM, 30 volunteers had shown up from El Cerrito, Oakland, San Leandro, and San Jose. We downloaded and were trained on the PDI Mobile Canvassing app. TJ Cox, the CA-21 Democratic candidate, joined us to talk about his progressive platform and his business ties in Mendota, including helping to establish a health clinic. TJ canvassed with us on Saturday.
By 11 AM all volunteers headed for our “turfs,” or canvassing routes, most which were just a mile or two away, and started walking. I was very lucky to be paired up with Rae. She spoke fluent Spanish, and having a woman with a man alleviated many residents’ concerns about opening their doors. We took turns talking to residents and updating their voter information. By 1 PM, we had knocked on almost 20 doors. We talked to people in at least six homes, updated their information in the PDI app, talked to them about TJ, and collected some voter commitment postcards for November. Every person we met, whether at their homes or on the streets, was very friendly. We found that most residents felt more comfortable with us because Rae could speak Spanish.
By 1 PM it was time for lunch. We met other IEB’ers at Cecilia’s Restaurant, a local Mexican restaurant with amazing food. After recharging we all went back to canvassing. When we finished we decided our planned hike wasn’t a great idea due to the overcast skies. I invited all the folks staying overnight for Sunday’s canvassing to my motel room later to share two beer growlers I had gotten from an amazing brewery in Richmond. Before dinner we all enjoyed beer and wine tasting, and it was great to have the opportunity to learn more about each other. Sunday breakfast was at the Blue Flame Diner (I highly recommend the corned beef hash). We started canvassing at 11 AM, and again Rae and I were lucky: we met with large families in several houses. Most of the time Rae was able to explain why we were there to the heads of the households, and everyone was very nice to us.
One incident sticks with me. Rae and I saw an older couple on their porch shelling almonds. We asked if they were Mr. and Mrs. “So and So.” They said no, those people had moved. We thanked them, updated PDI, and were about to walk away when we noticed that they had a beautiful brick altar to the Virgin Mary in front of their house and complimented them on the tile work. Before long, family members came out to the porch and everyone was talking about how the mom made the best tortillas. Soon Rae and I were invited to December 12th’s Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe celebration in front of their house where we would taste the best tamales ever!
Rae and I quickly put it on our calendars. Before we left, we had registered the 22 year-old daughter to vote, got her voter commitment card, and left behind another voter registration card for her sister.
On the way back to the Bay Area, we squeezed in a lunch of very good Salvadoran pupusas. I was inspired and humbled by what I saw in Mendota. The overwhelming majority of people we met and talked to were friendly, obviously worked very hard, and exhibited a strong sense of community. I would love to go back and meet more folks from Mendota.
And find more good restaurants.
You too can enjoy similar experiences canvassing in CA-21 with Swing Left. I encourage you to sign up!
Ted Lam is retired from the USCG and currently works as a civil engineer.
Photos by Ted Lam
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