“I hardly leave my house nowadays, which is pretty strange for a political campaign,” Chris Cayer, campaign manager for independent U.S. Senate candidate Lisa Savage, said in a phone interview.

Campaigning has gone remote, forcing candidates to creatively reach voters when in-person contact is so limited during the coronavirus pandemic.

That has led the Savage team to new platforms such as a webinar series in which Savage along with panelists address topics ranging from ranked-choice voting to Medicare and the homelessness epidemic. Cayer said the series has received more than 10,000 views.

Jan Collins, the Democratic candidate running for Maine’s Senate District 17 seat, has also hosted Zoom events and plans to participate in virtual town halls in October. She is unsure if digital outreach has grabbed the attention of desired voters so far.

“We’ve done a couple of house parties by Zoom, and I think there are mixed results because many of the people that attend are people that are already in our camp,” Collins said in a phone interview. “They’re already going to vote for us, so not sure if that’s effective unless you reach out to people who are really undecided.”

Shawn Roderick who is the campaign coordinator for Maine Senate Republican campaigns said losing the opportunity to directly speak to constituents during annual events has been a huge loss for candidates.

“The biggest challenge has been not being able to go to those type of events like the Wilton Blueberry Festival, the 4th of July Parade, the Mollyockett Day in Bethel. You can reach large amounts of people in a hurry and have people come up to you,” Roderick said in a phone interview.

Spotty broadband throughout Maine has also presented major challenges as candidates launch their platforms online. Kelly Merrill, the field coordinator for Savage, said this has directly impacted their campaign. Even Savage has had to temporarily relocate from her Solon residence to secure a reliable internet connection.

“So everybody has really had to expend a lot to keep the campaign going,” Merrill said in a phone interview.

To reach people who may not have internet access, candidates are also relying on mailing literature describing their political stances. Former Republican state Sen. Tom Saviello, who serves on the Wilton Select Board, stressed the importance of approaching mailings creatively.

“When I ran, I used to tell people that you’re given eight seconds for someone to read my mailer because that’s what they have,” Saviello said in a phone interview. “When you take it out of the mailbox and you hold it in your hand, count to eight, that’s how much attention you have to that mailer or to that thing that you stick in somebody’s door unless you have some way to catch somebody’s eye.”

Democrat Tiffany Maiuri, who is running for Franklin County commissioner, said she is taking a different approach to mailings in hopes that her literature doesn’t end up in the trash. While one side introduces her as a candidate, the backside lists county-related resources such as town office numbers and the elder protection line.

“It’s something useful that people can hold on to,” Maiuri, who also serves on the Wilton Select Board, said in a phone interview.

Alongside mailings, Maiuri has also encouraged her supporters to write to 20 of their closest friends explaining why they should consider her as commissioner. This strategy has reached over 200 voters so far.

Texting has also become a popular avenue to reach voters, but Roderick emphasized that people often assume these are automated messages.

“Sometimes, I think when people send back some of the messages they send back, they think it’s like a robot or something which it’s not,” Roderick said.

People can actually respond to these text messages for additional information and resources, Roderick emphasized, because campaign workers monitor responses.

Savage’s campaign has utilized farmers markets as an opportunity to directly speak to voters, with volunteers wearing face masks and approaching people while maintaining the state Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s social distancing guidelines.

“It’s especially difficult for a grassroots campaign, right?” Merrill asked. “We don’t have an army of volunteers with millions of dollars, so we don’t have mass media. It’s a struggle even getting journalists to cover this race. So we’ve had to get really creative.”

The Savage campaign has also printed poster-size campaign literature to display at farmers markets so people can take a picture of the candidate’s information.

“It’s a contactless way to get our literature onto their devices,” Cayer said.

Printing and mailing literature is also a costly way of reaching constituents, which highlights the obstacle of fundraising during a pandemic.

“It’s hard to ask for that (funding) because we know that the communities are in a difficult position right now financially and facing a lot of risk and having been out of work, and so different candidates have different funds to work with,” Gwendolyn Doak, chairwoman of Wilton Democrats, said in a phone interview.

Signs are a classic campaign strategy and Roderick thinks supporters have been proactive this year in ordering their lawn signs in response to absentee voting. With voters mailing in their ballots ahead of time, he thinks people are advertising their favorite candidates early, compared to previous years.

Saviello foreshadowed the possibility of absentee voting affecting county votes among student voters at the University of Maine at Farmington . He said tabling at the campus has long been a popular route with Republicans, but there may be fewer UMF students participating in Franklin County elections this year.

“Many of these students now will file absentee to vote at home rather than vote up here,” Saviello said. “So they could have a dramatic change on the election up here because that bulk of voters won’t show up at the polling booth.”

Without in-person contact, campaign teams are struggling to gauge their constituents’ opinions or even decipher if they have reached voters through their varied efforts.

“Campaigning during COVID is like being in a black hole,” Collins said. “You reach out, but because you can’t have that face-to-face conversation and see people’s responses to what you’re sending them, it’s hard to know exactly whether or not you’re reaching people.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.