Door-Knocking in Massachusetts

When I traveled to Massachusetts at the crack of dawn, January 18 to help get Scott Brown elected I landed in inches of snow, uncertain what I would find. Our campaign had a contact in his Boston “war room” from the Romney campaign and I decided to head there after checking in the hotel and first visiting the headquarters in Needham to get marching orders. 

Headquarters was teaming with volunteers and the phone room was packed with folks making calls. In each room, the air was thick with optimism. Campaign materials were in short supply as the campaign literally exploded over several days prior. The energy was contagious as we made our way from room to room meeting everyone in sight.

Most seemed impressed that a U.S. Senate candidate from Maryland would make the trip, take time away from his campaign, to campaign for their candidate.  Fact was, I was up there because as a physician, as a patient, as a citizen, I felt there was nothing more important that I could do for my country than be in Massachusetts to help Scott Brown become the 41st vote to derail the well-meaning but poorly conceived health care legislation in Congress. Unsurprisingly, they all agreed.

I told them I’d be back to pick up a walking list and headed to the hotel at Copley Plaza, Boston, the “war-room”, to meet with our contact. Beth was great and spent some of her precious time with me explaining what they were doing, planning final day, and final hour strategy.  A staff person, seemingly impressed that I was a U.S. Senate candidate from Maryland, offered to help find something for me to do other than “door-knocking.” I simply told him I wanted to work with volunteers on the ground. Nothing would please me more than going door-to-door, working the polls, sign-waving, calling voters to get out and vote; whatever was needed. With that, I would be happier than a Republican in Utah.
They asked me to stay for the Victory Party, but I was booked with commitments the rest of the week. I had to get back home before Wednesday for a campaign presentation in Annapolis and then off to the hospital to wear my doctor hat.

It was back to Needham where I picked up my walking list for neighborhoods just outside Needham and I was all set to head out to door-knock at 3:30pm when volunteer Rick stopped me and asked in thick New England “Hey, Dr. Wargotz, where you goin’? You need to come with us to the rally in Wrentham later.”

Wrentham is where Scott Brown lives and his last pre-election-day rally was scheduled for early evening at Lake Pearl Luciano’s. Off I went, driving instead of taking the bus knowing I’d probably get lost. 

I was greeted by a parking lot packed with media vans, cars and buses. I somehow created a space, and got in line at the door. I met a number of people from Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire all there to rally behind Brown, taking personal interest in helping him win the “peoples seat.” Doors opened and in we went in. Room capacity was about 1300, and after an hour it was standing room capacity, plus. Signs obstructed views of the empty stage while I helped an aide tack up a banner behind the podium. While circulating among the crowd, I met FOX’s “Campaign” Carl Cameron and had a great chat about Maryland politics including my race against Senator Mikulski, before a quick picture.

Crowd went absolutely berserk with excitement as aides wisped Scott Brown right by me, stage-left. Chants “Go Scott Go!” got louder and louder till it was like thunder. Campaign signs and homemade banners made for a colorful roomscape moving up and down like bouncing balloons. A guy from a local flag store was handing out “second revolution flags” (revolutionary era flag with roman number II within the circle of stars). I met a local Selector who was friends with Brown for years and he mentioned that almost two weeks prior he had a fundraiser for him which netted under a thousand dollars. Hard to believe that the Friday before the election it was rumored the Brown campaign raised about $2.5 million.

After stumbling a bit on his welcoming remarks, we all laughed it off and he got right on track talking about being in his hometown, his family, the campaign and supporters, thanking everyone, even chiding President Obama for the remark about his green truck and that’s when the crowd really went wild.  He ended his remarks pledging to meet and greet each and every one of us in the crowd.

He did just that.

You would have thought we were in the presence of a movie or rock star. Folks were clamoring, pushing and shoving to get close to the candidate to shake his hand, grab a photo with him, and have him autograph their sign, shirt, hat, hand, or head! The crowd gradually cleared and I had my turn. Nice guy, cordial, brief is how I’d sum it up. Clearly, a long five months for Scott Brown and now the night before Election Day, one final push.

Tuesday morning up at 7am out by 8 and off I went door-knocking through the sleet, snow, and rain on Election Day. I guess a postman of sorts delivering a message of spirited rebellion to vote against “the machine in Washington” as Brown would say. Of course, knowing all too well that Massachusetts has a rich history of protest.

Several hundred houses later, it was dark and no time to change my cold, soaked socks or down more pizza. I walked into Needham headquarters, proudly handed in my walking list to Norm and said my goodbyes.  Lasting friendships, probably not, a few supporters for my run, possibly.

So what did I get out of it? I saw a candidate rocket to the top of popularity over several days. I learned that a candidate and campaign must be nimble enough to make that magic morph from negligible resources to being overwhelmed by them. I heard the voices of people who finally realized that party affiliation really doesn’t have to matter and that big government can be stopped. I walked the streets and neighborhoods of Boston suburbia in the snow, sleet and rain and I didn’t really like it but I did it because I felt it mattered.

At the end of that day I was cold, tired, and hungry with soaking feet, but I was quietly smiling with satisfaction. My work there was done. I headed home knowing (and Facebooking) that Scott Brown was the next U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Few friends back home believed me, but I knew because I saw and I heard the cry in Massachusetts. “We the People” won that day.