They’re Hanging with Howard
Five Monterey activists are on the road with Dean.
Thursday, January 29, 2004
I meet up with David Stanley and Kelley Stanley (no relation) at a coffee shop downtown the day after Dean finished third in the Iowa caucuses. After months of phone banking, handing out Dean For America flyers at the weekly Monterey Farmers’ Market, and countless nights spent hand-writing letters to undecided voters in Iowa, David and Kelley are disappointed. But they’re not giving up.
“Finish first or second in Iowa—it means nothing,” David says. “It wouldn’t faze me if Howard Dean had finished last and gotten zero votes. I still would fight for him.”
“This is the day after the big game, but it’s only one big game,” Kelley adds. “The day after New Hampshire—talk to us then.”
We meet on a Tuesday. Kelley and David chose the coffee shop because it used to be the site of the monthly Dean “meet-ups,” until the Monterey County Dean contingent outgrew the place. In a couple days, David and Kelley will fly to New Hampshire where they will join three other Peninsula area Dean volunteers to campaign for the first primary election. They’ll stay in local Dean supporters’ homes and sleep on their couches. They wake up at 5am and hit the road, sometimes till 1 or 2 the following morning, calling undecided voters, mailing brochures, waving signs and ringing doorbells, all the while preaching the Gospel of Dean.
David’s and Kelley’s stories are similar to the millions of other fired-up donors and volunteers who have become a close-knit, well-organized online community, primarily through the Web site Deanforamerica.com. They were angry when Bush took the White House. They became even angrier when other Democrats followed the President into Iraq, and didn’t speak up about the Patriot Act or the economy. And then they found Dean.
Kelley’s a 36-year-old visual artist. “Quite honestly, this [campaigning] is what I do now. It’s the most important thing to me.”
David, a 34-year-old pharmacist in Marina, says he downloaded Dean’s speech after the Democratic State Convention last year. He watched and listened and found the insurgent leader he had been looking for.
“I said, ‘I’m following this guy off a cliff.’ And I will.”
New Hampshire, Jan. 24.
It’s 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside. David Stanley’s taking a break to thaw out after working “visibility” this afternoon. He and some 2,000 Howard Dean supporters have two more days to convince New Hampshire voters that this doctor and former governor from Vermont is the man to beat Pres. George W. Bush.
“Visibility meaning you stand with three other people holding a giant ‘Honk For Howard’ sign, waving at cars as they whiz by,” says Stanley, one of a handful of Monterey volunteers in New Hampshire, in an e-mail to the Weekly. “I am happy to report that thumbs up far outnumbered middle fingers, and that we outlasted and were therefore more visible than any other candidates. It was actually really fun until I started to lose sensation in my toes.”
Last night, Dean and his wife Judy sat for an interview with Diane Sawyer, and now Dean is inching closer to front-runner John Kerry in the polls.
The “energy and excitement” at headquarters in New Hampshire “is hard to put into words,” Stanley says.
The icy temperatures, however, speak for themselves. It’s reached as low as minus-13 degrees since Stanley arrived in the Granite State.
And Deanie Beanies and scarves can only do so much.
New Hampshire, Jan. 26.
Oliva Lopez, a 24-year-old computer programmer from Monterey, has been in New Hampshire since Jan. 23. Last week, she spent three days in Iowa campaigning for Dean, volunteering, among other jobs, as a Spanish-speaking translator.
“Only three percent of Iowans are of Hispanic decent, but that’s enough to make a difference,” she says. “That’s what I like about Howard. He made sure if people wanted to participate, he was going to make it as easy as he could. Hispanics usually don’t come out and vote. He had commercials in Spanish, literature in Spanish, translators at the caucuses.”
Lopez helped out with the latter. A Spanish-speaking family of three arrived at the caucus, held in a Des Moines school auditorium. But they had to work late, and they arrived at the school after 7pm—too late to vote.
Today, a week later, she’s in Keene, NH, a day before the primary.
“It’s calm,” she says. “It’s pretty mellow. But yesterday was crazy.”
Lopez said Dean volunteers hurried to deliver last-minute door hangers, and videos of the Diane Sawyer interview. She spent the rest of the day standing in the Keene town square, holding Howard Dean signs. “But you can’t stand out here for more than an hour,” she says. “It’s too cold. I’m here in thermal underwear and my snowboarding gear.
“We’re feeling pretty confident right now. We’ve done everything we can. Now we’re just trying to wait for tomorrow.”
New Hampshire, Jan. 27.
Aaron King, a 45-year-old marine scientist from Marina, brought his 15-year-old daughter, Natasha, with him to New Hampshire. The two also campaigned for Dean in Iowa, where Natasha, a freshman at Cypress Grove, stood up on stage with the candidate during his now-infamous speech after placing third in the Iowa caucuses.
“The whole thing about his roar-speech, he’s very enthusiastic and he’s a captivating speaker,” Aaron King says. “What Dr. Dean was saying was, ‘I have a room full of people who have traveled all over the country to help me out, and I’ve got to keep these people enthused.’ C’mon, guys, can’t we talk about the issues here?”
Today Aaron and Natasha King are standing outside a campaign office, across the street from a voting station, holding signs that read: “Dean For America,” speaking with this reporter on a cellphone. Natasha says she’s wearing a navy Dean scarf and earrings.
“When we found out that Bush was elected, we were kind of grossed out,” she says. “We really like Dean. He’s pro-choice, and I am, too. And he’s against the war in Iraq.”
While her fellow Dean supporters are rallying voters, Lopez is stuck at in the airport. She’s used up all her vacation time at work, and has to be at her desk tomorrow morning. She’s just learned that her flight has been delayed, and may not leave at all because of the storm.
“I’m so bummed,” she tells me again via cellphone. “I could have stayed a couple hours extra. I was right in the middle of all the action. Now I have a good spot at the bar and I’m watching TV. Howard Dean’s handing out coffee to his volunteers, and handing out signs. They say: ‘Hope Not Fear, Vote Howard Dean.’”
A few hours later King calls. He and his teammate had been out driving around, looking for addresses of voters who hadn’t made it in to vote. “We finally just said, hey, let’s stop at a bunch of houses and make sure nobody needs a ride. It’s cold, and there’s snow on the ground.”
They stopped at one house and a 70-year-old man with a walker answered the door.
King tells the story: “He said, ‘I like Howard Dean, I was going to vote for him but I couldn’t get into the polls.’ We said, ‘Sir, we have a heated car. We are ready to take you to the polls and back.’ He said, ‘Well, let me put my shirt on.’”
We talk again at 9:15 New Hampshire time. The major news organizations are projecting that Kerry will win, with Dean coming in second. King calls from the road on his way to Manchester, headed to what he had hoped would be a Dean victory party. It will still be a party, King says. He’s waiting to hear what the candidate will say, and he’s looking forward to Super Tuesday, March 2, when California, New York, Ohio and Washington will vote.
“There’s a lot of things that can happen,” he says. “This could all be an anomaly that we’re seeing here. Kerry could slip up. Suddenly Dean’s the person on top.”