by Sonia Feldman
After the Women’s March in January, many of us huddlers got involved in responding to the numerous outrages of the Trump Agenda. Action Annapolis connected several Huddles in the Annapolis area. There was no shortage of causes to get behind, from Health Care to the Environment to Racial Justice and on and on. In addition to keeping our eyes on those issues, we decided to focus on upcoming elections; first the Annapolis city elections taking place in November 2017, followed by the 2018 county and state elections. Action Annapolis is non-partisan because the issues speak for themselves. Independents share many of our concerns, and at the same time, some Democratic Representatives are not necessarily “representing” us well. By remaining non-partisan, candidates from both parties won’t see us as being adversarial to them.
We began to outline ways to get to know the candidates beyond the official talking points, in a way that would give us real insight into where they stand on the issues that concern us as Progressive voters. During our visits to County Council meetings it became clear that focusing merely on our own districts was not enough. There are instances in which representatives from neighboring districts are upsetting the balance of power in political bodies such as County Council and the Legislature. Some individuals must be replaced for the policies that they are promoting. It is time to GO LOCAL and focus on grassroots efforts to repopulate our representatives from the ground up with people who reflect our values as Progressives. Action Annapolis encourages a better understanding of the issues that concern our neighboring wards. We hope to engage and give voice to our most underrepresented communities. Our goal is to build awareness about the challenges facing our disenfranchised communities, while also becoming a block of influence as a group of active voters.
Once our focus on elections and candidates became clear, we started to build a template for the city of Annapolis, which we can also apply to the County level. Annapolis is divided into 8 Councilmanic Wards, each electing a member to the City Council. Anne Arundel County is divided into 7 Districts, each electing a member to the County Council.
We created a team for each of the 8 Annapolis Wards. Each team conducted interviews with each of the candidates in that ward. These interviews raised questions not only about the candidates’ strengths and experience, but about the unique issues in each ward. Our team members drove around the wards with the candidates, asking them what the hot spots are and who the leaders and influencers are in that ward. The candidate interviews helped us identify:
- the primary issues of concern in that district
- how the candidate intends to address the issues
- the demographic breakdown of that district
- the community leaders in that district
These interviews are posted on our website, actionannapolis.com.
Next, we hosted an event where we invited all of the candidates for city council to a social hour and urged all of our members to speak to each one of them. It was a great way to get to know other constituents and gain understanding of the broader issues facing our city!
Action Annapolis developed a comprehensive questionnaire for candidates covering major issues of concern throughout the city, from housing to crime to environmental issues. The questionnaire allows us to see where each candidate stands on important issues, and requires candidates to take a position on these matters, with a record to hold them accountable for the promises they make. We are currently waiting for all of the responses and will be posting those as well. This information will help inform voters about the issues and where their candidates stand.
Additionally, we have attended candidate events and reported on them – highlighting who attended, issues discussed and questions asked. Those reports are also posted on our website.
Our final effort prior to the September 19 primary will be to host Ward candidate forums that will take place in a central location in each ward to help encourage attendance. Forum moderators have a relationship with the community and are well versed in the issues that are most critical in those wards. We intend to have a voter registration table, downloads of candidate interviews and questionnaire responses for those who do not have access to computers, information about polling locations, and coordination of driving voters to the polls.
Following the primaries, we hope to host a mayoral event focused specifically on outreach to the African American and Hispanic communities in partnership with advocacy groups from those communities.
We hope our efforts will foster a richer understanding of the candidates, what they are promising, and their degree of commitment to these issues. In addition, the candidates will know Action Annapolis is a group of informed voters who will have some lobbying influence going forward. Lastly, we hope to see additional voters at the polls, increased understanding between neighboring communities, and greater responsiveness on the part of our elected officials to the priorities of Progressive voters.