Pasta dinners fundraisers are out. So is going door-to-door at the moment.
So candidates for state representative and state senator have to get creative with how they are announcing their campaigns and how they are fundraising.
That’s just what April Capone did Wednesday when she announced her campaign in a Facebook Live and then held a Zoom press conference in her kitchen.
With bananas on the counter in the background, Capone said she’s raised $3,500 already which is part of the way toward the $16,000 in small donations under $270 per person that she needs to raise from 300 residents in the 34th Senate District. The district includes part of Durham, East Haven, part of North Haven, and Wallingford.
“As far as fundraising, we’re not going to have traditional fundraisers. There’s not going to be a pasta dinner, like we’ve always done,” Capone said.
Capone’s Democratic opponent, Aili McKeen, who ran for the seat two years ago has also been fundraising. The two will meet at the Democratic nominating convention on May 19.
What isn’t clear is what will happen if one of the two candidates doesn’t receive 15% of the delegates at the convention. Under current state statute, a candidate who didn’t receive 15% could go out and collect signatures to gain ballot access. However, that seems like a risky proposition during a pandemic.
Gov. Ned Lamont would need to issue an executive order to change that or the General Assembly would have to reconvene to amend the statute to allow for candidates who receive less than 15% to qualify for ballot access.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she has flagged the issue regarding challengers to the convention endorsed candidate.
“Petitioning right now is just not a smart idea,” Merrill said. “It’s in contravention of the emergency order.”
She said the choices aren’t great for challengers who don’t qualify at the convention.
The General Assembly, many of whom are running for re-election, are unlikely to want to change the rule to allow for someone from the same party to challenge them.
Liz Kurantowicz, a Republican strategist and principal with The Drury Group, said given the way public financing works “the advantage, especially this year, goes to incumbents.”
She said challengers are usually out at parades and festivals trying to collect signatures so without those public events it’s going to prove difficult for someone to run a petition drive.
There is currently no way for someone to legally collect signatures online that would qualify them for the ballot.
The League of Women Voters of Connecticut called for the elimination of the petition process for candidates looking to get on the primary ballot safely.
“Our democracy benefits when more people run for office. The governor must eliminate the petition process for this year,” the group said Wednesday in a statement.
The League of Women Voters of Connecticut also called for an increase in the time to request and return absentee ballots and protections for polls workers.
Last week Merrill said she wants to mail every voter registered with one of the two major parties an absentee ballot application.
Republican Party Chairman JR Romano is not in favor of Merrill’s suggestion that she could mail absentee ballot applications to every voter registered with a party.
He said candidates are simply going to have to get creative in their push to reach voters. That includes the use of digital platforms and any other possible tool.
Michael Farina, a Democratic strategist with Blue Edge Strategies, said campaigning in a pandemic will mean a greater need for candidates to use digital advertising.
He said they will also have to rely on direct mail too because not all voters are online.
He said at the moment if door knocking happens it’s only going to happen in July or August.
Kurantowicz said door knocking traditionally accounts for a large part of these campaigns.
She said a candidate for state representative would knock 5,000 to 10,000 doors. They now have to find another way to reach people.
McKeen told the Record Journal earlier this week that in 2018 when she ran against Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano she knocked 17,000 to 18,000 doors. She got 41.5% of the vote that year.
“I can’t imagine dropping literature and knocking doors as people are leery to touch anything now,” Dan Newmyer of NC Strategy, LLC, said.
At the moment, Newmyer said he can’t even imagine victory party’s at the end of campaigns.