The battle for Virginia in this year’s presidential election is being fought on the airwaves, and also by hundreds of residents who are volunteering their time to support their candidate of choice.
Campaigns of all sizes rely heavily on volunteers for their get-out-the-vote efforts and to staff and support local campaign offices. Volunteers knock on doors, work the phones, rally their neighbors, and post messages to social media websites.
“The volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, depending on their talents and where they’re comfortable,” said Cesar del Aguila, chair of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.
Ann Tyson of Fairfax has volunteered to support the Democratic Party in every presidential election since Harry S. Truman’s victory against Republican Thomas Dewey in 1948. Her father was a strong Democrat in Chicago, and her family talked politics around the dinner table, so she began volunteering in college.
“I enjoy the people. I have always felt extremely devoted to the candidates,” she said. “Being in successful campaigns is quite a joy.”
After breaking her ankle earlier this year, Tyson moved her efforts to support President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign into her living room. She has been hosting weekly phone banks at her Mantua home. Tyson also hosts interns who come to work on Virginia campaigns.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Mark Ames, also a Mantua resident, who is volunteering for his first campaign — supporting presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Ames, who will start his freshman year at the College of William & Mary this fall, said he couldn’t find a summer job. He has volunteered on Election Day for the past few cycles.
“I care a lot about politics ... so I figured this was a good use of my time,” he said.
This past Saturday, Ames knocked on more than 600 doors in hopes of winning a local campaign effort to get a chance to meet Romney during an upcoming stop in Manassas. In addition to hitting the streets, he also volunteers for phone banks a few hours per week.
But he prefers knocking on doors.
”It’s more rewarding; you’re more likely to get a positive response,” he said, adding people are more willing to hang up on you than to slam a door in your face.
“Phone banking is, by nature, a frustrating experience,” Tyson said, adding it has gotten harder to reach people with the advent of Caller ID.
Ames said he has been sworn at when inadvertently calling Democrats.
Jane Pyrak of Annandale, a mother of college students, said she enjoys the social atmosphere of doing phone surveys and other phone banking efforts. After getting her start in political volunteering with Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s (R) campaign in 2009, Pyrak now is volunteering for the Romney campaign several times per week.
But, like other volunteers, the driving force for her is political. She wants to see her candidate succeed.
“I feel like I can make a difference,” Pyrak said.