Pandemic has impacted campaigning efforts for both county Republicans, Democrats
By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY — As the pandemic has “changed the scope” of the upcoming general election, local party leaders have reverted to traditional phone banking and limited interaction for campaigning efforts.
For the Rowan County Republican Party, having a physical location for the headquarters has played a major role in the party’s campaigning efforts. The new space, located at 612 W. Innes St., has allowed the party to double its phone banking efforts compared to the 2016 election. The grand opening for the new space was June 13 .
Don Vick, chairman of the Rowan County Republican Party, said the new location has seen lots of visitors, most of whom wear masks. Additionally, it has allowed Republican candidates, like Rep. Harry Warren and Sen. Carl Ford, to make visits and be around the area more often.
“Our visibility has become greater,” Vick said.
Both the county’s Republican and Democratic parties planned to host in-person events and mobilize voters at annual events like the Fourth of July celebration in Faith and the Farmers Day celebration in China Grove. But while Democrats have avoided in-person and door-to-door campaigning except for the annual National Night Out, Republicans have continued door-to-door visits. Vick said Republican volunteers have done so while wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
Rowan County Democratic Party Chairman Geoffrey Hoy said National Night Out is an effort for local law enforcement to introduce themselves to various neighborhoods to encourage trust between officers and locals. While law enforcement didn’t participate this year because of the pandemic, Hoy said he and other volunteers delivered ice cream sandwiches and absentee ballot requests to locals, many of whom told him they had already requested absentee ballot forms.
That event was the party “trying to be creative.” The party has primarily focused on encouraging absentee ballots and mobilizing voters via phone calls and social media, and it has continued its monthly virtual breakfasts. No meetings or gatherings have occurred at the Democratic Party’s headquarters, located at 1504 W. Innes St.
“It’s a whole different world,” Hoy said.
Historically, he said, campaigning efforts have “ramped up” after Labor Day, but the party is doing more earlier this year since the pandemic has restricted mobilization efforts.
Vick said county Republicans did some radio advertising to promote the new office location, and published an ad in the Post about a boutique where locals could obtain signs and flags. But beyond those efforts, not much more money has been invested into advertising compared to the typical rate of other elections. The party has also promoted Republican candidates in state and local races on social media.
Republicans also participated in a voter registration drive on July 18 during the “Trump Boat Parade” at High Rock Lake. Vick said a candidate picnic with both state and local candidates is currently scheduled for Sept. 26 but may be canceled or postponed if COVID-19 cases continue to surge.
As the pandemic has “changed the scope of the election,” Vick said he’s concerned with voter turnout this year, but he’s hopeful for a lot of early voting. The party has encouraged locals to participate in early voting primarily because “there’s a certain amount of distrust in anything not done in-person.” He added that he’s personally not worried visiting a local precinct to vote in the general election as all workers will be wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
However, the party has encouraged absentee ballots for anyone uncomfortable with the idea of voting in-person, particularly older voters.
Hoy, however, anticipates a higher voter turnout due to the ease of absentee voting and the overall enthusiasm and concern he’s heard regarding voting this year. Additionally, the party has strongly encouraged the county Board of Elections to include as many early voting days as possible, including Sundays. The county Board of Elections was unable to establish an early voting plan at its meeting on July 28, so it awaits a state decision.
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.
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