Micah Edmond’s 8th District Congressional campaign has a problem. Without massive campaign donations and party funding, it’s impossible to get air time for commercials and difficult to build a major ad campaign. But if Edmond has experience in anything, it’s solving problems with tight budgets. His solution is as ambitious as it is simple: he and his team would walk the 8th Congressional District.
All of it.
Well, at least half of it. Edmond concedes that his team will get as far as they can, but by their projections they may have surpassed this goal. Starting in Mount Vernon, Edmond and his campaign staff have gone door to door in every neighborhood, getting their political message out to local citizens and encouraging them, regardless of stated political affiliation, to vote.
“Is it all about raising a lot of money? Get big money, and you can run commercials and you can run ads,” said Edmond, “or is it about doing the impossible; looking at a district and walking about half of it? There are about 159 precincts in this district and we said we’re going to walk all of them.”
Edmond and his campaign manager, Anne Ward, reflected that while it sounds like a fairly simple task, it’s a fairly exhausting enterprise.
“It is a painful, painful exercise,” said Edmond. “But if you don’t have the fire to do that, if you’re not willing to do that, then you’re never actually going to carry out the charge of being a representative … If you really want to know how people feel, you walk half the district and you say to yourself ‘Every one in three people; did they like you or did they not like you?’”
The results have not been overwhelmingly positive. Edmond shared experiences where he’d approach neighbors who would disagree with him on every single policy issue, but the people who talks to appreciate hearing from a candidate who doesn’t take them for granted.
“We had one person who called in and left a voicemail saying ‘you have my vote’,” said Edmond.
“That was it,” chimed in Ward. “No name, no number to contact him back at. Just ‘you have my vote’ and then he hung up.”
This strategy has been helpful in political forums, where Edmond says he can ask a person in attendance where they’re from and there’s a good chance he’s been in their neighborhood.
“How can you represent a neighborhood without knowing what it looks like,” said Edmond. “I think that’s the most positive thing that’s kept me going, more than anything else.”
In return for people talking to you, Edmond says honesty is paramount, and there’s nothing more honest than a budget.
“Policy and politics is over there,” said Edmond, gesturing to the far side of the office, “it’s a promise of what you believe in and it’s great, it sounds good, but your budget over here is what you’re really going to do. Your budget is your greatest reflection of what you truly believe.”
To Edmond, the best way of spotting a candidate who isn’t serious about his beliefs is one who can’t narrow his platform down to a few things. It means that candidate hasn’t done the hard work of looking at what is most important. Edmond says he’s successfully narrowed his budget to education, transportation and national defense, the three major areas he says the country can’t afford not to invest in.
For Edmond, national defense also extends to taking care of veterans returning from America’s wars.
“These guys coming home that are battered and wounded,” said Edmond. “Nine times out of ten they’re not going back into doing the job they were before ... The question they ask is ‘what now sir?’ and that’s a very different cost of war. How do you transition them into healthcare benefits, and into a new job, and it’s a conversation we haven’t really had.”
Edmond says he helped get this conversation started with the 2008/200 Wounded Warrior legislation. Part of the problem, he also says, is that hospitals avoid diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder. Edmond hopes to help implement these reforms if he gets a chance to serve on the Armed Services or the Ways and Means committees.
“Freedom comes at a cost,” said Edmond. “For most Americans, that’s in the abstract sense of war. The average American isn’t at Dover when the caskets come in. The average American isn’t going to Walter Reed and Bethesda to see it. As a military officer, from day one you’re steeped in an understanding of that cost.”
Edmond hopes, as a former military officer, he can help bring that understanding to Congress, and maybe in the process help bring Congress a little closer to the people.
“People are distant from their politicians. We knock on every door, and that’s changing politics,” he said.