Normally at this time of year, the Monroe County Democratic and Republican Parties are hosting fundraising events, gathering in large groups to do phone banking and going door-to-door polling for the upcoming election. This year, that is not the case.
While the Monroe County Republican Party has about the same amount of people this year, about four or five people, gathering to do phone banking because they don't have a permanent physical office, the organization is focusing more on this type of fundraising because the volunteers can’t go door-to-door.
“Most other places in the state, they’re still doing door-to-door with social distancing,” said William Ellis, chairman for the Monroe County Republican Party. “But we’ve talked to people and they would almost prefer that we didn’t, so we haven’t.”
In addition to those who make calls from their temporary headquarters, which is a corner in Ellis’ business, U'sta-B-New,, some volunteers call to ask for donations from their phones at home.
The Monroe County Democratic Party does have a permanent location in downtown Bloomington. This time of year, there would typically be a constant stream of volunteers going in and out of the building and many campaigns meeting at headquarters to strategize, chairwoman Jennifer Crossley said. But now, people are working from home.
“The officers and our leadership team, we’re not there. We literally meet via Zoom,” Crossley said. “I would say like 98% of work is done outside our headquarters.”
Some candidates occasionally go into the office to organize or get some peace and quiet, but they are required to wear a mask when doing so, Crossley said.
The Democratic Party is also not doing door-to-door polling, but some candidates are doing literature drops, which is leaving pamphlets about themselves and their policies on people’s doorsteps.
Both the Monroe County Democratic and Republican Parties have had to cancel large-scale fundraising events because of COVID-19 restrictions. The Republicans canceled a 500-person event at which former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was scheduled to appear. The Democrats had to cancel their annual Franklin Delano Roosevelt Gala, which typically brings in about $10,000 in donations.
To compensate for these losses, the two organizations have used some different strategies.
The Democrats have organized a virtual event in place of their typical fall dinner fundraiser, are selling yard signs for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and are using social media to spread information to more people. The party has done two Facebook Live events so far and plans to do at least one each week from now until the election, Crossley said.
The party has also participated in local events such as the Black Lives Matter protests, said Crossley, who spoke at the Enough is Enough rally in June.
“We are very active and engaged and making sure we’re speaking out,” Crossley said. “Just trying to let people know that we are in for a good fight and we can’t let up.”
The Republican Party has made up for their fundraisers by receiving a larger number of individual donations, Ellis said.
Ellis said the party has increased its email list by 34% since July and the party’s private Facebook group has grown from about 300 people to about 600, with 250 people waiting to get in. The party also had six people donating monthly before the end of July and now has about 75 people who are donating between $10 to $150 monthly.
“This will be a record fundraising year for us,” Ellis said.
Ellis said he attributes this to the powerful emotions evoked by the coronavirus and the protests. He said many Republicans have been upset because of the way the Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma was seen as wrong while protests with thousands of people were not as harshly criticized for violating COVID-19 precautions.
He also said these issues have stirred up personal feelings in some Republicans, making them want to be more involved locally.
“Critical to Republicans, year in and year out, they want what I call political welfare. They want things to change, they want things better, but they want someone else to run for office, they want someone else to campaign, they want someone else to write the checks,” Ellis said. “Well, this year I think they realize there is no one else.”