Candidates try to reach motorists in waves

July 24, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ
  • Christopher B. Shank, a three-term delegate running for state Senate, waves and smiles at passing vehicles in downtown Boonsboro on Thursday afternoon.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

To connect with moving voters, some candidates do The Wave.

Clutching campaign signs, they stand along busy roads, waving and smiling at passing vehicles.

Christopher B. Shank, a three-term delegate running for state Senate, did it in downtown Boonsboro on Thursday afternoon. He's challenging state Sen. Donald F. Munson in the Sept. 14 primary. No Democrats are running.

Munson, seeking a sixth Senate term, waved in downtown Hagerstown on Friday afternoon.

A reporter observed and interviewed each as he waved in the summertime heat.

Shank said there's more to it than getting noticed.

"Really, this is making individual contact," he said. "I'm not just standing here blindly waving. I try to reach each one of them as they go by."

Shank stood at a corner of Main and Potomac streets in Boonsboro. He wore khaki shorts and a yellow campaign T-shirt matching his yellow sign.

Sean Fitzgerald, a volunteer coordinator for Shank's campaign, took the diagonally opposite corner.


Shank, 38, hunched down a bit to look at faces as drivers passed.

"You've got a few seconds to look into their eyes and try to get them on your side," Munson said.

Munson, 72, stood on the corner of Potomac and Franklin streets, outside his downtown campaign office. In 100-degree heat, he was in tan slacks, a white button-down shirt and a white ballcap, his tie loosened and his sleeves rolled up.

With him, sign-waving for the first time, was his grandson, 7-year-old Harrison Hoover, who got a kick out of seeing people wave back.

Waving signs along the road isn't for everyone, but Shank and Munson said it gives them a blip of personal contact with lots of people in a short period.

Putting a face to the signs

"What I'm trying to do is put a face to those signs," said Jeff Cline, a Republican running for Washington County commissioner and a frequent sign-waver.

He said people recognize him from that brief encounter.

"I'm interviewing for the job," said Cline, 53. "I want people to know I'm committed."

Neil Parrott, a Republican running for Subdistrict 2B state delegate, said he started waving signs in the bitter cold in February. He was on the Appalachian Trail bridge over Interstate 70.

Parrott, 39, said his goal is to reach people, if even for a snippet of time as they head to work.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md., has waved signs near the road in every campaign, said his spokeswoman, Lisa Wright.

"He believes very strongly that this is a job where you're a servant of the people ..." she said. "It demonstrates that the congressman is willing to meet the people that he works for where they are, without any filter ..."

Bartlett, 84, is running for a 10th term.

Munson said he thinks Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, a Republican, helped popularize sign-waving in Maryland.

While serving on the school board in Hawaii, where sign-waving was common, Leopold ran for governor and lost, Munson said.

Leopold moved to Maryland and, in 1982, won a state delegate seat where a Republican hadn't won before.

Sign-waving also was big in the 1986 Congress race in which Democrat Tom McMillen narrowly defeated Republican Robert R. Neall, Munson said.

"It just started spreading through the state," he said.

"People seem to enjoy it," Shank said. "They like seeing you out there."

A public presence

The candidates said sign-waving is part of the campaign mix, along with knocking on doors, attending public functions, sending e-mail and posting Facebook messages.

Shank said he's knocked on about 3,500 doors, a better way to talk individually to voters. Sign-waving is more of a public presence.

Munson said he also knocks on a lot of doors, but the district has grown so much over the years, it's tough to walk all of it.

Both Shank and Munson received good reactions while they were observed waving and holding signs.

Shank got some horn honks and a bunch of return waves. One man holding a cell phone to his ear with his left hand briefly took his hand off the steering wheel to wave to Shank with his right hand.

Still, a majority of drivers kept their eyes and attention on the road.

During his time standing downtown, Munson also got several honks and plenty of waves.

He got the best response from vehicles rounding the corner practically brushing right past him. A high percentage of drivers waved, gave a thumbs up or called out to him.

"Thank you, thank you," Munson called back to each.

Munson got to chat up more pedestrians. He encouraged them to stand with him and wave or to give him and Harrison a high five.

"I'm having fun doing this," Shank said. "I think that's an important component: Campaigning can also be fun."

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