No door knocking, no house parties: Is COVID bad for political challengers?
Pre-pandemic, Beaverton City Councillor Lacey Beaty believed she would become the city's next mayor by knocking on 15,000 doors.
Through her doorstep pitch, the youngest councilor elected in Beaverton history planned to persuade a critical mass of voters to oust Mayor Denny Doyle, who has won three terms and now seeks a fourth.
"That was really, I believed, my path to victory," she said.
Beating an incumbent is an uphill battle under the best of circumstances. Political strategists say the pandemic has made that incline a lot steeper.
"In a city like Beaverton, you could knock doors. You could hold enough public events where there's 100 people at them, and you could reach enough voters to really overcome that incumbent advantage," said Jack Miller, a professor of political science at Portland State University. "And now what is she left doing?"
While the pandemic has changed the dynamics of all campaigns, it has dealt a particularly brutal blow to new and insurgent candidates. They've seen the lower-cost strategies most likely to bring them some name recognition — door-knocking, small events, word-of-mouth — turn into public health hazards.
This OPB story is shared as part of a local media project to increase COVID-19 news coverage.
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