Jessica Cook, right, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Tuesday’s election, shows plans for her visit to Juneau to supporter Monica Southworth at the downtown Heritage Coffee on Friday afternoon. Cook, visiting town Thursday and Friday, was hoping to meet volunteers there to distribute “turf packets” that would assign them neighborhoods for last-minute door-to-door campaigning, but none showed up. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Jessica Cook, right, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Tuesday’s election, shows plans for her visit to Juneau to supporter Monica Southworth at the downtown Heritage Coffee on Friday afternoon. Cook, visiting town Thursday and Friday, was hoping to meet volunteers there to distribute “turf packets” that would assign them neighborhoods for last-minute door-to-door campaigning, but none showed up. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Cooking up the campaign’s final days

Candidates and supporters plot door-knocking, phone-banking and sign-waving for last-minute frenzy.

Jessica Cook sat alone in the downtown Heritage Coffee shop on Friday afternoon, four days before voters will decide the fate of the Democratic party’s nominee for lieutenant governor, with a stack of eight “turf packets” hoping some of the people contacted by a campaign coordinator would show up to knock on the doors listed in each packet.

“You have your addresses and names of people who’ve been identified as potential voters,” she said, noting number of households range from 25 to 51 in the packets. There’s a simple script with a few questions to ask people who open doors about their voting intentions so “we’re not sending out volunteers cold and untrained.”

The questions include asking residents who they’re planning to vote for, if they plan to rank other candidates via the state’s new ranked choice balloting, if they want a yard sign and if they’re interested in volunteering. While the latter two questions are rather late in the campaign cycle to have much impact — Cook said the same questions have been asked door-to-door for months — there’s not any time-consuming screening process to ensure people saying they want to be last-minute volunteers aren’t proverbial Manchurian candidates.

“We’ve got to rely on human kindness honesty and charity,” she said.

Cook, who arrived in Juneau late Thursday and planned to leave Friday evening, also spent her visit participating in “phone banking” potential voters, and meeting with various small groups and individual officials likely to be supportive of her ticket. While it’s not a schedule seeking to sway as many voters as possible with every last hour, she said the primary period of persuasion came during the many months of campaigning.

“A lot of the voters I think at this point know who they’re voting for,” she said.

But Cook and other office seekers are generally engaged in full-speed-ahead activities through Tuesday, culminating in the inevitable groups of sign wavers on heavily trafficked streets. Among them is Juneau state Sen. Jesse Kiehl who said he’s reaching out to about 120 people who’ve helped his past campaigns, even though this year he’s unopposed.

“I think a lot of people will go and want to wave signs for their favorite statewide candidates, and they may wave my signs as well,” he said.

While a supporter was at Heritage Coffee to greet Cook (but not walk a neighborhood with a turf packet) when she arrived early Friday, nobody else showed up for canvassing duties during the 90 minutes she spent there. While the absence of volunteers might be seen an ominous indicator of support, Kiehl said if 10% of the people contacted to wave signs actually show up “you’re doing well.”

As for the value of sign wavers, he said it’s useful for the public at large who might not participate in election day otherwise.

“There are a lot of folks who are not political junkies like I am,” he said. “Those big crowds can help remind people ’oh yeah, that’s today. I’ve got to go vote.’”

The new system of voting will also make election night both more suspenseful and less meaningful than past years, since the state Division of Elections will release only the first-choice picks of ballots received and tallied. Additional mail-in, challenged and other uncounted ballots will continue to be tallied for 15 days after the election, after which the full first-choice results will be released — and the subsequent rankings instantly calculated for races where no candidate gets a majority.

Cook said she will spend her Election Day morning with sign waivers in Palmer to catch the attention of Matanuska-Susitna Valley commuters on their way to Anchorage, then her afternoon sign waving in Anchorage since it’s close to the campaign’s main office. But the night of the election will be somewhat anticlimactic.

“Because of ranked choice voting election night is going to have a whole different feel,” she said. “It used to be like a sporting event.”

Instead this year will likely be a celebration — of surviving the campaign grind — with a small number of people at the main campaign office in Anchorage with some visits to supporters gathered elsewhere, Cook said.

Kiehl said he’s planning to spend much of Election Day waving signs at the downtown intersection of Egan Drive and 12th Avenue. He’s also planning to have hot coffee available for volunteer sign wavers, but hasn’t checked the weather forecast to see how much they might need its warmth as well as caffeine.

“The election is Tuesday no matter what the weather is,” he said.

• Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Jan. 29

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

President Joe Biden talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, after returning from an event in Baltimore on infrastructure. (AP Photo / Susan Walsh)
Biden to end COVID-19 emergencies on May 11

The move would formally restructure the federal coronavirus response.

Eaglecrest Ski Patrol received a report of an avalanche in closed terrain in the East Bowl Chutes at 10:10 a.m. Thursday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)
David Holmes digs through a pile of boardgames during Platypus Gaming’s two-day mini-con over the weekend at Douglas Public Library and Sunday at Mendenhall Public Library. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Good times keep rolling with Platypus Gaming

Two-day mini-con held at Juneau Public Library.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Juneau man indicted on child pornography charges

A Juneau man was indicted Thursday on charges of possessing or accessing… Continue reading

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Juneau’s municipal and state legislative members, their staff, and city lobbyists gather in the Assembly chambers Thursday meeting for an overview of how the Alaska State Legislature and politicians in Washington, D.C., are affecting local issues.
Local leaders, lawmakers and lobbyists discuss political plans for coming year

Morning meeting looks at local impact of state, national political climates.

Most Read