I’ve been blogging so much about writing lately, I’ve totally neglected up until this point to talk about this other major thing I’m doing with my life right now. I’ve been volunteering my time to work on a local political campaign, helping to get my new friend Daryl Finizio elected Mayor of New London.
First, a little backstory: I lived in New London for about three years, and then left New London to move to neighboring Waterford so that Elise could go to school there. New London isn’t known for its great schools, and since we knew that Elise had some potential developmental problems and possibly learning disabilities (which we still don’t have a definitive answer on, by the way) I knew I wanted her to have the best education possible, and New London just didn’t offer it. However, I still live just minutes from downtown NL, and I still shop, bank, go to the pharmacy, dine out, drink, and generally get my groove on in New London. I don’t live there now, but I still consider myself a New Londoner for all intents and purposes. We’ll see how important this is in a moment…
My best friend Alisha and her husband bought a house in New London last year. They had a baby, got a dog, and put down their roots in that city. So this summer when the race for Mayor, City Council and Board of Education really started heating up, Alisha got frustrated that all the events like debates, meet and greets, and fundraisers took place while she was working at her second shift job. She reached out to someone online, someone she had never met, and asked what the best way would be for her to go about meeting candidates, and the next thing I know, she calls to tell me that she’s hosting a little political garden party at her house with Daryl Finizio – a guy we’d never heard of before.
The day came for this little luncheon – I snuck out of work to be there, put on a pretty dress and headed to Alisha’s. We were surprised to find out that a writer and photographer from the local paper would be there to cover this “event” which was really just eight or so twenty-somethings in the backyard chatting up the politician. Coming in to this meeting, we knew three things about Daryl: He was young, he was gay, and he wasn’t from around here. But when Daryl arrived, I knew right away (after meeting so many other politicians in my life) that he was different. He’s not FOR the people, he IS THE PEOPLE of New London. He explained his background – that he grew up in Westerly, Rhode Island, which if you live around here, you’d know how easy it is to forget that the little city on the other side of a river is in another state – that he got active in politics at a very young age, that he’d done big things in college and worked with the NYC Council after 9/11, was a council member in Westerly, and was also a lawyer AND college professor. Oh, he also likes kickboxing. Heh. Anyway, he talked to us not like a politician but like a person who wanted to get things done. He listened to all of our concerns about the city – mainly regarding education and violent crime – and gave his thoughts on how he could make a difference in changing them.
Once the reporters were gone, he really opened up on a lot of issues that affected young people in the city, and elaborated rather frankly on what this city needs more (and less) of in government. In short, we were sold. We were sold by his demeanor and eloquence, we were sold by his vision, we were sold on his solid background, and we were ready to get to work.
A few days later, one of our friends who had been at the political garden party started a group on Facebook called Young Voters of New London, a group that has grown to more than 165 members in just two short months, which is remarkable considering how many of the people belonging to the group joined it having never registered to vote before. And yet here we are, thanks to Daryl, making change.
On September 13th I participated in New London’s democratic primary day: I stood outside Harbor School for three hours holding a sign with Daryl’s name on it, welcoming voters to the polls and then thanking them for their time as they left. Daryl was (and still is) in stiff competition with the other democratic candidate he ran against in the primary, a man named Mike Buscetto, who lost the primary that day and is now running as a write-in candidate. Although we knew Daryl was a great man with great things to offer, primary day was nervewracking because we also knew that Buscetto has had ties to New London for generations and Daryl is a “newcomer” who has had to grow his support organically in just a few short years. But I will tell you, every time we got a sly thumbs up from a voter, or if people honked and waved from their cars as they drove by us (this is so pansy) my heart sped up, because it feels so good to see the person you support get supported. I loved every minute of that day. I made friends that day. And later on, we celebrated, because Daryl won the primary by leaps and bounds.
After the primary, we partied all night – really, ALL NIGHT – celebrating something we’d worked for. It was amazing. Did I mention I made new friends? It’s amazing, I’ll say it again and again, how campaigning for Daryl has really changed my life for the better. So, it’s a selfish thing, in a way. I support him, I want him to win this election, I think he is the best for the job.. but volunteering for this campaign has opened my eyes to things that I hadn’t considered before, and I am not the only one blinking, surprised in the sun.
For one thing, Alisha has never been political. She came into this not really having a clue about how the government worked or why it works the way it does. She just got into this because she knew it was the right thing to do as a homeowner and parent in New London, and she absolutely did the right thing. It’s been a pleasure to help her learn the ropes of politics and elections, and it’s been even more of a pleasure to get to know and get closer with other people. It’s a fucking pleasure to be able to walk into a huge room, look around for a green and white button and know these are my people! and that I will be accepted by them and welcomed by them because we share common goal and common values.
The thing is, this is a democracy here. We are working to elect someone who will speak for us to those who will not listen otherwise. We’re working to elect someone who wants what we want, not just as taxpayers or business owners, but as HUMAN BEINGS. We are working to elect someone who has a dream of making New London a better place to live and visit not just for the people who have the most money or “connections” with the city government, but for the people who spend not only the majority of their time and money there, but also their energy to make it a fun, artsy, exciting place to be.
This past Saturday, I rallied with about thirty other supporters on the sidewalk in front of Muddy Waters, waiting for Daryl to show up with our state’s Governor, Dan Malloy, so Malloy could endorse Daryl and the rest of the democratic ticket for this election. To some, this is no big deal. This is my blog, so I can say what I want to say here, right? Malloy is sort of a tool, but I’m still glad I voted for him, and I’m glad I got to leave saying “I met the Governor today. I shook his hand, and looked into his eyes, and knew that we were working together today.”
There are exactly two weeks left until election day, and you can bet that I will be pounding the pavement and going door to door next weekend to make sure voters know who Daryl is and why they should vote for him. I’ll be wearing my button and talking him up whenever someone asks about it. And NaNoWriMo be damned, I will be standing in front of a polling center, rain, sleet or shine on election day, knowing that I’ve done all I can to help Daryl win the election, and to help New London pave the way to a better future.
I am so proud of New London, for opening the doors to electing a Mayor and taking on a new form of government. I am so proud of the people I know – good friends old a new – for working so hard to help with this campaign, and more so, I am so proud of everyone who has educated themselves about elections and governement. I am so proud that (in my opinion) as a whole our group of young voters has kept it clean and classy throughout the election. And I am so, so proud of Daryl, for keeping his chin up when so many people are trying to push him down.
This is what I have been up to lately. This is what I am fighting for, for a city and people I love. Finizio… for motherfucking Mayor!