The socially distanced campaign season has arrived.
As Minnesotans return to restaurants, gyms and theaters following months of coronavirus closures, some candidates are resuming in-person efforts to court voters.
Minnesota-based staff for the Trump Victory effort have tweeted about knocking on doors as part of the campaign’s summer launch. “The shutdown is ending and now we talk with real people in person,” one woman tweeted, along with a selfie featuring a mask, clipboard and bottle of hand sanitizer.
Mary Giuliani Stephens, a former Woodbury mayor challenging Senate DFL Leader Susan Kent in a suburban district, sent an e-mail to supporters seeking door-knocking volunteers of her own. “Efforts will use precautions such as stepping back from doors and wearing masks with older voters,” the e-mail read.
And Tyler Kistner, a Republican running against U.S. Rep. Angie Craig in a suburban swing district, has been meeting voters at farmers markets and small gatherings. On Wednesday, he spoke at a Rice County Republican meeting. Photos posted to Twitter show no one wearing masks in the open-doored barn.
“I think voters are looking to see more engagement at this point,” said Billy Grant, a GOP strategist advising Kistner’s campaign. “In all cases, we’re taking precautions, still following social distancing. People were glad to see him and glad to see him talking about the issues.”
Not everyone is rushing back to the physical campaign trail. DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said Democrats are “going to continue to follow advice of public health officials and campaign virtually.” He criticized Republicans for “doing everything they can to fly in the face of facts and science” and disregarding public health.
“We’ve been very clear about our guidance and directives, which is to really limit in-person campaigning where possible,” he said. “I think a vast majority of Minnesotans still support these socially distancing measures and are still worried about COVID. And we have to respect where the electorate is.”
Outside the campaign trail, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and the unrest that followed have also prompted more in-person appearances from politicians on both sides of the aisle. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis, who also campaigned during the stay-at-home order, visited damaged businesses, alongside GOP congressional candidate Lacy Johnson. A number of state legislative and congressional Democrats have also made site visits in recent weeks.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents Minneapolis, has been one of the most visible members of the congressional delegation in the wake of Floyd’s death, attending protests, listening sessions and community service events in the district. Her campaign has partnered with nonprofits for donation drives, turning its headquarters into a “distribution center to provide food and other essentials for members of our community.”
“My goal right now,” she said. “Is to support the community we represent in a critical time.”