Brian Aldaco is a freshman at SHSU and a LEAP Ambassador. After a fun and education filled first year at SHSU, Brian got a call asking for his help with a Republican congressional campaign in New York state. Showing the adventurous spirit, Brian took the offer and set off on a 30-day learning experience. This is the first of two blog entries from him on the trip and work.
The call came late in the campaign season. Would I fly to New York to work on a campaign? With only four days notice, I didn’t have much time to think. Fortunately, I didn’t need much time to think. Yes!
As with any far away trip, my travel began at the airport. I was to fly from the Houston Bush International Airport, transfer planes in Atlanta, Georgia to finally arrive at the Albany International Airport.
At 10:00 at night, already having crossed over to the eastern time region, I arrived at my destination in the gorgeous (not-as-much-as-Texas) state of New York. It was only my second time in a plane, and it was my first time in New York.
The campaign was for Andrew Heaney, a Republican who is running for US Congress in the Albany region of New York state. My job was to be part of the many volunteers and staff on hand to help him win. This includes: block-walking, phone calling, assisting with events, and other duties.
The day after I arrived, the rest of the block-walking brigade and I, a total of six students, woke up early in the morning to get a short briefing by campaign mangers Joe Williams and David O’Connell. As very experienced professionals in Get Out To Vote (GOTV) strategies, the managers delegated areas of the state’s Congressional District 19 to us. Hence we were deployed from our hotel in the village of Colonie, pumped up and ready to meet voters on behalf of candidate Heaney to ensure his victory in this June 28 Republican primary.
Riding through the various towns and villages of the district has been a pleasure. As a lover of nature’s wooded paradise it has been delightful to see the congressional district composed of the counties of Ostego, Montgomery, Schohaire, Greene, Rensselaer, Columbia, Delaware, Sullivan, Ulster, and Dutchess. Amidst woodpeckers thumping in trunks, chipmunks trailing through every garden, beavers bravely rocking across the streets, and the occasional rabbit bouncing through the green fields, the Heaney block walkers have toiled through the week to encourage residents of this gorgeous country side of New York State to support us.
Tasked with this endeavor, I have met along the way a wide variety of people along with the different tempers they offer when either rooting for our candidate or shrugging us off as if we were pesky soliciting salesman. I might add, however, that regardless of resentment for our candidate from some of the houses, there is still a sense of polite generosity whereupon most of these nay-sayers will end their farewell with a sincere “good luck.”
By traveling through these small upstate New York villages I am getting a better sense of the northern culture. This small community feel was not so much different from a town like Huntsville, for example, where it is always pleasant to visit the town square and enjoy a lunch. This first week this is how we all spent our midday breaks…
by enjoying such delicacies as Ruben wraps, Philly cheese steak sandwiches,
classic dinner hamburgers with fries, small town coffee-shop espressos and tea, and much other delicious treats that help illuminate the delightful taste of the different communities of New York’s 19th congressional district.
However, the highlight of the week was having the chance to meet with Mr. Heaney on Wednesday in the city of Oneonta, located in Ostego County about an hour’s drive south of Colonie. There, a debate would be held between Heaney and his opponent John Faso. With the temperature dropping to 45 degrees along with menacing rain clouds trailing along the mountain tree tops which surrounded the city, we were eager to go inside the city’s theatre production center where the debate would be held. The debate between the two New York Congressional candidates was diplomatic with minimal hostility.
At the end of the debate we were able to shake hands and meet with Mr. Heaney. He shared how impressed he was with our work thus far, which motivated us to work even harder. This motivation would later be demonstrated when block walking through Saturday’s rainy morning. Nonetheless the evening of the debate we chose to relax over an all New Yorker pizza in Oneonta’s very special Italian restaurant Joe Ruffino’s.
With a week of block walking through beautiful and quirky New York villages it has been a great pleasure to have this great opportunity to be a part of an amazing campaign. Even though at times the steep mountainous roads have caused us consternation, (especially when the pavement ends) it has been rewarding to enjoy the picturesque landscapes. With so much country beauty it’s hard not to get lost in the rolling fields and piny woods of upstate New York from which I have to shake off its trance and continue on this northern grass roots mission to success.