Changing Bad Laws, Delegate Campaigning, and the Rhode Island G-'Ho'-P
CANNABIS CULTURE - My last blog left off with two high hopes: I wanted to get on the Rhode Island Republican Presidential Primary Ballot as a Ron Paul Delegate to the Republican National Convention this August in Tampa, and I also wanted to see the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana for adults in RI.
I'm thrilled to report that both my hopes materialized – with a bit of a Rhode Island twist of course!
Rhode Island has a complicated and extremely difficult-to-accomplish ballot qualifying process. In order to get your name on the April 24 Primary Ballot as a delegate (in my case for Ron Paul), you must acquire at least 150 valid registered voters' signatures in a mere five-day time span. You must collect the signatures by town only. For example, Warwick voters can only sign the Warwick sheets, then the Warwick sheets are submitted to Warwick City Hall and so on. You can only collect signatures in the cities and towns that fall in the same district that you yourself as a candidate reside in (there are two in RI – Dist. 1 and Dist. 2). The sheets must be properly notarized and signed, photocopies are not accepted, you must pick up your ballot nominee sheets in person for yourself or sign a waiver allowing another individual to pick them up on your behalf, you must expect half of your signatures collected to eventually be invalidated for some reason or another, and you must be able to coordinate the delivery of these notarized, signed, completed sheets from all over the state to each city/town hall before the deadline day and time.
To help accomplish this monumental task, the RI Republican Party held a series of "Signing Parties" at various bars, restaurants, individuals' houses and workplaces, public parks, etc. in order to get registered Republicans to come out and sign all the candidates' ballot nominee papers in one large effort. This effort went extremely well, and they even allowed Ron Paul Delegates' ballots papers to be included at these parties. Ron Paul's RI Team of activists arranged some more signing parties on their own to collect even more Ron Paul Delegates' signatures too. We managed to get twice (and in some instances three times) the amount of signatures required, and all the Ron Paul delegates (but for one late-comer) succeeded in getting ballot placement!
My Ballot Nominee Paperwork to be a Ron Paul Delegate for District 2 of Rhode Island
Between the ballot placement success and the actual RI Primary was a window of about eight weeks. We immediately arranged a meeting amongst the RI Ron Paul activists to discuss our campaign strategy on two fronts: Getting our delegates' names out there to get votes, and also spreading the Good Doctor's message and getting votes for him. RI has the largest population of "Independent" voters. We are an independent state founded by an ex-patriot of the state of Massachusetts (Roger Williams) and we are not privy to being told to go with the status quo. This was an opportunity of a lifetime for RI Ron Paul supporters. This blog will cover what we did and why I think it was so successful.
In 2008 Ron Paul got a total of 6% of the vote in the RI primary. Because at least 15% of the vote overall is required to get any amount of delegates to the convention, Ron Paul Delegates did not get a chance to send even one of our people to the convention on his behalf. This year Ron Paul got 24% of the vote. He did better in Rhode Island this April 24, 2012 than any of the five states that held their primaries that night. We are certain it was due to our efforts, coordination, creativity, dedication, and financial pooling to get Ron Paul's message out far and wide in little 'ol Rhody. Rhode Island is sending four Ron Paul Delegates and four Ron Paul Alternates to the 2012 Tampa Republican National Convention this year.
After coordinating the signing parties, we also coordinated "drop-off" locations and time-frames across the state to collect the signature sheets and have a notary stamp and sign them. Two Ron Paul-ers are Notary Publics (myself and another) so we were spread thin to begin with. We managed to notarize hundreds of papers in one night and then brought them to another location to pass off to the "Delivery" volunteers, people in different cities and towns that would drop off those sheets to each City and Town Hall's board of canvassers they belonged to. (They would then have the total signatures validated and reported to the Secretary of State and candidates would find out if they qualified for ballot placement.)
All of this was coordinated through www.Meetup.com group emails (find your state's Ron Paul meet-up group!), cellphones, quick gatherings at restaurants, etc. But it involved a lot of squeaky wheels, diligence, and most importantly: reliability and dependability. If you were going to be somewhere, you had to commit 100%. This isn't easy to pull off and almost all of us have full-time day jobs we're tied to, children we have commitments to, family members that miss us, extra gas in the cars, late nights and early mornings. The rest of the "pack's" success was dependent on the individuals that make it up. All for an idea: A wonderful, desperately needed, noble idea. Liberty needs to be restored in this country once and for all.
After Ron Paul Delegates placed on the ballot, we needed to kick into campaign mode. We Delegates (I'm in District 2) needed to campaign for ourselves for votes, and we also needed to campaign as a group for Ron Paul overall. Without enough votes for Ron Paul, none of us would go to Tampa: all for one and one for all, literally.
In Rhode Island a voter that is either "unregistered" (a.k.a. "Independent") or a registered Republican can vote in the RI Republican Party's Primary. So it is a "Semi-Open" Primary by definition. We had a huge opportunity in this instance: Independents are HUGE supporters of Ron Paul. Ron Paul has a lot of independents behind him and they are more likely to support his message of restoring freedom in our country. We needed to campaign in RI for Ron Paul again on two fronts: the Independents and the RI G-O-P itself.
Our strategy spun off these two fronts: Get the independents on Ron Paul's peace stance, his foreign policy ideas, his stance on the Drug War, his stance on the FDA intervention of natural foods and farmers, his support for homeschoolers, his stellar libertarian voting record, and his ability to cross-party lines for support more than any other candidate, and the more "democratic" issues that he has support for in that demographic. The GOP Front was much different. His voting record: Never voted to raise taxes, voted against the NDAA, wants strong, secure borders here at home not on foreign soil, predicted the economic collapse, voted against 'Obamacare', stellar pro-life record, stellar family man and husband of his high-school sweetheart, the Conservative alternative, the only conservative alternative that can beat Obama in this election. We needed the conservatives, not the liberal-leaning Republicans like Romney himself, to need to vote for anyone but Romney and we needed to sell Ron Paul to these people like it was their brand spanking new Caddy rolling off the lot. And low and behold, days before the primary on April 24: our only adversary for the "conservative" vote, Santorum, ended his campaign.
What we did in the next eight weeks or so to accomplish these major goals was incredible. Well, okay I'm a blogger and I'm in little old Rhode Island, the tiniest state, so that could be relatively speaking, but it was incredible to me and I know it was incredible to the dedicated souls who I now know and love and respect like my own kin.
We had operations. Major operations that were then delegated to individuals strongest suited to carry them out or lead them to successful completion based on their individual talents, connections, resources, and ability. This is War. This is a Revolution. This isn't sitting on your couch Facebook-ing regurgitated vomit from the media-industrial complex, eating chips and tagging yourself in witty quotes that some revolutionary said a thousand years ago before we had social media to numb our minds to the atrocities that are happening in our country.
Operation "Geriatric": Nursing homes, old folks' housing complexes, churches, and supermarkets – hand cards and a charismatic Ron Paul supporter focusing on Ron Paul's commitment to fix Social Security, while keeping those already on it in it, and also allowing those young people beginning to work to opt-out of it altogether and instead invest the money in private-market options that allow for a better return. We can't keep it going the way it is, but we also can't just pull the plug on those that were forced into the system in the first place either. (Same for Medicaid/Medicare). Ron Paul would repeal 'Obamacare.' Ron Paul was a doctor before getting into politics, an OB/GYN that delivered over 4,000 babies. Ron Paul never voted to raise taxes. Ron Paul would make Social Security Income tax-free, he has a better chance of beating Obama in an election than Romney does.
Operation "V.F.W. / National Guard": Ron Paul is the only candidate that served in the military. He was a Flight Surgeon during Vietnam in the Air Force and Air National Guard. He gets more donations from veterans and active service military members than any other candidate combined, including Obama. His voting record on protecting veterans' rights, care, benefits and services is stellar. He wants to end the foreign wars and bring our troops home. He believe a strong national defense means strong borders at home and that our current policy spreads our troops all over the world making our own coast the most vulnerable to attack. We created/printed a "military" themed post-card, and focused these cards on the National Guard Base's lunch site (Dave's Marketplace in Quonset), V.F.W.'s, other Veteran Halls, Local Union Halls, the V.A. Hospital and anywhere else we knew of that had a concentration of military service-members and/or veteran populations. Parking lots were useful because they have special plates in RI, you can literally fine-tune your "car-spam" operations to save your material (that you paid your own hard-earned cash to make).
Operation "Independents & O-Bummers": Whole-Foods, "Natural" Food Stores, Acupuncture Clinics, Wellness Centers, Parks, Union Halls (again), anywhere where there is a concentration of a liberal or independent demographic (basically all of Providence). Focus on his anti-war policies and voting record, voted against the Iraq War, voted against the Patriot Act, introduces legislation protecting small farmers, co-ops, homeschoolers, natural-food distributors, hemp, medical-marijuana, Wall-Street Reform, voted against the Bank Bail-Outs, voted against TARP, and so on. "O-Bummers" as I call them, the "Buyer's Remorse-ers" who bought the "Hope and Change" of Obama's first campaign, the ones that now realize he is just the same boss, different name, were also a target of this focused campaign.
Operation "Overpasses": We managed to organize a huge "sign-party" a couple weeks in to our campaign. My workplace has a large fab-shop on the property, an old Navy base testing facility from the 40's that stressed jet engines to the point of exploding. It's massive, with huge bays, parking, local to most of our volunteers, and private. We urged people to bring cardboard, paint, rollers, stencils, ideas, bodies, music, booze, whatever they wanted to get this done. Our target was five or more signs on various highway overpasses all over RI each week for at least 4 – 5 weeks leading up to the day of the RI Primary. So approximately 20 – 40 signs, BIG signs. About 15 people were able to make it, including one volunteer that took a charter plane to the mainland from Block Island to help out and brought supplies and then stayed at a friend's house overnight because he missed the last ferry back to the Island. People of all ages, demographics, backgrounds, and locations came to help in this massive yet humble effort. We had a projector and paint, brushes, rollers, cardboard, plywood, tunes, beer (you can't do this without beer), grommets, tarps, the whole shebang. In more than seven hours that chilly March day we all managed to create an efficient, fun, massive production line, starting with rolling primer on the white cardboard pieces, tracing the Ron Paul 2012 logo from a projector, filling it in with black paint, hammering the grommets into them, and trimming. We made about 35 signs varying in size from over 6' x 4' plywood ones, to 4' x 2' cardboard ones.
We made a massive one, we coined it the "Big Daddy," from an old blue tarp and white paint. It was over 28' long. It was beautiful - absolutely beautiful. We distributed the signs in bundles to those who committed to putting them up in strategic areas all over RI. We even had an anonymous Ron Paul supporter pay for a huge billboard over Interstate 95 that stayed up for weeks, including one day after the primary was over: "Don't Settle For A Lesser Evil Again!" it read! I would get heart palpitations each time I drove by it.
Ron Paul Billboard Providence/Cranston, RI
"Big Daddy Banner" Providence Place Mall, RI
"Big Daddy Banner" Providence Place Mall, RI
Many signs went up the night before Mitt Romney came to Warwick, RI to speak at a "Town Hall" meeting. There was absolutely no way his entourage was getting to and from the Crown Plaza in Warwick without seeing them. It was fantastic. The sign-hangings continued each week up to the night of the primary and every single sign was hung up by the time Primary happened Tuesday April 24. There is no way to describe the thrill I get from experiencing it, nor the feeling I get driving under them each day in my travels and commute. Gratifying? Advertising is effective. If it wasn't, companies would not make and spend billions on it each year the world over. This is just a cheap and easy alternative to "commercial" options of doing so.
Operation "Mailers": We needed to reach registered voters via a mass mailer. A mass mailer that would go out to a targeted group of voters whose addresses are on file with the Board of Canvassers/Secretary of State and can be acquired on a CD for a mere $25. Using our data from the 2008 primary's results and the data from the S.O.S. Mailing List, we created a mass-mailer that would go heavily to the zip-codes where Ron Paul did well in 2008 (coined our "Fertile Crescent") as well as areas where Independents were concentrated, and where Republicans were heavily condensed. We had two separate mailers: the one 'themed' towards Independent Voters and the one 'themed' towards the die-hard conservative Republicans that want "anyone but Obama". We pooled our resources, our money, we made a budget, took votes, wrote the letters, created the mailing list, hired a printer/bulk mail company, worked individually where possible to print some out on our own to save money, folded them, stuffed them, dropped them off to be mailed: Again, it was a huge coordination of individuals' efforts and commitment, and it worked. We sent out over 3,000 letters and some delegates sent out well over 2,000 letters on their own dime as well. We did it on a shoe-string budget, and had to have real leaders, real trust-worthy people to pull this off. And we did it without and hitch and in enough mailing-time to get the letters delivered before the primary but days before it, so it was still fresh in their minds before voting Tuesday.
URI Ron Paul Rally
Operation "Ron-Paul-Rally": Thanks to the Student Group "Youth for Ron Paul", a speaking event was arranged and took place at University of Rhode Island Campus for Ron Paul! This was another opportunity for the individual Ron Paul Delegates to get their names out to Ron Paul supporters and hopefully win votes. Over 3,000 people were in an attendance by most estimates of those that were there and the seating capacity of the building. I was running as a "dual-slate" with the only other female Ron Paul candidate. We pooled our funds, our creativity, our talents, and our time to get a post-card palm-card with both our names on it printed. I have a good friend that gave us a sweet deal on all the printing we needed and I just want to thank him here now: You know who you are and I am forever grateful for you and your friend's generosity. Thank you for supporting Ron Paul. We mailed some, car-spammed some, and used the rest to hand out at the lines and amongst the crowd of the Rally itself. We talked to many, many, many people.
"Team Leach" Sign & Wave in North Kingstown, RI April 24th, 2012
Operation "Smile and Look Pleasant Holding a Ron Paul Sign at Polling Centers": Yeah, really. As long as you are 50 feet or whatever-the-rule-is from the polling center, you can stand with a Ron Paul sign. Volunteers chose polling centers they could "man" for a few hours the day of the primary and stood with our Ron Paul signs smiling and waving to passers-by all over RI that day. We met up as a group at a Bar that night to watch the results live. We were interviewed by an NPR Reporter and our article appeared the next day on www.RINPR.org, "Romney Claims Primary Victory" but with a huge photo of the RI Ron Paul Team on the front of their website!
Ron Paul supporters at Long Shot Bar and Grill in West Warwick. Photo by Catherine Welch, WPRI April 25, 2012.
The rollercoaster of watching your name rise and fall as the vote numbers trickled in is something. At one point you're winning, then you're losing, then you're winning again, then you aren't sure, it's so exciting and nail-biting at the same time! I lost. I didn't place as either a Delegate or an Alternate. BUT my running mate did! She is going to the convention as a District 2 Alternate for Ron Paul! She was a delegate in 2008 too and she deserves this accomplishment. I'm very proud to have had some kind of an influence on her success. And I still get to go to the convention as an official "Guest" of the RI Delegation. We have our own press and photographer coming and we have to get background clearance. Our work has just begun.
We were able to elect a Ron Paul Delegate from District 1 to the Platform Committee. We have to raise funds to get this delegate down to Tampa a week early, as the RNC's Platform Committee agenda and voting will take place from Aug. 19 – 21. Then the convention is from Aug. 27 – 30. He is a college student, sharp-as-a-tack when it comes to Ron Paul's policies and debating, but he's strapped for funds of course, and we as a pack need to ensure our survival and success by getting this guy there for this Committee. It's a huge responsibility and it's a huge accomplishment having a RI Ron Paul Delegate on this committee.
On to Tampa! I can't wait. Much more work awaits us. I'm going to try a run to be a member of the Warwick Republican City Committee. I'm a voting member of the RI Republican Liberty Caucus. We are trying to get our members and supporters to run at the town and city levels. We need to 'Occupy Our Citizenship' more now than at any other time in our lives. This isn't a trickle down strategy - This is a trickle up Revolution. The RI State Convention is held this month, June. So far, I've been busier this year than any year of my short 30 years on this planet. I can't imagine what is in store for me and our movement in the years to come but I have high hopes it is good.
Changing Bad Laws
Back to Decriminalization bills in RI House and Senate: I left off knowing that this year I was going to testify at hearings at my state house, I was going to "out" myself again, I was going to go through all the anxiety, stress, hard-work, time away from my family again. Well, I did. I did it again. I survived again!
I did well, I even have the DVD of both hearings in their entirety to study. I hear the Senators and Reps again, I study their names, districts, party affiliation, research their voting records and try to write them targeted letters urging their support afterwards, meeting them on their terms, their ideals, their beliefs. Almost anything a Libertarian believes in can be applied to a politician's stance on something. It can be very effective to pick up on little remarks such as "this is a public health issue" and remind them that public health issues shouldn't be treated in a criminal fashion. Opponents are largely misinformed, misled, and misguided. They need to hear from the everyday citizens they're hurting by protecting bad laws, and they need to see that what they believe is right in step with the decriminalization bills being put through legislation.
On June 7th 2012, I was interviewed by the Associated Press on the Decriminalization hearing being held. That interview made its way into a great article that was in over 196 different outlets from San Francisco to New York City. That same day, I had the most exciting experience of watching "Capitol TV" at a friend's house (because we don't have cable TV at home). It is the Public Access Channel that streams the RI State's legislative sessions. I got to watch the vote on the House and Senate floor for this Decriminalization Bill. I got to see and hear the very people I stared at during these committee hearings, some regurgitated the same spiel they said at the hearings, and others said it straight up "Sister-Style," threatening to start "naming names" of the politicians and family members of those politicians in that very room tonight that have had to deal with our current criminal penalties for simple possession of marijuana. I must have sounded like I was watching the Stanley Cup Finals or something shouting and hollering and clapping and "You Go Girl"-ing at the TV like a lunatic!
That same night both bills passed with overwhelming support. Governor Chafee has now signed the bill and it is officially law! Rhode Island has now joined the many other New England states that have already implemented this smart-on-crime approach to marijuana possession. After years of hard work by many committed individuals, families, lobbyists, and yes, even politicians, Lil Rhody has now taken another step towards freedom and liberating ourselves from the chains of marijuana prohibition.
This new law effectively eliminates the threat of big fines and jail time for the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Instead, adults caught with small amounts of marijuana would face a $150 civil fine. Police would confiscate the marijuana, but the incident would not appear on a person's criminal record. Minors caught with marijuana would also have to complete a drug awareness program and community service, but will no longer have to fear losing their federal student aid and other repercussions from having an arrest and/or drug charge on your criminal record.
I truly do believe I'm part of a Revolution – on so many fronts. I plan to continue the good fight for as long as it takes to achieve victory. My children and my someday-grandchildren deserve nothing less.
Rhode Island's State House – "Independence Man"