Candidates adjusting to campaigning during pandemic

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The coronavirus pandemic is keeping more people at home, but less people answering their door and that’s impacting political campaigns.

Republican Senator Eric Rucker and Republican Representative Brenda Dietrich are running against each other for state Senate in August.

The crisis is impacting how candidates are able to meet with voters. Both Rucker and Dietrich are getting out and walking the streets in the 20th District.

“We’re doing as much as we can social distancing,” Dietrich said. “We’re passing out a palm card, leaving it at the door in a clear plastic bag, so we don’t touch it. We don’t touch the door, or we’ll put it under a doormat.”

Dietrich said she and volunteers visit Republican households six days a week. In years past when running for the House, she would try to meet face to face with each voter, but this year she had to adjust.

“I just think it’s important that people see you, know you, can get in touch with you,” Dietrich said. “We say we’re transparent and engaged. I think that’s one way you prove it, you’re out walking the district, and if somebody wants to talk to you, there you are, I’m right here.”

Rucker, the incumbent after filling the seat when Vicki Schmidt became Kansas Insurance Commissioner, said he’s knocking on doors in an effort to talk with voters.

“We are not just conducting a door-to-door lit drop,” Rucker said.

But there are still many voters that aren’t opening their doors because they don’t feel safe yet.

“You’re dropping a lot of literature and basically saying, sorry that you’ve missed one another, but you hope they have time to read the material that you leave, and at least that gives them some insight,” Rucker said.

Cancelled debates, forums, parades and other ways voters could meet with candidates has made getting their message out to voters harder.

“You really just need to introduce yourself to folks, but you can’t in the COVID-19 environment that we’re in,” Dietrich said. “You don’t have town halls, we’re not having any kind of forums at the library, so it’s kind of hard to get people to get to know you.”

Rucker said his 2020 campaign is different than what was originally planned.

“With regard to events, our concern, it’s been radically changed, because there aren’t the typical events either on the public forum side, the debates or an interplay between the candidates. That has been changed because of, again, of gathering size,” Rucker said.

“It has altered the gathering side, both for fundraising as well as public gatherings to learn information and to compare and contrast the candidates,” he said.

Rucker and Dietrich said social media is a big tool to reach voters this year.

The Wabaunsee County Republican Party will hold a forum on July 8 where candidates, including Rucker and Dietrich, can differentiate themselves.

The winner of the primary will take on Democrat Rachel Willis in November.

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