Candidates like Alex Yudelson and Matt Toporowski are facing some unusual challenges during the pandemic.
Both are challenging long-time incumbents in New York’s June 23 primary election, but they’re doing it without the ubiquitous hand-shaking, chicken dinners, and baby-hugging that typifies campaigning in America. And the media, which in other years would be dissecting candidate polling and providing candidate profiles a month before the election, has been almost wholly focused on the pandemic.
“I get it,” said Toporowski, who is challenging long-time Albany County District Attorney David Soares. "They should be reporting on the crisis."
Yudelson is challenging incumbent Assemblyman Harry Bronson, a Democrat from the Rochester area.
“I don’t think anything replaces the sort of in-person door-to-door contact where you’re actually seeing the person face to face, and you can make a connection,” said Yudelson. “You know, all of the other modes of communication are a little less personal.”
Toporowski says he’s making the best of it.
“You’re in an office and you can make more phone calls, you can make more … text messages. You have more time to make contact that way,” he told Spectrum News.
Campaign filings are due this week, and while both say their campaigns are doing well financially, they have been sensitive to the limitations of asking for money during an economic downturn.
“It’s always hard to fundraise during a period like this as well. A lot of people are unemployed or lost their job or furloughed,” said Toporowski.
Yudelson says he's adapted his tactics to the situation.
“We’ve dialed back a little of the grassroots ‘asks’ for $5 and $10, because we understand that people are in lots of different financial situations,” Yudelson said, “and so I’ve been reaching out to people who I know are a little bit less impacted by the virus and its effects on the economy.”
But Yudelson says it’s more expensive to campaign this way.
“Frankly, not going door to door does make campaigns a little bit more expensive, because you have to focus more on mail and social media, and some of the other things that cost money,” he explained.
Another big unknown this year is absentee voting. Doing it by mail was opened to all New York voters this year, but you will need to check the “temporary illness” box on the application for your vote to count.
“We are in such unchartered waters,” said Toporowski. “First, we thought it would depress voter turnout. Then Bernie was off the ballot, and now Bernie is back on the ballot. What does that do to it? And so essentially, it’s hard to tell.”
Yudelson agrees it’s unpredictable.
“Who is going to fill out the application and return it when one has been mailed to every single Democrat? We certainly hope that will lead to an increase in turnout,” he said.