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Some pandemic-related campaigning changes could be here to stay

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This is Doran Moreland’s first time as a candidate on the ballot, but he has plenty of experience helping run some more high-profile campaigns in the past.

Moreland, a candidate for an at-large seat on the Washington Township school board, worked on former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson’s campaign as an undergraduate student and later worked for former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh.

Some of the basics remain. He still walks house to house, but now Moreland has to be cognizant of health boundaries made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some people prefer to talk through the door, and others would rather have a conversation in the yard.

Moreland has even talked into people’s video doorbells to tell them about his campaign. Of course, that was possible pre-pandemic, but Moreland said he probably wouldn’t have thought of doing that during normal times.

Candidates for office have had to change their campaign styles heading into the general election, and some of the new features — candidate-themed face masks, for example — are probably one-and-done. Other things have proven to be useful, though.

Leisa Lane learned the importance of pivoting toward a digital approach to politics through her work as vice president of the Decatur Township Democratic Club. The club used to just cancel meetings if the winter weather got too bad, but the pandemic made them realize all they had to do was set up Zoom meetings instead.

Lane, who is also a candidate for the Decatur Township Board in District 3, has carried that mentality to her campaign and in her efforts to help other Democrats get elected.

Belinda Drake, a Democratic candidate for state Senate in District 32, thinks fundraising is something that could permanently change.

“I think virtual fundraising has worked to our advantage because it saves you money on the actual fundraisers,” she said.

Some candidates may cut back on or ditch the physical venues altogether if they’re able to pull a similar fundraising haul virtually. There would likely be differences in how effective that method is depending on the size of the race, but it’s a possibility going forward.

The whole virtual model will probably be more prominent in future elections. There have been plenty of virtual town halls and forums, and even though the technical glitches can be annoying, it’s an opportunity to reach a wider audience.

“Politics is always about people,” Moreland said, “but it’s just going to make reaching people virtually more and more important.” 

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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