Helen came to her first FLIP NC event last July – our 99 Days to FLIP NC! event at Motorco – after seeing information pop up on her Facebook feed. Since then, she has canvassed with us about 10 times and recently joined our newly formed four-person Wake Leadership Team. They already have two canvasses under their belt (and more are scheduled – sign up!).
A Durham resident, Helen grew up in southern Wake County and works at Biogen as a manager in the patient services department. She and her husband Glenn are parents to an adorable 5-year-old, Nate. Helen has been politically engaged since the 2008 election but only volunteered a few times per election cycle back then. After the 2016 election, like many others, she realized that she had to get more involved. In addition to her work with FLIP NC, she is the team lead for Headcount in the Raleigh/Durham area.
Here, a Q&A with Helen.
What has surprised you most about canvassing?
How willing people are to have a real conversation about local politics with a stranger on their front porch! Canvassing sounds scary – I get it! For some it comes naturally, but I will admit it does not come like that for me! It’s a struggle to overcome this fear and walk up to a stranger’s door and ask for their time. But it's worth it. It gets results, and you are making a difference. You can do it, and you may even enjoy it, but even if you never learn to love it, you will love the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a turf, from having a really great conversation, and, most importantly, when you see the work of this organization pay off on election night!
Do you like to recruit a friend or relative to sign up to canvass with you, or do you prefer to be paired with a stranger to add to the fun?
I prefer someone new each time! I love meeting new people, and it's a really good learning experience to hear how different FLIPsters approach these conversations.
If you've participated in other canvasses, how are FLIP NC canvasses different?
I canvassed once in 2008 for Obama during GOTV, but this experience with FLIP is unique and totally different. I love the messaging and goals of FLIP, and it's great to be able to engage with people about their local elections. People who we speak with get excited when they learn they really can make a different in their local representation, and it's very motivating.
Have a funny story or touching moment to share?
My favorite conversation leading up to 2018 was with a young college-age woman I spoke with who really didn't know anything about politics. She wanted to vote but was having a hard time understanding who to vote for and why. She didn't identify with any particular "side" and was feeling overwhelmed. My canvassing partner and I were able to talk with her about the supermajority in the NCGA, and she was really interested in that, and while she wasn't sure what side she was on, she did know that she didn't want anyone to have that much unchecked power. By the time we left, she was really energized about breaking the supermajority. We had worked out her voting plan, and she was going to drag her twin sister with her and share the information we'd given her. When we walked away from her door, it really felt like we were making a difference.
What's your top canvassing tip?
It can't be overstated how effective it is to stay WAY BACK from the door!
Why have you decided to step into a larger role this election cycle as part of FLIP NC’s Wake Leadership Team?
I want to make a difference. I want to get off the sidelines. I don't want to wake up after another election ever again and feel like I could have done more. So when I was asked to support Wake County in more of a leadership role, I said yes!
What is really motivating you to get involved? Obviously, you want to FLIP NC, but tell us a bit about the "why."
I want to bring democracy back to NC. When our elected leaders aren't reflective of the people that live in this state, it's unacceptable. We should all be marching in the streets every day. It’s outrageous that the NCGA continues to enact laws and pass bills that they know a majority of North Carolinians do not support, and that rather than look inward at how they can gain the support of the people, they try to make it more difficult to vote them out. It makes me angry, and I want to channel that anger into a productive outlet.
How are you feeling about the 2020 election? Optimistic?
I will never be optimistic about another election ever again. I think that optimism can lead to complacency, so for me personally, I prepare for the worst so that I'll (hopefully) be pleasantly surprised!
Other than politics, what’s a passion of yours?
I love to read, and I try really hard to never miss my monthly book club meeting.
Who do you admire in politics? Why?
I admire any politician who is willing to take the hard vote even knowing it may cost them an election. We passed the Affordable Care Act and then lost the House back in 2012, and so many of the Dems at that time knew that was likely to happen and did it because it was right. I think we need more of that.
What would you say to someone who is feeling totally dejected by our current state of politics? And how do you stay in the fight?
I read this on Twitter the other day, and it really spoke to me, so I'll share it here. There is value in politics, and those in power love apathy for a reason, and it's not because it benefits you.
"You're ‘just not that into politics’?
Your boss is. Your landlord is. Your insurance company is. And every day they use their political power to keep your pay low, raise your rent, and deny you coverage. It’s time to get into politics."