A man knocking on an open door with a blue shirt. He is smiling and is wearing a campaign tag. The background is a brick house and a dark sky.
Gabriel Sanchez, a candidate for the Georgia House of Representatives, canvasses frequently with his volunteers to gain voter support. He hopes to represent District 42 after the elections in May. (Grace Salley/Fresh Take Georgia)

“I want to be able to give people hope again that we can actually change things,” said Gabriel Sanchez, a Democratic candidate for the Georgia House of Representatives. 

From growing up during the 2008 recession and going to school with Trayvon Martin, Sanchez said he’s always felt a pull to public service and his community. But Sanchez or any other political candidate can’t just decide to run; they must adhere to the state’s qualification process.  

Sanchez is running as a Democrat in District 42, which includes Smyrna, parts of Fair Oaks and Dobbins Air Force Base. This district is located in Cobb County and is currently represented by incumbent Teri Anulewicz who has been the representative since 2017. Anulewicz is also running for reelection this year. 

Andrew Pieper, who has a doctorate in political science and is a professor of political science at Kennesaw State University, said most of the public doesn’t think about how politicians run for office, regardless of what position they are running for. 

“I don’t think most people who even follow politics know what those campaigns are like,” he said. 

It can be difficult to gain community loyalty, so how do candidates win support from the electorate before election day?

After any candidate is deemed qualified to run, they should put their efforts into gathering support for their campaign. The more media attention the candidate has, the better, Pieper said, adding most people don’t know who their representatives are, despite how long the representatives may have been in office. 

“I think consistently canvassing is the most effective way to get someone to vote for you,” Sanchez said. “But it isn’t always the most efficient way.” 

Sanchez said his campaign works well because he has more than 50 volunteers. He said sending mail to the voters also works for candidates with more money. 

Mason Cochran works as a volunteer canvasser for Sanchez’s campaign. On a typical day, all the canvassers and Sanchez will meet at a specific spot before being split into pairs. 

Using MiniVAN, an app that assigns houses to canvass and records interactions to gauge the homeowner’s level of support, canvassers start speaking to people. Once they’ve finished their list, the information goes to the campaign office, and they’re done for the day. 

“Actually talking to people is incredibly important,” Cochran said. 

Sanchez’s campaign has already overcome numerous challenges, including soliciting donations. 

“Having to fundraise is very difficult because you’re just having to ask people for money all of the time, which can be very draining,” he said. “But it’s important because in order to do the things you want to do, you need the money to do it.”

One aspect that sets Sanchez apart from his competitors is he doesn’t accept any funding from corporation or PACS. He said although that may be easier, he never wants someone to expect to have favors down the line. However, it does make it more difficult to raise the money he needs. 

Luckily, he said, he does have supportive donors, so they’ve been successful. So far, the campaign has raised around $36,000, with most donations either being around $25 or $42, symbolizing their district. 

“We may not be able to out-raise my opponent, but I think we can out-organize her,” he said. 

The process of getting elected with an organized team has changed substantially in the last few decades, Pieper said. The level of organization expected in the campaign has increased and there are more professional practices on the state level. 

Pieper originally compared campaigns 30 to 40 years ago to a mom-and-pop, nonprofessional affair with a team composed of a few volunteers and family members. Now, almost all race levels have been systemized to employ professionals on their teams. The increased media attention candidates want is to appeal to a large voter base. 

Along with the rise of professionalism, the difference in technology plays a large role.

“A lot of U.S. House races 30 or 40 years ago did not run television campaigns,” he said. “Now, everyone does. They have to.” 

Sanchez said his involvement and engagement acts as the biggest piece of his commitment. He doesn’t want to only be near his constituents during the election year.

“What I’m going to do is I’m going to be an organizer in the community who is there all the time,” he said. “It doesn’t matter when.”

“It’s incredibly important that you engage with the political process in a way that doesn’t make you feel bad,” canvasser Cochran said. “And what that translates to is things that give you fulfillment and things that you can control.”

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