From School Boards to the Senate, All Politics Is Virus Politics in 2020
The coronavirus pandemic upended Pamela Walsh’s life. It shut down her office, leaving her working at home from a folding table. It forced her to turn her dining room into a Zoom classroom for her 7-year-old son. And the virus propelled a still more unlikely change: It led Walsh to run for public office.
“It wasn’t even on my radar screen,” said Walsh, 47, a political adviser in Concord, New Hampshire, who has long worked for Democrats but never before considered seeking elective office herself. Months of supervising elementary school lessons from home, with little idea of when her son would return to school, convinced Walsh that she should vie for a seat on her local school board.
“I decided I needed a voice like mine on the board,” Walsh said in a phone interview.“Everyone is struggling right now a bit and needs to be represented by how these policies impact real families.”
By some measure, all politics is virus politics in 2020, and the federal government’s handling of COVID-19 has become an explosive issue in the presidential race, which has been further complicated by President Donald Trump’s own hospitalization for the virus.
Yet around the nation, there are local and state races in which the pandemic has also taken an outsize role. In some cases, the virus has been the reason for running; in others, handling of the pandemic has become the defining issue, eclipsing ordinary matters of taxes and services.
The virus — and the government’s response to it — has inspired parents, hair salon owners and others to run for the first time, turned sleepy races into competitive matches and injected a level of unpredictability and rancor into normally tranquil down-ballot contests.
“This is an issue that no one expected to be one of the pillars of this election, but it has clearly become one,” said Robert Griffin, research director for the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, which is partnering with academics at UCLA to poll about 6,000 Americans each week leading up to the election.
Restrictions to control the spread of the virus — or the lack of such restrictions — have become motivating factors in races of all sizes.
文／Sarah Mervosh and Manny Fernandez 譯／李京倫 核稿／樂慧生