One very tight race . . .
On Friday, October 29, Generation Joshua Student Action Team leaders Doug Price and Amy Clawson welcomed and quickly organized their incoming team, which consisted of 20 students (ages 13 19) mostly from Illinois and Indiana, along with one parent. Over the next two days, the team focused on literature drops to thousands of homes. Then they helped with phone banking, envelope labeling, sign waving, and cheering for Republican challenger Sodrel as he campaigned around Indiana's 9th district on Monday, November 1.
Although new to politics, Mike Sodrel is an experienced businessman who launched his own trucking and busing companies. His local community, in which he is very active, basically pushed him to run for Congress, Clawson said.
Both Price and Clawson were impressed with Sodrel's conservative positions. "He's very knowledgeable, too, about the history of freedom," Clawson added. "He has copies of the Constitution printed up and hands them out for free."
Sam Wamsley, Grassroots Coordinator for Sodrel, said that the candidate was equally impressed with the GenJ students. "[Sodrel] spent quite a bit of time discussing the district and discussing government with them. Sodrel took Generation Joshua kids on a bus tour and when he opened up for questions, he was amazedthey asked him the most difficult questions he had to address in the entire campaign. He was really impressed."
|Mike Sodrel, candidate for the 9th congressional district in Indiana, gets to know members of the Student Action Teams aboard his campaign bus.|
A highlight for GenJ team member Brandt Byfield (19) of Paoli, Indiana, was "when we talked to people at the polls and then they changed their mindsor made up their minds more firmly for Sodrel. They actually went in and voted for him. I learned that you can make a difference and it's never too late [to impact a person's vote]."
Wamsley added his own praise for the GenJ students: "I just can't tell you how encouraging their dedication and hard work is. When they arrived, I was pulled aside by two or three staff members who said, Wow, all those people are coming out to help us?' The kids were just very exciting to have around."
"The key word of the campaign was flexibility," Price said. "That's probably what the kids and I learned the most. Alright, we may have said we were doing this, but now everything has totally changed and we're going out and doing this.'"
"It was very humbling for me," Clawson admitted. "I didn't know the area, I didn't have a vehicle, and even if I had had a vehicle I wouldn't have known where to go. I was completely at the mercy and generosity of the campaign and people we were staying with. It was also a scary experience being the leader and at the same time feeling lost. But everything worked out."
|Students spent the evening hours of November 1 carrying the momentum.|
"It stretches you as a person," agreed Price. "You can't go and just live your normal life on a campaign; you've got to be willing to do almost anything at any time of day."
Price and Clawson both felt that participating in Sodrel's campaign brought to life the effectiveness of grassroots work. "I can honestly say that Generation Joshua affected thousands of votersand we only won by 1,400 votes, so we definitely played a big role in this race," Price said. "I don't know if Sodrel would have lost without us there, but the margin of victory would have been a lot slimmer had we not been there actively working. This is the first major mobilization of Generation Joshua, but it's very promising."
Clawson added, "It shows that grassroots campaigning at the lowest level, the nitty-gritty, the door-to-door, the shaking handsthat is what gets people to the polls, that is what makes campaigns successful. And it shows that a very small group of people can have a very large impact. Working on campaigns, even though it's hard work and it's not always funthat's really what it takes to win an election. And it shows that individuals can make a difference."
"There's something disarming about opening the door and seeing a young kid, versus an adult, standing there," Price observed. "I think people were more receptive because of seeing this young, fresh face . . . how many people really slam the door on the Girl Scout cookies? It's the same thing. This might seem silly, but really it's important to show the public that there is another generation that is concerned about the well-being of the nation."
|Students walked many miles across town during "lit drops."|
When asked if she would recommend Generation Joshua to other teens, Byfield responded enthusiastically, "Oh, yes, definitely! I'm working on signing up two more friends right now. It was amazing all the stuff that I learned and experienced: getting out and talking to people and expressing your views . . . You really find out what you stand on and what you believe."
"The most memorable moment," Byfield continued, "was the night after the elections when we were at the party. Everyone was talking and all the TVs were on, and Keta Sodrel [Mike Sodrel's wife] was sitting in the back praying. And it just really brought back that it was God who was in control, just that she was taking the time to pray when all this was going on. That really impacted me."