The coronavirus pandemic is touching everything — including the way people run for office.

“It’s the world none of us have ever experienced," Jamaal Bowman, a congressional candidate in New York's 16th District, said at a recent Zoom event.

No more door-knocking.

No more leafleting.

And definitely, no more handshaking.

What’s known as retail campaigning feels like a relic of the past, with remote gatherings the new normal.

On Suraj Patel’s campaign website, the link to grab coffee with him leads to a calendar to schedule a phone call with him.

“The irony of this thing is because so many people are at home and craving social contact, the ability to get people to join a Zoom call at a moment’s notice is significantly easier than when people were busy," said Patel, a congressional candidate in New York's 12th District.

And because all candidates are now campaigning online, it helps to be innovative. Lauren Ashcraft livestreams herself talking policy while making meals and playing video games.

“If we can take an hour and make lunch together or take an hour and play ‘Fortnite’ as a team, it serves a lot of different purposes because I do answer people’s questions there," said Ashcraft, also a 12th District candidate.

Patel, Ashcraft, and Peter Harrison are running against Manhattan House Member Carolyn Maloney.

Even as congressional challengers churn out digital content, their audiences are paltry compared to the national one tuning into incumbents at work.

“… to promote the most efficient, effective, equitable and transparent mobilization in history in response to this deadly crisis," Maloney said on the House floor on April 23.

“Small businesses in my district are desperate for assistance," Rep. Jerry Nadler said on that same day.

Lindsey Boylan is seeking to unseat Nadler in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

She says she’s found the crisis has made voters more receptive.

“People don’t want to have to worry about their government when they don’t have to," said Boylan, a 10th District candidate. “And unfortunately now, we all have to worry about our government.”

The other Nadler challenger is Jonathan Herzog, who live-streams his weekly interview show across four social media platforms.

“Hello! And welcome back to Digital Dialectics," he greeted in a recent recording.

One traditional campaign staple still central in the time of COVID-19 has been phone banking.

The calls and texts often serve the dual purpose of promoting a campaign while conducting wellness checks on voters who are, after all, their neighbors.

Nine of the city’s 12 House Democrats are facing challengers in June 23 primaries.

These elections are unprecedented, with New Yorkers being urged to vote by absentee ballot to reduce the risks associated with in-person voting.


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