Riverside women aid in far west Congressional upset

Local residents canvassed for Democrat Lauren Underwood

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By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

Lindsay Morrison first met Lauren Underwood more than a year ago at a small fundraiser at the Old Towne Pub in Geneva. 

The Riverside resident was invited by friend, Mary O'Connor, who lived in St. Charles to meet an unknown 30-year-old black woman who was running for Congress in the far west suburban, traditionally Republican and overwhelmingly white 14th Congressional District.

Morrison came away impressed with Underwood.

"I thought when I met her, 'Oh my God, she's a great, smart person,'" Morrison recalled two days after Underwood won a Congressional seat by defeating four-term incumbent Randy Hultgren. "I'm so excited she's a nurse and she was authentic; she's stepping up as a regular person."

Morrison became an unofficial emissary for the Underwood campaign in Riverside and ultimately a number of local women became energetic volunteers for Underwood, ringing doorbells, canvassing voters and contributing to her surprising victory.

Interested in politics, policy, and government since she first volunteered in a local race as a teenager in her home town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Morrison has stepped up her activism since the election of Donald Trump as president two years ago. 

She became an early member of what is now known as Indivisible West Suburban Action League and this spring volunteered on the unsuccessful 4th Congressional District primary campaign of Sol Flores. 

In addition to going door to door for Underwood this fall, she also canvassed her Riverside neighborhood for Democratic County Board candidate Abdelnasser Rashid, who lost a close race to incumbent Sean Morrison (no relation). 

Morrison went canvassing about four times in the 14th District ringing doorbells in Naperville, Oswego, Plano, and Shorewood but her biggest contribution might have been recruiting other local women to volunteer for Underwood and go out canvassing. 

"I didn't go every weekend, but a big piece of it was me talking to people here and getting them excited and comfortable about going canvassing," Morrison said. "I know like-minded people who I thought would be excited about her because of what she stands for."

One of them was Amy Jacksic. Like Morrison, Jacksic also was struck by Underwood's seeming ordinariness, and that she was not a career politician. 

"I thought this is a really different kind of candidate," Jacksic said.

Jacksic also has long been politically aware, having volunteered for Bill Clinton when she was a college student at Colgate University. 

In addition to going door to door for Underwood, local women wrote postcards to voters about Underwood and sent text messages to voters. 

And they went door to door, repeatedly.

The face-to-face conversation with a voter on the doorstep is considered by many the most effective manner of persuading voters.

Jacksic went out canvassing with Morrison a few times. 

"She's an awesome canvasser, she can flip anybody," Jacksic said of Morrison.

The canvassing was very targeted, using voter lists generated by the Underwood campaign and a smart phone app, not just random door knocking.

"We always knew whose door we were knocking on," Jacksic said. "It was very calculated."

The fact that Underwood was a woman also inspired local women to work for her. And that she was young, a woman of color, and a first-time candidate only added to her appeal.

"It's pretty important," Morrison said of Underwood being a woman. "We certainly haven't had the kind of representation we need in Congress. We haven't had people of color and we haven't had young people, and that was really important to me."

Jacksic had a further bond with Underwood because they both suffer from pre-existing conditions that could make obtaining health insurance difficult or impossible without the Affordable Care Act.

"In the past few years it was clear that the Republicans were not serious at all about health care policy," Jacksic said. "She represented what I feel a participatory democracy should be. The average person taking it upon herself to try to do what she thinks is right."

Morrison and Jacksic said that their work with Underwood was probably the most involved they have been on a campaign. Seeing Underwood win on Nov. 6 made it all worthwhile. 

"Did I myself create a lot of turnout and get a lot of votes? No, but … did I encourage other people here and around me to get involved and each of us maybe brought a couple dozen votes? That all adds up for a candidate and a district," Morrison said.

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