John Cranley is hoping to knock on more doors in the coming week than any mayor in Cincinnati’s history, as he attempts to avoid being unseated by Councilwoman Yvette Simpson.
In separate interviews last Friday, Cranley and Simpson both said their campaign teams are working around the clock to convince voters to head to the polls Nov. 7.
“This will be the largest get-out-the-vote effort in the history of a mayoral campaign,” Cranley said, promising that his team will knock on 11,500 doors in the final days before the election.
“We’re going back to the people who said they would be voting for us to really encourage them,” Cranley said. “To ask if they have a plan to vote, when they will vote … and to have that conversation at the doorstep.”
And Simpson’s team plans on making 80,000 phone calls – double the number of calls made in the days before the May primary -- and visiting thousands of doorsteps to encourage turnout among their voters.
“If we can knock every door in the city of Cincinnati, we will,” said Simpson’s campaign field director, Nelson Pierce. “We’re going to be as close to everywhere as possible.”
The race for mayor essentially began in August 2016 when Simpson announced that she would challenge Cranley to lead the city. More than 14 months of campaigning followed, and now Cranley and Simpson are entering the most crucial time – get-out-the-vote week.
“Its everything,” Cranley said. “We didn’t do a good job of getting our voters to the primary. We have done everything we can in the last six months to run a better campaign and get our voters to the polls.”
With a “people powered” ground game, Simpson scored an unexpected and embarrassing win in the May primary, beating Cranley by 11 points.
The big question: Can she duplicate that success on Election Day?
“We just want to win,” Simpson said. “I don’t need an 11-point win. We just need 51 percent of the vote.”
In the aftermath of that primary loss, Cranley revamped his entire campaign and began knocking on voter doors -- something he had never done in a large-scale way in his prior mayoral race.
Since May, Cranley and his campaign team have knocked on nearly 90,000 doors spanning every neighborhood in the city.
“That’s unprecedented,” said Cranley’s campaign manager Chandra Yungbluth.
His campaign steered away from phone banks until about a month ago, and pushed all of their resources into knocking on doors for six months.
“We got to every single neighborhood and every walkable door (not in a high rise or gated building), twice,” Cranley said. “If you’re a Cranley voter, whether you live in Walnut Hills or Over-the-Rhine, Price Hill or Mt. Washington, we’re coming back to you over the next 10 days.”
The Simpson campaign is just as focused on energizing its voters and making sure they turn out on Election Day.
Simpson expected a rally last Friday with hip hop artist Talib Kweli to attract 150 to 300 people, who were asked to sign up for volunteer shifts making phone calls, knocking on doors or giving rides to the polls on Election Day.
“It’s all about getting people to the polls,” said Simpson’s campaign manager Amanda Ford. “And making sure they’re not just getting out to vote, but they’re getting all of their friends and family out to vote.”
This week the Simpson campaign will be making a two-pronged effort to reach undecided voters, while also re-connecting with and motivating its base of support.
“In neighborhoods where we’re going to have overwhelming support like Avondale, Bond Hill, Roselawn, West End and Pleasant Ridge, we think we can get people who did not vote in last mayoral election to get out and vote,” Pierce said.
In these final days, Simpson’s team is also hoping to pick off some of Cranley’s primary voters in neighborhoods like Westwood.
“We’re going to have her (Simpson) canvassing, talking one on one with voters, she’ll also be going out to different events making sure voters see her in their community, not just at their doors,” Ford said.
Cranley also will be putting in face time with voters, visiting bowling alleys, grocery stores, breweries, restaurants and bingo halls across the city – anywhere he can meet large groups of people.
“Everywhere I can find people gathered, I’ll be there to shake hands,” Cranley said.
In addition to his core group of 50 volunteers, Cranley expects an additional 50 to 100 new volunteers to join the campaign this week. Even his wife, Dena Cranley, has been making phone calls to voters for several hours each day.
“It’s our job to give them a message and a vision that motivates them to get out and choose to us,” Cranley said. “Ultimately it’s a contest of ideas and a vision for the future.”
Simpson agreed, but she believes the momentum is on her side.
“Our voters are really energized," Simpson said. "I go down the street and people are blowing their horns … people are stopping me wherever I go."
If both Cranley and Simpson can energize their supporters to vote on Election Day, then the race may boil down to a smaller group of likely voters who are still undecided.
“There’s still some folks when we do door knocking, who are undecided … but they’re always open minded and that’s encouraging,” Simpson said. “That’s the challenge with the general electorate -- sometimes they wait until the last minute.”