July 2018: Remembering Tim Cannon

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July 30

Tim Cannon

What happened in my campaign in July?

For one thing, I couldn’t find time to write a diary entry until today, July 30. As of today, this month, I knocked on just 944 doors, even though I’ve gone out almost every single day. I’m not on a fast-enough pace to reach my goal of 10,000 by the end of October. I don’t see how I can pick it up much because I’m only good for three to four hours a day of canvassing, and I need to do so many other campaign-related things in the day.

But, on the positive side, the canvassing is slower because I’ve gotten better at engaging folks in longer conversations. So, I’m making fewer but richer contacts than I when I started.

Also, on July 8, my friend Tim Cannon went for a hike and didn’t come home. Despite intensive searching, his body wasn’t found until July 27.

I’d known Tim for close to thirty years, since our children were young. Tim was an early contributor to my campaign, and he was the first person to volunteer to canvass with me. We went out together, canvassing in Norwood, on May 3, and again in Montrose on May 8. It was canvassing with Tim that showed me how valuable it is to canvass with a companion.

Tim offered more than companionship. He offered solidarity. He also endorsed me, telling people that he knew I’d do a good job if elected because he’d known me for 25 years as a newspaper publisher.

“Seth really cares about the community,” Tim said.

Tim often responded to my campaign emails, and in late June, during a period when I wrote about the difficulties of canvassing, he replied that next time we canvassed he wanted to hit one of the most difficult, heavily Trump-supporting areas.

“We’ll have to talk about that,” I replied. “I have just decided not to go to those places.”

We were scheduled to canvass together on July 6. When I emailed to confirm, he replied that he had to cancel and we would reschedule for later in the month. He asked me to send him a link to my opponent’s website.  Not an hour later, he sent another email.

Marc Catlin “does not emit an image of caring, progressive, in touch with a changing demographic in Western Colorado,” Tim wrote.

“Education, Insurance, Cultural Integration and Natural Resources are your Issues, but what separates you from Marc is that you have been a man serving the public as a private/independent news man. You ran a business with your own money, made payroll, worked with your wife, raised a son, chartered a school for alternative education (which I disagreed with, but many totally support). You are beyond connected through print and electronic media to the people of Western Colorado, you feel their issues on a heart level…and can implement, through clear decisive objectives that bring people together that would otherwise not agree and thus not deal with those issues.

“Your priorities are education and healthcare first. These are cornerstone issues in our communities. While you can agree with Marc that natural resources and transportation are important issues everywhere, we all acknowledge that without increased funding for schools and equal basis insurance with the eastern slope of Colorado, we will not be providing the foundation for healthy, happy and productive families.”

Two days later, Tim, age 55, went on the hike from which he did not return.

Of course, the big lesson is what always enters my mind when someone dies young: that life is contingent and can end for any of us at any moment. Our death completes our biography. Tim was in the high country he loved when maybe he was struck by lightning or maybe he just slipped and fell. I will always remember that he had chosen to engage in politics in the last few weeks of his life, joining in the difficult work of talking to his neighbors in Southwestern Colorado about our shared future. I am struck that he wanted to talk to those who are most fully committed to Trump. He imagined he would be able to reach at least some of them and draw them to a place of common ground.

I have now been joined by another dozen or so friends while canvassing, most of them new friends, people I’ve met during the campaign. Some days of canvassing are easier than others. It depends on the neighborhood and the serendipity of whom you meet. Every day of canvassing brings exposure to dozens of strangers who vary widely in how they greet us. There is, always for me, at least, when I knock on a door, a moment of trepidation. Will this door be answered by a friendly person, someone who is distracted or disinterested, or someone who is angry? Will it be someone who tells me that they think Trump is doing a great job? Or someone who is terrified of where the country is headed with Trump as President?  All of these things happen every day.

When Tim was at my side, and now with the other great people who have joined me, the situation has been more manageable, no matter what response we receive from the person behind the door.

All of this, of course, says nothing about how effective it is to canvass, or to campaign, or to run for office. Who knows?  In the end, we do all of these things, because in this most uncertain period of American history, with everything we care about seemingly at risk – the future of our democracy, the future of our planet – it’s the best we can do.

Running hard as an unapologetic Democrat in a heavily Republican district is counter-intuitive at best, but then I think of the many heroes, in American history, some of them famous and many more unsung, who stood up for unpopular causes and made history-changing progress: abolitionists, suffragettes, labor organizers, integrationists in the Deep South, anti-war activists during the Vietnam War, and now, those of us who feel we must resist the authoritarianism, bigotry and reality distortions of Donald Trump.

There are a hundred days left. I will keep knocking.

“Everybody thinks what I’m doing is amazing,” I said to my wife a few days ago. “But nobody thinks it’s good politics.”

We laughed at the absurdity of it.