A quiet day for one Republican volunteer

Grace Padron at Leewood Elementary School. Photo by Natalie A. Goenaga

Not everyone wants to hear the 'other side'

Grace Padron, 29, stood under an aluminum breeze way outside the pale yellow buildings of Leewood Elementary School in the southern part of Miami-Dade County.  She had been there all day in her white T-shirt and jeans and big sunglasses, hoping to rally support for a Republican candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. It was Election Day 2012.  She had brought along a stack of glossy brochures when she arrived at the school at 7 A.M. and by early evening she still had most of them.  Surprisingly few people had decided to vote at Leewood  Elementary.

The low turn out at the school, in a residential section with lots of homes near The Falls shopping mall, was hard for Padron to reconcile.   “This election, I feel, is one of the most important in my lifetime because the country is at such a turning point,” she said. “I feel that things are pretty dire right now; everyone should feel empowered, whatever party you’re in, to do something.”

Padron is a free lance writer. Her “something” was to support Republican candidates running for local and state offices.  She campaigned at five polling stations  throughout the eight days of early voting.  A member of the Miami Young Republicans, Padron returned on Election Day to complete the job.

The quiet at Leewood Elementary was a  sharp contrast to Padron’s early-voting experience. At several polling places in the voting before Election Day, it  had been pretty hectic. One thing she learned, she said, was that being a campaign worker involved talking to people who did not necessarily want to listen.

On her first day of campaigning at the West Dade Regional Library, some voters rejected the  Republican ballot guide she had handed them, she said.  “People were ripping out the opposition’s signs, throwing them at each other as if they were boomerangs,” Padron said. “They were threatening to hit each other.”

She said one polling place in Coral Gables  was like “a circus.”  People were selling food and water. Republicans and Democrats stood on opposite sides of a corner screaming and threatening each other. She said there was a commotion in the parking lot and two cars banged into each other.

Padron said she participated in early voting this year. She said she was dissatisfied  with how the country had been run the past four years. She said things like 401k’s and investing in the stock market affected her personally.

“This is the change we need, not the last four years,” said Padron, who started the Florida International University’s Republicans Club.

In “this emotionally charged election,” Padron noted that the environment was one of the issues that candidates seemed to have neglected.  And, she said, it deserved attention.  “Let’s face it, if we don’t take care of the environment, we’re not going to have anything to live off or vote for,” Padron said. “I think it is important and I think it would be wise to look into how we can use our resources like oil because it does affect the economy.”



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