With 100 percent of the precincts and pantries reporting, Democrats Work can declare the winner of the first-ever "Coats and Cans Primary." While there was a candidate who got the most votes, the real winners were the members of the community who donated and received more than 400 coats and a staggering three quarters of a ton of food to local charities and the beneficiaries of that generosity.
Yes, Jared Polis and his supporters deserve congratulations for collecting the most coats and cans of the three Democrats running for Mark Udall's soon-to-be-empty congressional seat. In this first-of-its-kind straw poll that asked voters to donate canned goods and winter coats in support of their favorite candidate, Polis finished with 1,903 total votes, including 983 cans (which counted for one vote each) and 184 coats (which counted for five votes each). While we won't know the predictive value of cans of creamed corn or Chunky Soup until the "real" Colorado primary in August 2008, we do know this: thanks to the giving spirit of Polis's supporters and those of Joan Fitz-Gerald (1123 votes) and Will Shafroth (559 votes), hundreds of our less fortunate neighbors in Broomfield, Boulder, and Summit Counties will now have warmth and sustenance, and, hopefully, a more enjoyable holiday season.
No, the "Coats and Cans Primary" didn't get as much attention as the amounts of money these candidates raised this year. All three of them have topped the charts as some of the best Congressional fundraisers in the nation. But think about the possibility of more benevolent primaries - and more charitable "money chases" -- being held in all 435 of the country's Congressional districts.
Let's assume we won't always get as many donated coats and cans as we got in Colorado, even though the Colorado polling took place in frigid temperatures and harsh conditions. But say voters contributed an average of 200 coats and 1000 pounds of food in each of the 435 districts. Congressional races would generate 87,000 coats and 218 tons of food for charities across the country. We're just saying...
While Democrats Work is a long way from being able to tally up all those coats and cans, we have accomplished more than we could have imagined in our first year.
Aside from the Coats and Cans Primary, we have committed more than 700 volunteer hours to community service in Colorado and over 3,200 hours nationwide. Over 1200 blue-shirted Democrats Work volunteers have cleaned up and improved neighborhoods, parks, rivers, and lakes in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Nebraska, and Nevada. They helped rebuild part of New Orleans and stepped up after the wildfires in Southern California. They have supported public schools in Arkansas, California, and New York, taught at-risk youth how to play soccer in Colorado, and made care packages for our troops in Iraq and back-to-school backpacks for our troops' children living in Texas. I spent last Saturday with 20 other Democrats wrapping presents for foster kids in Atlanta. And though it is mid-December, we're not even close to done.
Oklahoma and Kansas are not typically thought of as Democratic areas, but Democrats Work will make its first foray into these Heartland states in the coming days, building a house with Habitat for Humanity in Oklahoma City on Saturday and volunteering at a Christmas giveaway in Wichita next Tuesday. And with this type of 50-state strategy, it is impossible to lose.