Pounding the hustings for votes


They say that all politics is local, and one Alexandria family got really local for their favorite presidential candidate, Democratic front-runner Barack Obama.

Along with the steady snowfall, spirited campaign workers and jaded political pundits that descended on Iowa for the presidential caucuses last week was Don Beyer, his wife Megan, and their two teen daughters Grace and Clara.

The family left their home in Old Town the day after Christmas to set up their mini campaign headquarters at the Fairfield Inn in Ottumwa, Iowa (population:10,000).

While other Old Towners were sipping champagne and ringing in the New Year, the Beyers were donning long johns and snow boots to go streetwalking for Obama in Americas heartland. Everybody wanted to go to Des Moines (the state capital), but we asked to go to a small town where we could really make a big difference, said Don Beyer, Virginias former lieutenant governor who runs Volvo and Land Rover dealerships in Alexandria and Falls Church.

Over a ten-day period, the Beyers knocked on about 400 doors, handed out thousands of flyers and made phone calls for seven straight days. 

On the morning of the caucus Jan. 3, the Beyers started their day at 7 am in 2 degree temperatures to hold signs on street corners for the morning rush. They drove voters to the polls and helped out around the campaign office in Ottumwa. 
When all the caucus votes were counted Thursday night, Obama finished with a solid lead over rivals John Edwards and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who finished second and third, respectively.

The winning outcome did not surprise the Beyers one bit. We knew things were looking good for us, because when we went into neighborhoods, the only people out were Barack supporters like us, said Megan Beyer.

Politics is nothing new to the Beyers. Don was serving as lieutenant governor of Virginia by the time he was 38, and Megan covered the political beat as a broadcast journalist for a Richmond TV station. 

After their close friend, Old Town neighbor and former Governor Mark Warner suddenly left the presidential race in 2006, the Beyers grappled over whom to support. It was a struggle between the head and the heart; Hillary appealed to the head, but Barack was in our hearts, Don Beyer said.

Megan Beyer admitted she knew very little about the newly minted senator from Illinois, but after hearing him speak at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, she became electrified. After reading his book, The Audacity of Hope, they found him inspirational, not beholden to special interests and attractive to young people.

When the Beyers finally met Obama, they found him warm and natural. I put out my hand and said Nice to meet you senator, but he just threw his arms around me and asked me to call him Barack, remembers Don.

The Beyers wasted little time getting in getting on the campaign train. They held their first fundraiser for Obama in March, 2006 which raised $250,000, and motivated other friends to host events in Northern Virginia.

Don Beyer now serves as Mid-Atlantic Finance Chair for the campaign and Megan is on the steering committee for Women for Obama, both volunteer positions.

On Jan. 14, the couple will serve on the host committee for an event headlining former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig in Shirlington. 

After the pivotal victory in Iowa, the Beyers are not resting.  Megan Beyer is heading to Nevada for the Democratic primary on Jan. 19. But this time shes bringing along some unlikely Obama recruits. Im taking a couple of Republican women with meThey love Barack. 

The audacity of hopeput into practice.