Ed Malles for Justice Of The Peace Mesa ArizonaThis is the eighth time I’ve run for public office in the North Mesa Justice Precinct.

I am a confirmed door-to-door campaigner. Without a doubt campaigning door-to-door during the global COVID-19 pandemic has had a set of challenges, the likes of which I could not have possibly imagined!

I started collecting petition signatures right before there was an understanding of how serious things were going to get. Each and every day I noticed the people were more and more reticent to open their doors, and even more reticent to sign my petition.

Over time, I found that I had to spend about 50% more time collecting signatures to get the same results I did four years ago. It was very stressful! I reached a point where I even worried if I was going to be able to collect enough signatures.

A number of people asked me if they could sign my petition online, but that is not something afforded to candidates for a County office currently.

I had to make a lot of adaptations along the way to make people feel comfortable signing my petitions. Here are some of those adaptations.

When I got ready for the campaign season I purchased saddlebags for my mountain bike. They had a lot of extra pockets which I thought I would NEVER use. Little did I know that I would end up using them for rubber gloves. The new gloves on one side, and the used gloves on the other side.

Whenever I would encounter a gate with a handle I would put a fresh glove on. Whenever I was handling my petitions I always had gloves on.

I even ended up carrying a spray bottle of sanitizer with me on the bike in the cage where a water bottle would normally go. Before someone would sign the petition I would first spray off my hands, and then spray off the petition and the clipboard.

Ballpoint pens were interesting because often people did not want to use my pens. I would often suggest that people use their own pens. If need be I could sanitize a ballpoint pen as well.

I had many a person sign my petition without ever touching it. I would lay it on a flat surface and they would hover over it with their own pen. I was grateful for those who took those extraordinary steps simply because they wanted to support me!

There were a number of people who would only sign my petition if it was a fresh sheet. I had an envelope of brand new petitions that had not been signed on before. I would leave the envelope on a flat surface, and instruct them as to which side to pull the petition out from.

Another aspect of campaigning during a pandemic was the fact that I had to avoid close contact with people. Typically I would stay out on the sidewalk, if possible, after having rung the doorbell with the tip of my pen.

The next morning my voice was so hoarse because I was trying to speak to so many people from across their lawns! It has been very common for me to have tea with lemon the first thing the next morning after campaigning.

It’s been a very common thing that people have been appreciative of the social distancing that I have exhibited during campaigning!

But, that has not been universally true! I have had a number of incidents where people were greatly disturbed by me coming around door-to-door. I’ve been berated a number of times. After finding out that I was a republican one particular woman blamed the COVID-19 crisis on me. Another woman was so unnerved that she actually followed me around the neighborhood to watch how I was campaigning. I was certain that she was going to report me to the police, but as far as I know, she never did.

Things became very difficult after the governor issued the stay-at-home order. I had to explain to many a person that campaigning was protected under the governor’s order as a right to free speech. But, I also had to explain that there was language in that order that indicated that the exercise of free speech had to be done in a safe manner, which of course I was complying with.

My underlying concern was always safety! If I was to have gotten COVID-19 during the campaign there is a good chance that I would have had to withdraw. Additionally, my 83-year-old mother lives with me now, as I am her caretaker. Certainly, I did not want to bring COVID-19 home to her! Sadly, my children lost their other grandmother to COVID-19 this last Mother’s Day! She was in a nursing home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

My other safety concern was that I had read that it was possible to be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 and I did not want to be responsible for spreading it to my constituents.

Along the campaign trail, I have met one family who lost a family member to COVID-19. I also met two different families whose loved ones were battling COVID-19 at the time I was at their door. One family in particular had four family members, from another state, who had all recovered from COVID-19. This was very early on in the pandemic before there was a lot of information about it. They had all attended a family gathering where three of the adults came down with COVID-19 after having contact with a fourth family member.

On a positive note, I have been touched repeatedly by the humanity that I have witnessed during this National pandemic. Many a constituent has applauded my grit and tenacity for campaigning during these trying and turbulent times! Many times I have heard that it was reassuring to see me their door, as it was an example of normalcy, the life we knew before!

As I write this, I pray that you and your families are safe and healthy, and will remain so!

— Ed Malles