Story of a first-time bird-dogger

The following blog post was submitted by first-time bird-dogger and 350 Activist, Nancy Sharp:

Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to bird-dog candidates in your own area:

When asked me to bird-dog Wilmington, North Carolina’s Republican candidate for Congress,  it sounded like something you would do in the woods with binoculars and hiking boots. But the more I learned about the bird-dogging tactic (following candidates and politicians and asking them key questions), the more it made sense. David Rouzer is an up-and-coming G.O.P. star in Wilmington, and we deserve to know where he stands on fossil fuel subsidies.

Step 1: Find out where your Candidate’s next public appearance will be.

With a little research, we found that Rouzer would be appearing at a local G.O.P. campaign event for realtors. My mission was to attend (I like the word infiltrate better) and get Rouzer’s statements about oil subsidies on video.

Rouzer’s campaign website described the event as a fund raiser, and Eric Cantor, the Speaker of the House, was supposed to be there. To attend, they were asking for donations ranging from a few thousand dollars to the minimum $250. I emailed an RSVP and received this response, “What should we put you down for?”  I emailed back, “I am retired and my husband is unemployed, will you accept a lesser amount?” I was surprised to get another response. “Yes, we will accept a lesser amount.” And they didn’t ask me,  “How much less?”  or “Are you sure you are not a Climate Activist?”

Step 2: Dress the part and bring a video camera!

The day of the event, I was a little intimidated, fearful that someone would find me out or ask me for a donation. You should know that I am an old California Flower Child. I have long gray hair and short fingernails and yes, I like to wear Birkenstocks. But if the event was for realtors, then I would look like a realtor. I put on my business wear, and I was ready: I brought along my little digital camera that has a video button on it.

Step 3: Roll with the punches.

When I walked into the hall, I discovered that the fund raiser had morphed into a candidate’s forum. Republicans and Democrats were represented, but this didn’t change my plan.

One by one, each candidate gave a little speech, all detailing how their policies would benefit realtors. Those running for congressional seats spoke a lot about how they were determined to keep property insurance rates from going up because that’s good for real estate sales. On that subject, David Rouzer referred to the national study that used climate science to predict sea level rise, calling the study “ridiculous.”  He proudly proclaimed that he fought against it.

Step 4: Jump at the opportunity to ask questions and record responses.

When the speeches were over, the audience was invited to step up and meet the candidates. I hurried over to Mr. Rouzer, holding my camera casually in my hand, and pushed the video button.  My heart was pounding with excitement when I asked Mr. Rouzer, “Do you support ending all fossil fuel subsidies?”  And then unbelievably he began answering my question. The first thing he said was , “I’m for fossil fuel”.  Then he went on to explain that if  ending subsidies to oil and gas companies was costly to the companies, he would be against ending them.

You can see the interview here:

I can’t believe how easy this was, and next time, let‘s get a whole group together to share the experience!