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  • Writer's pictureTommy Zurhellen

No More Fear

Monday, September 18th

Dear Friends:

Last week I was invited to speak at the Mid-Hudson Mortgage Bankers dinner along with my opponent, Sue Serino. The assembled crowd was staunchly Republican and as you might expect, the room smelled a lot like the 1970s. (Talk about walking into the lion’s den!) I got there late because I had been teaching at Marist, but I arrived just in time to listen to my friend Sue finish her remarks. She was reading off cue cards and at one point, lost track of which card to read next. I genuinely felt embarrassed for my friend Sue as she spent thirty seconds trying to get back on track, in front of her home crowd. Thirty seconds feels like an eternity when you can’t find the script. But she managed to finish and there was warm applause.

Then it was my turn at the microphone. And you could hear a pin drop.

I don’t use cue cards. I never have a script. When you are truly speaking from the heart, there’s nothing to remember, and there’s nothing to prepare. You just look folks in the eye and tell them the truth. And that’s exactly what I did at that dinner, surrounded by dozens of people who didn’t even know my name. I told them the truth about the homeless shelter, and how our current county leadership wants to stuff our most vulnerable population into the old jail. As I spoke, I saw a few folks shake their head in honest disbelief – obviously, no one had told them the truth about our homelessness crisis. But I also saw many other folks with no reaction at all. They sat there stone-faced, waiting for me to finish so they could enjoy their shrimp cocktail. They figured they could scare me away with their silence.

They figured wrong. I took a deep breath and said. “Look, if you don’t care about our homeless, I don’t want your vote.” I repeated it, and there were a lot of surprised faces across the room.

A few minutes later as I wrapped up my remarks, I got my surprise: there was a smattering of applause from some folks in the room, which made me feel good. I had walked in there with no fear, and it paid off.

How do you win an election in Dutchess County? For the last 32 years, Republicans have won by making people afraid. Just last week, we saw their same old form letters going out, telling voters if they want to “feel safe,” they must vote for Sue and their other countywide candidates. And we’ve also seen their desperate emails to voters, telling them if Democrats win this election, everyone will be – you guessed it – less safe. It’s a tired script. But 32 years of the same fear tactics can create a muscle memory in voters that’s hard to change.

For example, I recently had a conversation with a voter who told me, “I’m a proud Democrat. Why don’t I see your signs in my neighborhood?”

“Would you like me to bring you a sign for your yard?” I said.

“Oh no,” they replied. “No, I couldn’t do that. Too many Republicans on my street.”

For too long, Democrats and independent voters in Dutchess County have been made afraid – afraid to talk about issues openly, afraid to vote, even afraid to put up a simple lawn sign in their yard. But in reality, this year we have around 20,000 more Democrats than Republicans who are eligible voters in this county. That’s an amazing difference that makes this election very simple: if we turn out, we win. If we don’t turn out, we lose.

I’m proud to be a Democrat, and I know you are, too. We need to shrug off the heavy weight of fear and show pride in what we stand for. We stand for kindness. We stand for a woman’s right to choose. We stand alongside our labor unions as they fight for our civil rights. We stand up for our youth who deserve the same opportunities we had when we were young. We stand together against domestic violence. We stand against the oppression of our LGBT community. We believe safe housing is a human right. We stand for sustainability. We use our voice to give power to the voiceless. We stand for diversity and justice.

And when we stand together in the face of our fears, we are unstoppable.

After seven months on the campaign trail with my teammates, I can tell you the tide has turned. In the old days, most Democrat candidates wouldn’t feel comfortable attending events where it seemed the Republicans were holding court. Friends, those days are over. My teammates and I always show up together, and we support one another just like a family. Frankly, we owned the senior picnics this summer. Every event we visit, we feel like we’re building momentum. Every chance we get to speak, no matter the audience, we gladly take it. No cue cards. No fear.

Take a look at the photograph above, showing our amazing countywide candidates: James Rogers for Family Court, Anthony Parisi for District Attorney, Kenya Gadsden for County Clerk, and myself. It was taken a week ago at an event in Dover. Do we seem fearful, or confident? I think the answer is obvious: we are a team, and we are fearless. Each day we are more determined to bring real change to Dutchess while our opponents only seem more desperate, as they send out the same old messages of fear from the dusty playbook they use every year. We know we are going to win.

Now is the time. If you have been sitting on the sidelines so far, we need your energy right now! We need everyone to cast off their fears and get involved. We must pull together and finally put an end to the culture of fear in Dutchess County. We know Dutchess will always choose kindness over fear. We will always choose our kids over outside corporations. And we won’t be bullied by those who seek to keep us silent.

We need your help to keep our campaign going. Please consider donating to our campaign via the secure Act Blue link below. If everyone who read this email gave $50 we would be in a wonderful position to win this election. Remember we do not take any money from corporations or corporate PACs, so we rely on heroes just like you!

Thank you to the handful of people at that bankers’ dinner who realized the “D” next to my name stands for Decency. We are going to turn our county blue, one voter at a time.

And thank you for listening! See you next time!

Respectfully, Tommy


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