The Kimmel chronicle: A tale of dogged door knocking on the Norwalk campaign trail

Norwalk Common Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) walks the streets. (From Kimmel’s Facebook page)

NORWALK, Conn. — The quest for votes took Bruce Kimmel all over Norwalk – and the Common Councilman kept his friends and fans informed by chronicling the expedition on Facebook.

Think weather, neighborhoods and politics.

And dogs.

Here are some highlights of the incumbent Democrat’s pursuit of another victory in an at-large Council race, sometimes accompanied by his wife, Kay Anderson:

Aug. 25

“Late yesterday afternoon, I began campaigning for re-election to the Norwalk Common Council. I began my door-knocking on Stonybrook Road, which I consider my lucky street – if I begin there, I can’t lose (at least that’s what I believe). It’s actually a lovely winding road, flat, with ponds on both sides, and no sidewalks or streetlights. Noticed what looked like a Blue Heron in one of the ponds. It decided to split before I could get a good look, but since it was big and obviously not one of the swans that live in those ponds, what else could it have been. By the way, folks seemed happy to take my leaflet.”


Aug. 28

“Big mistake campaigning yesterday. Walked right past an invisible fence sign and suffered the consequences: Halfway up the driveway, I heard an incredibly loud bark, noticed an incredibly large black shape rapidly emerge from the front porch, and barely made it to the street with an incredibly angry dog on my heels. Fortunately, the dog was well trained and obeyed its owner. And ironically, the owner and I proceeded to have a good discussion about the proposed mall in South Norwalk.”


Aug. 29

“Two afternoons in a row, re: dog problems. I was on this porch that had ten wind chimes, each one different, waiting for someone to come to the door … There was a slight breeze, so I waited longer than usual, watching the chimes do their thing. On my way back to the street, I heard a ‘Come back here,’ from the vicinity of the backyard. As I reached the street, I turned and saw what looked like a pit bull/boxer mix come to a halt at the street. Having failed to …, it turned, then slowly headed back around the house. I was momentarily shook up but continued my quest for votes.”


Aug. 30

“Had to deal with the hills of Noah’s Lane, Noah’s Lane Extension, and Cindy Lane yesterday. Walked slowly, not because I was tired or anything, but because those hills, combined with hardly-ever-flat driveways and often-steep front porches tend to stretch calves and Achilles tendons. … Met a group of youngsters selling lemonade; four small cups cost me a buck. Not bad. And I wasn’t buying votes from their parents, who were sitting a few feet away, and who took my literature.”


Sept. 1

“Some strange happenings yesterday during my daily search for votes. Spent about ten minutes having a cordial discussion on whether the woman who answered the door should take my Vote for Me leaflet. She said she was a Republican, would never vote for me, and thus there was no reason for her to even take my literature. What was interesting is that we actually had a nice discussion, although she wouldn’t budge. And then, at the very next house, I found myself in a discussion that went on about twenty minutes about the city’s alleged refusal to fix the homeowner’s mailbox after it was broken during a snowstorm three years ago. She’s still angry? She did take my leaflet, even though she’s so peeved I’m not sure she’ll even vote.”

Sept. 5

“I was door-knocking on Newtown Ave. and found myself in the middle of the section between Stonybrook and Grumman that had been cut off to motorists due to an accident much earlier in the day. (A driver smashed into a telephone poll and knocked it over. Nobody was seriously hurt.) I asked one of the many police officers guiding traffic if it is okay for me to continue on past the police cars, he said yes, so off I went. But it felt kind of strange, with all those utility workers carefully removing the broken poll, and all the cops guiding traffic. Plus, on some of the doorsteps there were notes from the police explaining why occupants had no electricity. But I persisted, people were friendly (we talked about the accident), and the weather was cooler.”


Sept. 6

“Yesterday I campaigned in one of Norwalk’s more interesting neighborhoods. The area that includes Wayfaring, Buckthorn, Stonecrop South, and Wakerobin – you’ve got to love those street names – is not easy to deal with. First of all, many of the homes are diagonal to the street, which means the front door is either on one side or even in the back. After walking into a wedding years ago while campaigning, I now stay out of backyards, even if that’s where the front door is. The other thing about this little neighborhood is that, to me at least, it always seems more humid than the surrounding area; perhaps because of all the trees.”


Sept. 8

“No campaigning on Labor Day. Finally, a day of not having to shave. One of the negative aspects of door-knocking is the need to shave every day, which, as you can obviously tell, I don’t like to do. But being somewhat compulsive, I took some time yesterday to do something I hate: Attach yard signs to metal H frames. My eyes are not what they used to be, nor is my back, thus I can’t stand trying to get the pointy tips of the frames into the tiny holes of the signs. Did fifty and called it a day.”

Sept. 12

“As predicted, yesterday’s door-knocking went well, no rain, nor heat. However (there always seems to be at least one however), I had a rather strange, and ultimately funny, experience at one house: I walked up to the front door, past a variety of interesting gardens, and rung a doorbell that actually worked. So far, so good. Then I hear a voice to my right, “Can I help you?” I see an elderly guy who had been working in his garden. We walk toward each other, and he’s carrying his gardening tool: a medium size machete. I stop. He realizes what’s going on, looks at his trusty tool, and laughs. He turned out to be very nice; he took my literature and we had a brief discussion — about gardens, not politics.”

Sept. 13

“I was door-knocking on a street in Cranbury, and I get to a house and, after knocking, hear the roar of what must have been an incredibly large dog, which in turn triggered the roars of three of four incredibly large dearly-beloveds on the block, which made every knock on that street an ear-shattering experience. Then there was a small house, with a nice front porch that had 14 wren birdhouses, each one different, hanging from the porch roof, plus a single medium size bird feeder. Saw no signs of life, and nobody was home. Alfred Hitchcock would have been impressed, and possibly moved to add a scene to one of my favorite movies.”

Sept. 18

“I knocked on a screen door and heard a couple dogs barking somewhere in the house. I waited for somebody to come to the door as the dogs continued to bark. So far, nothing unusual. But then, suddenly, two rather large dogs come at me, I should say the door. I’m thinking they’re going to crash into the door, but they went right through, I don’t think the door had a latch. I froze, fearing a disaster and a possible visit to the hospital. But the dogs, now on the porch, just sniffed me for a few seconds and then went about their business on the lawn. One was a gorgeous German Shepherd, the other a large mixed Lab. As I was leaving, I wondered if they knew how to get back into the house.”


Sept. 19

“Last night I had a horrible dream: I was standing on a front porch talking to the occupant, and we spotted what looked like a giant gray bear, with a super small head, in the backyard. The woman said we better go inside, which we did, as the bear-like creature started trashing the house, trying to get in… and then, fortunately, I woke up. I may be going a tad too far in my quest for votes.”

Sept. 20

“Yesterday, I blew it. Here’s what happened: I rang a doorbell, but instead of hearing a barking dog or the rumble of feet, I heard a baby start to cry. So far, not my fault, and the possibility of an additional vote was still in the works. After a few seconds, a woman opens the door – she was clearly upset by the crying baby somewhere behind her. She put a finger to her mouth, clearly warning me not to talk, hoping the baby would fall back to sleep. But like a complete dunce I ignored the shhh sign – maybe I assumed she was shhhshing the baby – and began my spiel. You should have seen the look on her face, as the baby’s crying got louder. Interestingly, she still took my leaflet. Have I gone over the edge in my daily quest for votes? Maybe.”

Sept. 21

“I met a friend who was cleaning up after a tree fell in her yard, and we had a nice chat. Then I spotted a family of deer near a small pond. For some reason, haven’t seen many deer lately. But then, near the end, I thought disaster struck: Walking up a driveway, I smelled manure, and it was close by. I stopped, walked back to the street, leaned against a fence, and examined the bottom of my shoes. Fortunately, they were clean, the smell must have been from a recent planting.”


Sept. 24

“Seems the dogs are much more sedate in West Norwalk than Cranbury. Wonder why.”


Sept. 27

“Had a wonderful time door-knocking in gorgeous weather yesterday. Only problem were the nuts that kept landing around me every time I walked under trees. Actually, it was really weird, couldn’t figure out if the bombardments were the work of mischievous squirrels or simply the wind. Anyway, there were no direct hits. One home had a bunch of huge and friendly chickens; had no idea they come in such diverse colors.”


Sept. 28

“I came close to throwing in the proverbial towel — I was so tired of knocking on doors or pressing doorbells (most of which don’t work) only to be yelled at, non-stop. Political activity is considered a form of free speech protected by the Constitution, but yesterday, a Sunday no less, I was subjected to non-stop barking by a bunch of dearly-beloved pets who clearly had no use for my presence. Saturday I was bombarded by nut-throwing squirrels; yesterday I was verbally attacked by dogs. Who knows what today’s trek for votes will bring.”


Sept. 29

“Had a brief but interesting discussion while out campaigning yesterday afternoon. The guy and his family had recently moved to Norwalk from a small town in northern Maine, where he had served on a planning board. He was not familiar with our political terminology, e.g., Common Council vs. Board of Selectman, and had several other interesting questions. But the meat of our little talk had to do with the nature of winter, after I foolishly said we had a ‘harsh’ winter last year. Harsh, like most everything else descriptive, is of course relative.”


Sept. 30

“I was bombarded by nuts, and this time, for the first time this fall, a couple landed on my head. I was lucky, they weren’t very large. So I guess I missed a vote-getting opportunity: There will be no headlines such as ‘Candidate suspends campaign because of concussion.’”


Oct. 1 

“I wore for the first time this fall my red, good-luck bringing Phillies cap. I realize that donning the cap of the worst team in baseball might hurt me with Mets fans, but loyalty to my hometown requires that kind of sacrifice. Of course, in my two conversations with Mets fans, who did take my campaign flyer, I admitted that the Mets had a great year and that I hope they do well in the playoffs. Being an okay politician, I wanted to have it both ways.”


Oct. 2

“The number of doors I knocked on was limited by two long and interesting discussions. One was with the husband of a teacher in the Norwalk public schools who had a whole lot to say about the various principles in the system. The other was about my hometown, Philadelphia. The guy said he would vote for me because of my red Phillies cap, and then we got into a nice chat about what turned out to be his hometown, too. I learned a lesson: I will now use campaign walk lists that contain the preferred baseball teams of residents. Then, when I knock on doors, I will make sure to wear the appropriate cap. I’m sure baseball gear is a legitimate campaign expense.”


Oct. 4

“Tough day in the quest for votes. I braved the non-hurricane but really windy weather on a few streets off of West Rocks Rd. yesterday, which happen to be one of the highest, if not the highest, point in Norwalk. It was incredibly windy up there, and predictably, lots of people were home. So I guess it was a good trade off.”


Oct. 5

“Something strange happened as I walked up a typical driveway: First I noticed a replica of a goat on the front porch, then about four or five wind chimes hanging over the porch, then some interesting symbols attached to the house, and then for some inexplicable reason I thought of the “Blair Witch Project” and wondered if I knocked on that door, would anyone ever see me again. Well… I’m here, and the woman who answered the door was very nice, and gladly took my leaflet. Strange.”


Oct. 6

“You have to love some of Norwalk’s street names. On Sunday, I did some campaigning on Blue Mountain Road and then attended a fundraiser for Council candidates John Igneri and Tom Livingston at a home on Alewives Road. Yesterday I spent some time knocking on doors on Cricklewood Lane and Ox Yoke Lane. Plus, yesterday began to feel and look like autumn, finally. What’s nice about many of these streets, roads and lanes is that it’s often extremely quiet and very pretty, and I truly enjoy walking around knocking on doors.”


Oct. 7

“Spent yesterday afternoon door-knocking and bell ringing on Granite Road, undoubtedly one of the most winding and pretty roads in the city. Interestingly, most of the doorbells worked; have no idea why because many of them were partially cracked, etc. This street has lots of trees, and most of these trees, it seemed, are of the nut growing variety, which means I never saw so many nuts on the street, on lawns, on driveways, just about everywhere, in my life. Walking around produced both a crunchy sound and a crunchy feel. And unlike egg shells, they don’t break when stepped on.”


Oct. 8

“I may have met the two smartest dogs in the city. Walking along Half Mile Road, I stepped onto a driveway, ready to walk about forty yards to the front door of a voter. The moment I stepped onto the driveway, I heard two small dogs begin to bark, and they kept barking as I walked to the front door. Nobody was home, so I left some literature wedged into the door, and turned around, ready to head back to the street. The moment I turned away, the dogs stopped barking. So I experimented: About two-thirds of the way to the street, I stopped, turned and again faced the house. And wouldn’t you know it, the barking started all over. Again I turned, headed for the street, and again it stopped. I then imagined those two canines congratulating themselves on a job well done.”


Oct. 10

“Kay was pretty much caught up with her work as campaign treasurer for Erik Anderson and Eloisa Melendez and decided she would go out with me and help round up some votes. We were going great until, you guessed it: it started pouring and we called it a day. The last house, for me, was somewhat ironic: The folks who answered the door were visiting from Arizona and were more than a little disturbed by all the water falling from the sky.”


Oct. 11

“Gorgeous afternoon door-knocking for votes, and in a small neighborhood I call ‘the woods’ because of the street names: Eastwood, Midwood, Boxwood, and Driftwood; with a Dawn Rd. and Shadow Ln. thrown in. My dog experiences never seem to end: At the second home, I knocked and a dog started barking from inside. Okay, no big deal. I waited but nobody came to the door as the dog continued to bark. I wedged my lit. into the doorknob and turned to leave – only to see a large chocolate lab standing calmly on the stoop about six inches behind me. How he/she got there without me knowing is an enigma I’ll never solve. I left, he/she remained. About two hours later, I saw her owner walking the lab up the street (on a leash, no less), and the dog would not even make eye contact with me as the owner said hello.”

Oct. 14

“I slowly walked up a steep driveway, then slowly walked up the steep steps to the front door, and knocked. I heard a window open above me, and a woman asked what I wanted. I did my usual short, low-keyed spiel and ended up asking if I could wedge a piece of literature in a door. She calmly said, ‘No.’ And that was that. Thus, I slowly made the return trip down the steep steps, and down the steep driveway, and continued my quest for votes.”


Oct. 15

“Yesterday I finished door-knocking in another one of Norwalk’s small, tucked-away neighborhoods: the area off Creeping Hemlock Road. Lots of folks have probably seen the street signs for Lakewood and Cobblers, which intersect Creeping Hemlock, but may not know that these are not short roads and that they intersect with Donohue and Valley View (which meanders all the way down to Rte. 7.) These two neighborhoods are not far apart, but each has its own distinctive feel. Norwalk is indeed a interesting city.”


Oct. 17

“I’m walking up the street and see Kay walking down a driveway about eighty yards ahead. Suddenly a large and very fast chocolate lab bursts out of the garage and heads toward her. With all the noise, she doesn’t hear the dog coming up from behind. She was just about into the street when the lab hit what must have been the invisible fence boundary and stopped. Kay had no idea that something had happened behind her, and continued on to the next house. Of course, I’m sure the dog, which started to bark, only wanted to play.”


Oct. 21 (in Silvermine)

“While standing at someone’s door waiting for someone to respond to my knocks, I noticed lots and lots of wasps going into and out of a small opening in the bottom row of vinyl siding, where it meets the porch’s concrete. There had to be an undetected nest between the wall and the siding; undetected probably because it was obvious the residents used another entrance to their home. Since nobody answered the door and it was almost the last house on the block (thus, I couldn’t talk to a neighbor), I plan to stop by today and leave a note or talk to someone.”


Oct. 23 (in Silvermine)

“I reached a driveway that had an invisible fence warning. So I took a few steps toward the house, stopped and began whistling loudly to see if a dog was lurking somewhere in the yard. No dog appeared. But I suddenly began to hear the chirping of lots of birds hidden inside the large hedge that ran alongside the driveway. As I slowly walked toward the house, the chirping subsided. Nobody was home. Then, walking back to the street, I stopped in the middle of the driveway and again started whistling loudly, and again I was treated to a concert. Strange.”


Oct. 24

“You have to admit, Silvermine Avenue has some of the most divergent architecture in Norwalk, ranging from late 18th to early 21st century. Plus, there are more steep driveways on the non-river side of the road than most folks realize; witness my sore calf and hamstrings this morning.”


Oct. 25

“It finally happened: A woman opened the door and out popped her small dog, which immediately jumped up and bit me on my left wrist, fortunately not breaking the skin. You had to admire the dog, which probably weighed somewhere between five and ten pounds. The woman picked up her pet by the scruff of the neck, took our literature and, undaunted, I moved on to the next house.”


Oct. 28

“Get a load of this: I walk down a rather long driveway to a home and see a small ‘no soliciting’ sign on the door, so I don’t knock or even leave literature (even though the Constitution says I can if I so choose). I walk all the way back to the street, go to the very next house, walk down another rather long driveway and what do I see? Another small ‘no soliciting’ sign on the door. Never happened twice in a row. But at least I’m getting lots of socially responsible exercise.”


Oct. 31

“I never use a walk-list or carry a map when door-knocking for votes. This, of course, has plenty of pluses, such as the ability to contact every single potential voter. But, on occasion, it has a downside, like finding myself beyond Norwalk’s boarder. First time this happened was in Silvermine a few years back when I walked too far west on the myriad streets off of Comstock and, after about a half hour, a woman informed me I was in New Canaan. And then, yesterday, Kay and I walked and walked west on Weed Avenue until we started to get a few strange reactions (we didn’t even know the street name had changed). On our way back to the car, we talked to a friend who informed us we had been campaigning in New Canaan. The question is, do you think there will be some write in votes in New Canaan’s election for Bruce Kimmel?”


Nov. 2

“Good time yesterday door-knocking with Mayor Rilling, as well as Tom Livingston and John Igneri, Common Council candidates for District E, which includes Rowayton, West Norwalk and Brookside. Must admit that I usually do my own thing and had never before campaigned with a Mayor. It was kind of interesting observing the reactions of people answering their doors and finding the city’s Mayor on their doorstep. All in all, a rather productive day.”


Nov. 3

“The door-knocking is over – after ten weeks and one day. Yesterday was kind of strange because Kay and I were trying to survive on West Norwalk Road around 5:00 PM, dealing with fast moving, rush hour traffic on a narrow road that has neither sidewalks nor footpaths. It was downright dangerous in the fading light. But we did do Stephen Mather, one of the prettiest streets in the city. And, of course, one final dog incident: A little whippersnapper came scampering around the side of a house and bit Kay on the ankle, but with teeth so small that it couldn’t even leave a mark, let alone break the skin.”


Nov. 5

“The final day, as always, consisted of lawn sign picking-up. We used Kay’s truck (she drove), traveled 44 miles through District D, and it took about two hours and twenty minutes. What we might call not-such-high-quality time with my beloved wife. My signs are also in different parts of the city. Problem is, I don’t know where. So, if you see one or two, would you please let me know, or pick them up, or keep them, or throw them away.”


2 responses to “The Kimmel chronicle: A tale of dogged door knocking on the Norwalk campaign trail”

  1. Bruce Kimmel

    Nancy, thank you. What a nice surprise. Kay was on the train heading for NYC and called me. Maybe the compilation of posts will spur more door-knocking in future campaigns, and why not: Norwalk is a gorgeous place to walk around during the early autumn months, and its residents couldn’t be nicer.

  2. Joanna Cooper

    Mr. Kimmel I enjoyed reading about your adventures. Knocking on all those doors (including mine) sounds like fun and clearly paid off. Thanks for sharing!

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