For D.C. lefties eager to boot George W. Bush from the White House, giving up a Saturday to ride on a bus to West Virginia and talk to voters is a small price to pay for getting John Kerry into office. But let's face it: Volunteers cannot thrive on idealism alone -- which is where a plateful of Leah Bunce's moist, chewy Swing State Brownies comes in.
An organizer for NEXT, a local political action committee founded in April (www.projectnext.org), Bunce says she makes the brownies only for special occasions -- and the 2004 race definitely counts. "This is the most important election of my lifetime," the thirty-five year old says. "I was fed up with the Bush administration, and after 35 years of no political activism, I wanted to get off my butt and do something." Like Bunce, many NEXT volunteers -- who range from 20-year-old George Washington University sophomore Ryan Kehmna to 71-year-old retiree Evelyn Allin -- have never volunteered for a campaign.
(Photos Nate Lankford For The Washington Post)
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On a Saturday morning bus ride to Martinsburg, W.Va., Bunce passed out her chocolatey treats to volunteers, explaining, "These are a great energy-booster, but I usually cut them small because they could kill you." Hungry helpers snatched up the brownies while reading aloud from Al Franken's "Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" and comparing reasons they think Kerry will prevail come election day: "He's very bright." "He doesn't drive over the cliff on the accelerator." "He has better daughters."
The return ride was just as festive, featuring prizes for Most Rewarding Experience and Most Awkward Experience. A male volunteer won the latter after talking to a voter who answered her door in a bathrobe. "The volunteer went to hand her a piece of material with information about Kerry and Bush," Bunce recalls, "and as she reached out to take it, her robe fell open. The volunteer had a choice -- did he step away and leave or did he hand her the very important material that might make her vote for Kerry? He kept eye contact and handed her the material." Curtis Sittenfeld
Swing State Brownies
2 sticks ( 1/2 pound) butter
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for the baking dish
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup (4 ounces) coarsely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups (about 6 ounces mini-marshmallows)
Icing (recipe below)