TIME

BOOTS ON THE GROUND

Inside the grassroots movement to help Democrats take back Congress
NORTH CAROLINA Carolyn Eberly, center, and her Indivisible group have been knocking on doors since February

CAROLYN EBERLY IS AN UNLIKELY warrior. A former chemist from Waxhaw, N.C., she works at the local library, plays volleyball and wears her blond hair pulled back in a big clip. Her husband has always followed politics, but Eberly used to steer away from it in polite conversation. She voted, but not much else.

Then came President Donald Trump’s election. “I felt sick to my stomach,” says Eberly, 51. She found herself at the Women’s March in Charlotte, then at rallies for immigrants, then staying up all night reading news articles posted in Facebook groups. She began to feel uncomfortable around her neighbors who voted for Trump and around her volleyball friends who didn’t seem to care about politics. The day after the Women’s March, she saw on Facebook that a woman who lived an hour away was hosting a letter-writing party to pressure local elected officials. Eberly couldn’t make it over, so the woman suggested she host her own event.

Eberly typed up an invitation. Just before she posted it on Facebook, she paused. “You ever have a premonition?” she says, sipping a smoothie at a Panera Bread near her home. “Where you think, ‘This could change my life’?”

Twelve people responded to Eberly’s post. Three showed up. And Indivisible N.C. District 9 was born. Since then, more than 1,000 people have joined either its Facebook group or its email list. In February 2018, long before there was a Democratic nominee in their House district, Eberly and her team began knocking on doors to build rapport with their neighbors and hear about their political priorities, a process called “deep canvassing.” When a Marine veteran and solar-energy entrepreneur named Dan McCready won the Democratic primary in May, Eberly and her friends went back to the same doors they had knocked on months earlier—this time, they were armed with his campaign literature.

North Carolina’s 9th District, which stretches from the Charlotte suburbs into more conservative rural areas, has been in GOP hands for more than 50 years. Trump won it by 12 points in 2016. But grassroots efforts like Eberly’s have helped transform the race into a toss-up contest, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. McCready has raised four times as much money as his Republican opponent, pastor Mark Harris, and he sees groups like Eberly’s as key to

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