Jen Toof signed on early to Amanda Cappelletti’s campaign to become the state senator from District 17. Toof, a Ward 3 Committee member, started actively seeking an alternative to the incumbent last fall. Knowing she would have to cast an endorsement vote in early February, Toof says she “did my homework” on the candidates. When she met Amanda for coffee, Jen was impressed by her “presence” as well as by her law degree, MA in public health, and record of hard work as a “fighter for good causes.” Jen came away from that first meeting convinced that Amanda was “in this campaign for the right reasons.” She signed on to help collect the 500 signatures Cappelletti needed to qualify to get on the ballot.
After Amanda won endorsement from the Democratic Party, Jen canvassed door-to-door for her. When the coronavirus shut down that close-up-and-personal, tried-and-true campaign method, Jen quickly pivoted, along with the campaign, to calling voters on the phone. No one enjoys campaigning by phone, but “it’s not as bad as it sounds,” Jen insists with a virtual smile. As with front door canvassing, Jen has found that voters she contacts by phone are interested in the state senate race and want to hear about Amanda.
Committing to volunteer for a young candidate’s challenge to a well-known incumbent is both a leap of faith and tax on a busy schedule. In Jen’s case, she has spent the past year completing an MA degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and serving as a therapist for children, adolescents, and families in Outpatient Services at Child Guidance Resource Centers in Havertown. During the quarantine, Jen has continued doing therapy over Zoom (which has meant fewer cancelled appointments) and completed her MA, preparatory to starting her Ph.D.
in International Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She also continued to volunteer her time to the Cappelletti campaign.
From the start, Jen was confident that Amanda’s experience in Harrisburg made her the “best advocate for us on Day 1.” Amanda had worked in the Governor’s office, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning, the Department of Human Services, and the office of Representative Donna Bullock. She brought all of that experience to bear in lobbying legislators as a Director of Policy for Planned Parenthood. These credentials sufficed to make Jen an enthusiastic Cappelletti supporter.
The Covid-19 quarantine has taught Jen that Amanda brings other key strengths to the state senate. As Vice Chair of the East Norriton Board of Supervisors, Amanda has much-needed experience with municipal government; “we’re seeing how important it is right now,” says Jen, “for state government to know how to support local communities.” Amanda’s graduate training in public health gives her an informed perspective on how to address the weaknesses in our physical and mental health systems that this pandemic has laid bare.
Finally, the quarantine has totally upended every candidate’s campaign plans, but Jen has watched Amanda operate as a “problem solver,” coming up with “quick solutions” and “thinking creatively” about how to use technology to reach voters. For example, Amanda is doing online “meet&greets” with voters who want to speak with her. She has posted 14 different videos on her campaign Facebook page, ranging from a virtual townhall on Covid-19 with Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon and fellow Dem candidate Cathy Spahr, to a tutorial-from-her-kitchen on applying for a mail-in ballot. Watching Amanda “find new ways to engage with voters” has only increased Jen’s confidence that Amanda will be a state senator who stays in touch with constituents year-round, not just at election time.