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Primaries in pandemic: No handshakes or door-knocking for many candidates ahead of Connecticut’s Aug. 11 voting

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With Connecticut’s primaries a week away, Republican candidate Mike Skelps in Middlefield hasn’t yet shaken hands with a single voter at a town fair or festival.

In New Britain, Democratic candidate Emmanuel Sanchez still hasn’t knocked on even one voter’s door.

And they’re not alone: The coronavirus pandemic has changed campaigning for every candidate on the Aug. 11 ballot. Social distancing — and general public anxiety — has ended the tradition of speaking at neighborhood campaign rallies or shaking hands with lines of people along parade routes.

“We literally had a strategy meeting to figure out the best way to reach people, and we never had to do that before,” said Sanchez, a veteran of municipal politics and the minority leader of New Britain’s common council.

“You have to focus much more on one-on-one talks. The idea of being able to address 100 people at a time — those opportunities are basically not there,” said Skelps, a finance board member in Middlefield.

Nearly 30 people in primaries are seeking either the Republican or Democratic nomination to run for state legislative seats; each one had to decide how to campaign during coronavirus restrictions.

Skelps opted to go ahead with door-to-door campaigning after considering whether it would make people uncomfortable. He concluded he would bring along a mask, but not wear it unless someone asked.

“I want them to see my face. I’m going to step back 8 or 10 feet before they answer, and it hasn’t been a problem at all,” Skelps said.

He has put extra effort into a Facebook campaign effort and lawn signs.

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