BERKELEY -- They could have spent their time away at mountain retreats or used frequent flier miles to visit family or friends.
But instead, Mike Berkowitz, Jane Scantlebury and Ruth Maguire, dedicated Democrats from Berkeley, flew off to campaign hot spots, forgoing forest paths in favor of urban precinct walking, and sustaining themselves on campaign office pizza and day-old cake rather than haute cuisine.
A proposed law (recently blocked by the courts) requiring that Pennsylvania residents show IDs to vote spurred Berkowitz, retired from the San Francisco planning department, to head to Philadelphia to combat voter suppression.
"They tried to cut people of color, older people -- everyone who wouldn't vote Republican -- from the voting lists," said Berkowitz, who went to the South in the 1960s to help with the struggle for civil rights.
Berkowitz spent his days making calls and walking precincts, but also found time to visit an art gallery and explore the area. "Campaigning is a great way to find out about local culture," he said, adding that the effort welcomed out-of-towners.
"My passport doesn't say, 'citizen of Berkeley,'" Berkowitz said. "We're all affected by the war and the economy. This is our country."
Retired Berkeley librarian Jane Scantlebury went to East Cambridge, Mass. to pound the pavement for Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren. "Warren's spent her career trying to get women's wage equality," Scantlebury said. "She's truly interested in leveling the playing field."
Scantlebury spent her days making calls from the office and soliciting votes door to door. One highlight was when Al Franken, talk show host turned Minnesota senator, spoke to volunteers, reminding them he'd won his seat by just 312 votes.
Campaigning in Cambridge was, in fact, working for Berkeley, Scantlebury said, noting, "Keeping the Senate majority Democrat is important to all of us."
Scantlebury and Berkowitz chose their assignments and found their own lodging. Ruth Maguire, an 87-year-old grandmother, contacted Democracy for America for her assignment. They directed her to Aurora, Colo. where state legislator Joe Miklosi is in a heated race for Congress against incumbent Mike Coffman.
Maguire describes Coffman as a right-wing Republican, opposing abortion and claiming (then retracting) that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
DFA lodged Maguire at the home of Democratic Party activists, parents of 18-year-old Nicholas Horvath, field organizer for the local campaign.
Maguire called Horvath her "boss" and recounted how the young man picked her up from the airport, took her directly to the campaign office, and immediately put the willing campaigner to work.
Maguire's mostly 12-hour days included four to five hours knocking on doors of voters identified as "undecided." If they'd listen, Maguire said she would talk about Miklosi's "belief in a woman's right to make her own health care decisions," and about his record on jobs and green energy in the state legislature.
Maguire was surprised the campaign didn't carry Obama literature. "The campaign felt there would be Republicans who would vote for Miklosi," she said.
Having returned to Berkeley for a couple of days R&R, Maguire is ready to step back on the campaign trail. A van with activists from Grandmothers Against the War will head to Reno to campaign the weekend before the election. Maguire's on a waiting list.
If she can't get to Reno, she'll head to Modesto, where Democrat Jose Hernandez is fighting for the 10th Congressional District seat. Maguire said it doesn't matter where she campaigns as long as it helps win Democratic seats in Congress.
"I'm campaigning for all of us," she said.