There is a growing interest to evaluate the political aftermath of the pandemic. We study how parties attract voters under the redistributive pressure created by COVID-19, looking into the 2021 Ecuadorian elections. We classify the messages that candidates sent, evaluate if and how candidates used COVID-19 to mobilize voters, and assess how voters reacted to them. We followed 858 virtual events and gathered more than 1’575.000 tweets from candidates and their communities. We find that candidates did not place COVID-19 at the center of their strategies but used it to connect with symbolic messages about the capabilities of parties and candidates. Twitter users had a limited engagement with COVID-19-related content. These findings nuance our expectations of the pandemic. COVID-19 was only an element rather than the core.