As we are quickly approaching the big day, we asked Honors students Alex Minore and Kevin Sun about their experiences working on a local campaign—for former Honors student and Truman scholar Bryan Townsend.
1. What are your responsibilities and what is the time commitment?
KS: I did A LOT of canvassing (going to our targeted voters doors) and door-knocking with Bryan himself. My main responsibility was coordinating Get-out-the-vote or GOTV on primary day which was back on Sept. 11. I made the schedules of 50+ volunteers for that day. People had to be assigned to all the polling places as challengers and I had to coordinate when other volunteers could come pick up their voter lists/relieve them. The two weeks leading up to primary day I probably worked anywhere between 4-10 hours a day.
AM: I am an adviser when it comes to campaign strategy. Most of the time on the campaign I am knocking on doors and meeting voters.
2. Why did you feel like it was important to be involved in a campaign?
KS: It may be that I am from around the Newark-area so I feel that I have more at stake, but a lot of people do not realize how much local government e.g. state representatives/senators have an effect over their lives. Of course it is important to be informed of who you are voting for at a state or federal level but your state-representative or senator is someone who is much much more accessible. Individuals have much more of a voice with these public officials so I think it is definitely important to be putting good, qualified people into these positions.
AM: This has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life because I am helping the Newark community get better representation. I am involved in democracy first hand through this campaign.
Honors student Alex Minore (second from right) worked with Bryan Townsend’s (center back) campaign team this fall.
3. What did you learn from working on the campaign?
KS: Taking the time to go to the doors of individual voters and giving them time to hear their concerns really does resonate. I’m sure there were very few, if any, other campaigns in this state that so meticulously identified voters to canvass. By the end, there were many people whom we had been to their homes two, even three times before Sept. 11; and even on primary day there were voters in the district who came up to me and said that they remembered me from coming to their doorstep. In short, careful and driven grassroots campaigning really does work.
AM: I have learned so much from this experience but the most important lessons are that voters are very responsive to concerned candidates and organization, in politics, is the key to success.
4. What was most surprising for you?
KS: I should be surprised that we actually won the primary (and will likely win the general election) given that almost everyone in the Democratic Party supported our opponent including the Governor and Lt. Governor; but I knew from the way our team campaigned that winning was a definite possibility. However, I will say that I was surprised, in this instance that money could not buy an election. Our opponent outspent out by about 6 to 1. But, people really do not respond well to a candidate just sending them a whole bunch of mail and blowing up their phones.
AM: I was very surprised by how much organization actually goes into a small grassroots campaign like Bryan’s.
5. Does working on the campaign intersect at all with any of your other academic/personal goals?
KS: I have always been involved and passionate about politics but I have been pretty set on working in the international development field. While this does not directly relate to that type of work, it has certainly helped me in gaining experience in how to organize and coordinate a big group of volunteers. And just in general, it was important for me to have this ability to gain the experience and have the responsibility of leading a group of volunteers because that will likely be something I will be doing in the future.
AM: I actually want to become involved with politics and public service as a career so this is a great opportunity for me. I would just like to thank Bryan and the rest of the campaign team for making this such an enriching experience.