All Good Things Must Come to an End

As the title of this post suggest, it’s the end of my SRP. This is the last week before my presentation in front of the Blocks  and I really wish it wasn’t. The polls that I did showed me that I really had something going for me with my research. There are a lot of people out there who have no idea what is going on behind the closed doors of campaigns. But alas, for my research, I got what I came for.

So… what did I come for? That’s a question that I was asking myself a lot during these past few weeks. When I wrote my proposal for this project over six months ago, I thought I’d be focusing a lot on the candidate. That may have been a mistake.

I can’t talk about this campaign specifically, so I’ll talk about my past experience (which is, at it’s core, similar to my current experience). Ron was dedicated when it came to Call Time, from what I saw. I saw him for a couple minutes every few weeks. I saw him that often when I worked out of the headquarters for the campaign, try seeing your candidate when you work across the state from them.

I’ll give the candidate a bit of credit, though. Whenever I was talking to voters about different issues, I knew that I could send Danny a message and get a response regarding the issue from the candidate. It was so amazing to be able to tell a voter, “I’m not sure about that issue and I don’t want to give you any incorrect information so let me get in touch with the candidate. I’ll get back to you on that.”

I polled a lot of voters and, from what I gathered, they would have appreciated being on the other end of that conversation. There’s a serious disconnect between voters and politicians. Sure, I may have gotten that response because of the Presidential election but let me explain why that matters. Presidential campaigns are when the majority of voters feel strongly enough to vote. They set the standard, in the eyes of the public, for what campaigns are and how they work. I can tell you that’s not true but the chances that someone is going to listen to me? Slim to none.

After one day of polling, I decided that the focus of my project needed to change. The questions I was asking (At what point does a candidate decide to run? How do they chose to align themselves politically? When is a platform solidified? Does the campaign change the candidate or do they stay true to themselves?) really didn’t matter for me to get people to care and appreciate campaigns. To quote my mentor, Will, you don’t get into campaigns for the public praise. So, instead, I changed my purpose to examine the difference in how people perceive campaigns and those who work on them and the reality.

What do people think of campaigns? They hold a very, very deep hatred of them. Even the people who had some sort of appreciation for campaigns felt that the traditional campaign was too long. They’re fed up. They don’t want to “listen to the same [things] for two years!” The people that I spoke to want to see campaigns modeled after the British system. In the eyes of the public, it’s all about money. Based on my experience, it is but not in the way that the public thinks. I couldn’t even tell you where all the money goes to specifically but I do know that those who work on campaigns don’t do it for the money. You will be very disappointed if you go into campaigns for the money.

Why do we do it? Why do we slave away working on a campaign if it isn’t for the pay? We do it because we enjoy it. You really do start on a campaign for the candidate and you stay for the team, the camaraderie. I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate the team I work on. We prop each other up and help each other meet goals, get through rough patches in life; we help each other with anything. It may be difficult to believe but it’s absolutely true.

 

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The painful love of campaigns

Okay, maybe it isn’t that painful. Nonetheless, the love that the people I work with have towards campaigns is admirable. I was able to interview the illustrious Will to gain a little bit more of an insight into the more personal side of campaigns.

While he scarfed down a deli sandwich and answered emails, I proved that what David Axelrod’s belief that a job in politics can be a calling is true. Despite what a couple people said during my polling, there are people working on campaigns who don’t really think about coming out of it with a job on the Hill. Maybe that’s just me. It goes without saying that everyone on the campaign I’m working on has ambition but power does not always satisfy the hunger that accompanies it.

To give you all a little bit of a preview to my restructured SRP, I’ll speak a bit about my  interview with Will. I asked him about what sacrifices he made to be on the campaign. It was obvious that the word “sacrifice” was the wrong word. He talked to me about how his relationship failed because of his commitment, time commitment, to campaigning. It’s a trend I read about in Believer, it’s a trend I’ve seen in my own life. It’s a definite trend.

Even though the reality of the trend hurts, campaigns may have been the best way for me to get involved in politics. As Danny put it, campaigns provide an escape. They consume so much time, all you can do is focus on them. Regardless of your motivation to campaign, all you want to do is focus on it.

With all the time and dedication that goes towards campaigns, it’s easy to burn out. Last cycle, I was with the campaign for 7 months and I was burnt to a crisp by the end of it. I remember sitting in my friend’s car on the long awaited November 4th and sobbing. I wasn’t sure why I was crying, but I decided to just chop it up to a breakdown. You see, I had only slept 3 hours the night before. Everyone woke up before the roosters and met up at the office at around 4 AM. There was work to do and we did it. I think I remember mixing two energy drinks to keep the momentum going but I can’t be too sure, that entire day is a blur.

Although I may not remember everything, I do remember one interaction that I had with a voter. I was going door to door, offering rides to whom ever needed one to the polls. I knocked on the door of an older woman, I almost moved on because it took her so long to answer the door. When I asked her if she had been to the polls yet, she laughed and coughed. She said no and accepted my offer to drive her. While we were in the car together, she told me that she had advanced lung cancer and hadn’t been to the polls in years. She seemed excited. When she came out of the polling place, she was crying. She hugged me. She was able to vote. It didn’t matter to me who she voted for in that moment. That was something I was able to do. That’s why I was so eager to come back to campaigning.

***

I have two weeks left on my SRP, I’ll be doing more polls and connecting all the dots in the time being. Since BASIS has decided to privilege me with the opportunity to present my research in front of the CEO of BASIS, I’m going to go the extra mile (although it’s starting to feel like it may be several miles). If this week does not wear me down to a nub, I’ll have a very interesting post put together for next week.

 

My Name is Sophia Silva…

… and I’d like to know what you think of Congressional Campaigns.

After a very tiring trip to Sedona, I am very reassured in my project. I let myself be completely, and frustratingly, by the campaign. I’ve done long days before but nothing quite like 12 hours at the office. I loved it. While I was in Sedona, I was removed from all my other responsibilities. My life all of a sudden became manageable. But that has nothing to do with why my faith was restored.

Reassurance came in the form of a Katy. Katy works on the campaign but has never really had a background in politics. She also lives with Danny and Will, the people I was staying with, so she had very little choice but to answer the questions that I was asking Danny in the interview.

One of the questions that I asked was, “What is the most appreciated thing or part of a campaign?” Katy, being honest, tells me that she never paid attention to campaigns or thought about the people behind them. Being where I am now, I thought back to Ron’s campaign when I canvassed until my knee, which I had hyper-extended running down a steep drive way, hurt so bad that I could barely walk and begged for calls. It hurt a little to know the job I’m doing is so thankless. Now I know why the 1% of people who thank me for volunteering on the campaign don’t just say “Thanks” in passing, they say “Thank you” from the heart.

Maybe you’re rolling your eyes at this memory but I gotta tell you, I appreciate it when people say thank you. I also had the opportunity to interview Will on my trip and what he said might have been the last stone in the tomb that is my campaign run. When I asked him what he would tell someone who was on the fence about working on a campaign, he answered “Don’t do it for the glory, public praise or drama.” He also spoke of how thankless of a job it is. At that point, I had to ask myself why I was there.

On one previous trip to Sedona, I was rightfully put in my place for complaining about not being paid. Truth is, I see pay as a form of recognition (as any reasonable person in my situation would). Yes, I love politics. Yes, I love campaigns. But do I love it that much?

 

***

This week, I’ll be asking the public what they think of campaigns. If you’d like to weigh in, I’ll be at the Oro Valley Public Library Thursday  and Friday. At the very least, stop and say hello.

Oh, the humanity!

I have finally found myself able to write a post concerning my activities now that the first financial quarter has come to an end. I know that you all missed me and my posts but you’ll just have to believe that I missed you and writing them so much more.

Here’s why I missed writing posts:it really gives me the ability to step back and let myself acknowledge that even with three jobs, I still put in a lot of work on this campaign. This reflection brings me to the point of this post. I’ll be going up to Sedona in the morning to join the team only for the second time in the six months that I have been with the campaign.

Now, I’m sure that the thought of having to work from home sounds amazing for those of you who have to leave home for work every morning but it’s not that great. It’s not great because it isn’t a choice. I still get up early, I still put on the whole get up and I still start working by 9. It’s something absolutely silly that I do for the sake of being productive.

The amount that you give up to work on a campaign is shocking. I’ll be interviewing the team while I’m in Sedona, and Hannah when I get back in town, to find out just what they have lost. Sure, it’s a bit personal but I think it’s important to understand what one is willing to give up to have the opportunity to work on a campaign.

Next, I’ll be asking more technical questions oriented towards the specific rational behind the scenes of a campaign. If there are any particular questions that any of you have in mind, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

***

EXCITING UPDATE: My SRP (or rather I) was chosen to present in front of Michael Block, the CEO of BASIS Schools Inc. While it is a pleasure to be chosen, this wonderful news also comes with a little match that was unofficially lit underneath me to have an impressive presentation with impressive research. We’ll see what I find.

I’m sure that BASIS will publish a schedule for SRP presentations in the next couple of weeks but if they don’t for some reason, I’ll post it by the end of the month.

Until next week!

Tom O’Halleran

66747aNext on the list of candidates is Tom O’Halleran.

O’Halleran has raised $263,271 and currently has $172,235 on hand as of the 31st of December. To put that in perspective, that’s only a little more than $45k less than Babeu and a comparison to Kiehne is useless. In terms of a the race, O’Halleran has raised the most of any other democrat (Kiehne and Babeu are both republicans).

O’Halleran has raised $263,271 through a combination of small and large contributions, self financing and, to throw a new type of contribution into the mix, PAC donations. O’Halleran has received $37,415 in small contributions, $190,114 in large contributions, $30,500 in PAC donations and has self financed $5,242. But does his self-financing really matter? No, not really. It falls within the amount an individual can donate. Follow this link for more information on the donations to his campaign.

Political Action Committees, or PACs, are huge players in campaigns like these. They can either be a blessing or your worst nightmare, it depends on if they like you or not.  PACs are created to elect or defeat a candidate, they can give up to $5,000 annually to a candidate and can spend all the funds they want running ads (again, with the purpose to elect or defeat a candidate). Okay, well maybe the PACs aren’t doing it but the SUPER PACs are. If you’d like to learn more, check out this link (I really do love Open Secrets).

We’ve all encountered PAC ads. You have, trust me. Think about when you saw a negative television ad and it didn’t say “Sponsored by So-and-So for Office,” or “I’m So-and-So and I approve this message.” Yep, those ads were run by PACs. They also send you mailers (postcards in the mail) and they probably made you chuckle. For those of you in CD 2 (Tucson/Green Valley/Sierra Vista), a particularly hilarious attack ad against Ron Barber may come to mind… However, for the sake of correctness, I should mention that this ad was in fact paid for by the Arizona Republican Party.  

I digress. Let’s get back to some information that will brighten our days, shall we? O’Halleran has deep roots in Chicago but retired to Sedona, Arizona and served as a republican state Representative for three terms and served one as a state senator. He has a record of reaching across the aisle to get things done and he has an understanding of how Arizona politics work. With the political atmosphere being the way it is, having the ability to work with people who may not have your same opinion is paramount for progress. Oh, and did I mention that O’Halleran is running as a democrat with the backing of the DCCC?

Where are you, Sophia?!

Given it’s the last week of Financial Quarter 1, this week’s blog post will be pushed back further into the week (the campaign is running in overdrive).

I know it’s really difficult to go a couple more days without my posts but I promise it’ll be worth it. Just to keep you all interested, here’s what’s going on:

With the last week of the quarter here, the campaign (and most other campaigns) are giving it one last push to get as many donations as possible. For Hannah and me, that means pushing the limits with the number of calls we make in a day and convincing interns to put in extra hours this week so that they too can partake in the “4-ring-then-hang-up” rule of these calls.

Some of you are probably thinking “Jeez, I might want to screen my calls this week then….” To you I say, please don’t. Entice us with conversation and, most importantly, take the 2-3 minutes to know the basics about political candidates. You don’t have to give but it’s important that we all stay educated on those who want to represent us in Congress.

“Honey, the candidate just called us!”

Not everyone gets calls from candidates so you should definitely  feel special… until you realize that all the candidate wants is a contribution (meaning a monetary contribution).

“Call Time” is a sacred part of campaigning. The candidate and a member of his campaign staff will sit with him while he does hours of calls. Well, it’s hours of calls ideally. If there’s a fundraiser or event that would make a great photo op then the candidate makes fewer calls. You have to, have to, have to get his or her name out and you have to, have to, have to make money.

“Jeez, Sophia, we get money is important,”I’m sure you’re thinking. But you don’t understand how expensive campaigns are. For me, it’s impossible to fathom how much money the campaign has raised ($263,271) and spent ($91,036). That’s a lot of money. A LOT OF MONEY.

The ideal call time goes as follows: the candidate arrives, sits and a pile of paper is placed in front of him or her and the process begins. On the paper, there is information about a donor and past political donations they may have made. But, Sophia, what does the candidate say? Well, the candidate has a script that’s kind of a “decide your fate” book. Everything the candidate says is approved by his or her staff and everything has a purpose. The hard ask that comes at the end a purpose; you need money so you ask for the amount you believe they will give. You gotta get that cash.

I really hate to be the one to say it but getting a call from a candidate kind of means that you should have been sneakier about your contributions. Any “large” contribution is flagged by the Federal Election Commission and goes on sites that campaigns use to get information from.

The process of getting donors is pretty similar along different campaigns. Once someone shows interest in the campaign, they become part of the campaign’s “universe”. I can’t go into the specifics of it but: It’s all about the money.

Support for campaigns come in more forms than just monetary contributions. A promise of a vote means so much for campaigns, I don’t want to paint campaigns as monsters at all. Half of the campaign, the Field half, is all about that. They aren’t looking for money, they’re looking to educate you on the candidate. Finance, on the other hand, funds field. When you give money to a campaign it means that you believe in the candidate and it means that you believe that others should too.

The ideal call time is far from reality on every single campaign. Candidates have their own reasons for wanting to do that and their staff accommodates them. Candidates are human and their need to deviate brings their own touch personalizes the whole process and make is more human.