College Students Share Stories of Campaigning for Candidates

By Uyen Nguyen
For Unwind magazine

Students on campus make strong efforts to get voters to the polls. Photo by Sidni Espinosa

Three government and politics majors at the University of Maryland have been very active in the 2016 election cycle.

Senior Christopher Walkup worked as a deputy field organizer on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign during the primaries from Jan. 1 to Feb. 1 and is a member of Terps for Bernie.

Walkup’s main duties were “phonebanking and canvassing everyday… and occasionally going to Democratic Party meetings,” he said.

At campaign events, Walkup worked as a staffer and was tasked to do things such as “running a microphone to audience members so they could ask their questions” during Q&A events or assi640px-bernie_sanders_by_gage_skidmoresting the senator whenever needed.

At a town hall Q&A in Perry, Iowa, “the Senator beckoned me to his podium,” Walkup said. “I froze and slowly approached the Senator … he whispered in a slightly raspy voice, ‘Could you get me some water?’ I sprang into action, sprinting … to give the senator his water.”

“So now I can say that Bernie spoke to me and needed my help,” he said.
Working on the campaign required “talking to hundreds of people everyday,” Walkup said. As an introvert, he said it took “a significant emotional and physical toll” on him.

Walkup is proud to have worked on the “issue-oriented” campaign because though Sanders didn’t make it into the general election, his campaign brought domestic issues into the arena, he said.

For example, Hillary Clinton’s campaign adopted “more progressive positions on healthcare and education” when it saw how independent and democratic voters responded to Sanders’ views on these issues, Walkup said.

But Clinton is no stranger to progressive values, said Terps for Hillary coordinator of campus outreach Patrick Cochran.

Patrick Cochran. Photo by Rebecca Bolinger

“Her entire adult life, she’s been working to make things better for women, children — everybody,” he said.

So Cochran knew he was looking “at the first woman president of the United States” when he saw Clinton speak in Ritchie Coliseum in the fall of 2014.

Terps for Hillary members usually meet on Saturdays for an hour or two to call a list of likely voters that they receive from the campaign’s official website, he said.

Canvassing by knocking on doors, however, “takes more dedication,” he said. The organization does it for “4 or 5 hours a day” a few times a month.

It requires contacting strangers, which was a little intimidating at first, Cochran said, but doing it in a group of people made it less scary.

“Every single person [we] talk to matters – it’s one more person the campaign can rely on to vote or one more piece of information they didn’t have before,” Cochran said.

He described it as a “very data driven campaign,” one where the campaign managers “look through voting records, donors, who’s voted for who and they use that list to make sure the core constituency come out to vote.”

Organizations such as Terps for Hillary, Terps for Bernie and Terps for Trump, which could not be reached for comment, are responsible for making sure already-registered and likely voters will come out to support their candidates.

Sara Carter. Photo by Rebecca Bolinger

MaryPIRG, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization on campus, has a different duty: helping students to register to vote. Through their New Voters Project this semester, MaryPIRG has registered 1,467 students to vote, chapter president Sara Carter said.

The biggest issue they’ve run into this semester is that a lot of students have already registered, said the junior, though “that is a good thing.”

Whether laboring in support of a specific candidate or just pushing to get out the vote, students at this university are making sure they play a role in the historic 2016 election.

*This story has been corrected. An earlier draft of the story mistakenly spelled Christopher’s last name as Walker.


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