College students jump on campaign trail

With the 2008 elections less than two months away, political organizations are entering the final stretches of campaigning, and College of William and Mary students are getting in on the action.

Alan Kennedy-Shaffer J.D. ’09 is a regional field director for the Democratic Coordinated Campaign who manages volunteers in 11 counties in the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck.

“My interns and I are literally changing the face of Virginia politics,” he said. “In such a close election our work can mean the difference between success and failure.”

Kennedy-Shaffer is also a full-time third year law student — though he admits that he is enrolled in the minimum number of classes.

Tyler Crowe ’12 interns 15 hours per week for the DCC.

“I volunteer just my open time and use the rest of the time to complete my school work, though it does occasionally lead to some conflicts,” Crowe said. “I compensate by staying up later, but I’m willing to do this in order to help my community.”

These long hours are dedicated to groundwork. Eileen Bartolozzi ’11 volunteers through the College Republicans.

“Our time is spent phone-banking and going door-to-door handing out literature,” she said. “I never realized how many volunteers are involved in a political campaign.”

Bryan Alphin ’10 chairs the independent campus group Students for McCain.

“I come from a farming town in southwest Virginia, so we’ve never had people go door-to-door, so [volunteering here] definitely provided a different insight for me on the election process,” he said. “It’s just interesting to see how Republicans and Democrats are going out there, trying to get every voter possible.”
Kennedy-Shaffer said volunteering on a political campaign is difficult.

“Fieldwork is not glamorous,” he said. “We get dirty.”

Molly Bulman ’12, one of Kennedy-Shaffer’s interns, is impressed with the number of people who volunteer despite long hours.

“We hear about the decline of interest in politics, but these organizations reverse that,” she said.

Bulman has heard of many interesting canvassing experiences.

“A friend of mine went to the door of a couple who said they wouldn’t vote for Mark Warner because he didn’t support the nudist lifestyle,” she said.

John Foster Kendrick ’12, who worked in the campaign headquarters of Republican presidential candidate John McCain this summer, described a similar instance.

“McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, came by and gave us a pep talk,” he said. “His phone started ringing, and he put John McCain on speakerphone to talk to us.”

Kennedy-Shaffer pointed out that students receive a good deal of knowledge about American politics through volunteering.

“Student involvement continues to be a mainstay of grassroots support; William and Mary students who are involved in this election will gain enormous understanding of the political process,” Kennedy-Shaffer said. “It’s invaluable for students to get out of the classroom and onto the campaign trail [to learn] about our political system.”

Volunteering is not the only way students can make their presence felt during this election. The deadline to register to vote is October 6, and students can use the registrar’s office to register.


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