Students volunteer their time for campaigns

Claire Napier

Claire Napier

By Anne Gleason

For Erin Janulis, president of the College Democrats, campaigning has been like a full-time job – without the pay.

Janulis is the volunteer coordinator for the Naomi Jakobsson campaign for state representative. She puts in between 30 and 40 hours a week working for Jakobsson’s campaign and for campaign efforts through the College Democrats.

Janulis, senior in LAS, said she first got involved with campaigning as a senior in high school, and she’s been hooked ever since. She spent time this summer in New Hampshire as an intern for the John Kerry campaign.

“You get a little sucked in,” she said. “You get to a point where you can’t imagine putting in the minimum amount of time – you want to be there all the time.”

Janulis works with several other students on the campaign, some of whom she said stay at the office until two or three in the morning.

Campaign volunteers will be working until the polls close, passing out information on the election and getting people to the polls. Janulis said workers officially started at 4 a.m.

Mike Schlau, senior in LAS, has been spending his weekends working for Jakobsson’s Republican opponent, Deb Feinen. During the summer, he worked between four and five hours a day for the campaign going door-to-door, working the phones in the office and getting Feinen’s message out to voters.

Schlau, who is a volunteer with the campaign, said he helped out with Jack Ryan’s primary Senate campaign last year, but this is his first long-term volunteer effort.

“I believe a lot of students want certain candidates to be elected, but I wanted to take the next step and help get the word out,” Schlau said.

Schlau said Election Day can be intense – once the polls close, the month’s worth of work come to a close and the final results are out of their control.

“You don’t know what is going to happen,” he said. “All you can do is get out the message and hope that the election turns out in (Feinen’s) favor.”

Vaishali Joshi, senior in LAS, is a volunteer coordinator for the David Gill campaign for U.S. representative. She got involved with campaigning her sophomore year through the College Democrats and has worked on several campaigns.

Like Janulis, Joshi also spends more than 30 hours a week working on the campaign.

“If I’m not in class, I’m working at the office for something for the campaign,” she said. “The past couple of weeks have been extremely hectic.”

As volunteer coordinator, she oversees student volunteers, coordinates events and puts together schedules for student volunteer work.

Joshi learned more about Gill during a primary debate at the University last year. She agreed with his views and decided to get involved.

Aside from helping to get their candidates elected, students who work on campaigns are also able to get practical experience with politics.

Both Janulis and Schlau said they learned things on the campaign they wouldn’t have learned in the classroom.

“You can’t just learn that stuff in a classroom,” Janulis said. “It can be very taxing; it’s very high-pace, high-energy, but you learn technical things about campaigns. You can never really capture the atmosphere of working late nights on a campaign or being so tired from walking so much (when you’re in the classroom).”

Janulis said campaign work takes a lot of energy but, to her, it’s time well spent.

“I love campaign life,” she said. “As stressful and taxing as it can be, it’s really, really rewarding.”