With a presidential election year a few weeks away the campaign offices in every state are actively recruiting for energetic people who want to participate in grassroots level politics. A state as large as California means candidates need to cover a lot more ground and reach a lot more constituents, which translates into hiring more people for the duration of the campaign. Luckily, both ends of the political spectrum are hiring.
The only thing typical about a day in this job is that it is sure to be a very long one. The workday starts with an early morning read of the headlines followed by a quick write-up of the campaign’s position on any of the major news stories. This rapid turnaround is essential since a campaign’s ability to respond quickly is often seen, by the public, as a campaign that is prepared to tackle any issue. For any negative publicity it is vital that a campaign make the afternoon and evening news programs so that they can deflect all the attacks before they tarnish anyone’s image. Bob Mulholland, Senior Advisor for California Democratic Party, describes his job by saying, “There is no other job like this in the country. You have to assume Murphy’s Law is around the corner twenty-four hours a day.”
As Election Day looms, employees spend their days preparing for all the public appearances the candidate has to make. Here is where an expert in logistics management is perfect for the job. An advance team has to make sure all of the signs, balloons, helium tanks, tables, chairs, and microphones are set up before anyone arrives. They also need to double check the sound system and security arrangements. The attention to detail extends even to the level of knowing where the sun is going to rise and set. This is because staffers have to place the podium in exactly the right spot so that there is no glare for the cameras, the audience, or the person speaking. This can be more difficult than it sounds since candidates are frequently delayed and might show up much later than expected.
While most of the jobs for a political campaign have a very public focus, there is always a need for people to work behind the scenes. This includes people with a technology background who can update the website and monitor the email blasts. Another huge component of political campaigns is the necessary fundraising, so anyone with accounting and finance experience is always needed. However, whatever the job description, most people who work in a campaign find they will do double duty at some time or another—whether it is answering phones or sending out press releases.
One of the unexpected parts of this job is the need to maintain an ever-changing safety net that can respond to the opposition’s attempts to thwart your efforts. One campaign worker who spoke to the Examiner said he now always carries the phone number of a local locksmith and mechanic for every city his campaign stops in. He learned this lesson after having the experience of arriving to work only to find all the office locks had been super-glued and the tires on all the vans intended to drive voters to the polls were flat. There were sixteen vans, so it certainly wasn’t a coincidence. These days it isn’t uncommon for employees to be rotate working night shifts so there is always a presence at the offices (and, more importantly, the parking lots).
In any campaign, so much of the work is carried out by volunteers that paid staff find they spend some of their time making sure these people are taken care of properly. This means having enough drinks and snacks on hand, as well as places for them to sit so they aren’t having to sit on the floor while they stuff envelopes or call constituents. Hector Barajas, Communications Director for the California Republican Party, says, “The right person for this job is someone who can adapt to the situation. All of us realize, for example, that it’s never above us to go and make a donut run. That’s the success of people who stay in politics.”
There is a long list of reasons why people love these jobs. While all agree that it is exhausting, it is rewarding nonetheless. The adrenaline rush, the camaraderie, and the opportunity to be a part of history as it happens are just a few of the frequently mentioned reasons why people are attracted to this as a career. Mulholland, however, is brave enough to mention the one thing that people like most of all about working in politics. “Winning,” he says with a smile. It seems as though he has finally hit upon one thing that both sides are sure to agree on.