Pressure on the campaign trail
Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 02:02
With 10 to 15 students in each of the four candidate’s inner campaigning circle and many more carrying out smaller tasks for campaigns, the days leading up to the Feb. 21 election are a community effort.
Between the late-night planning, the speaking engagements, banner holding and fitting in a nap whenever possible, student body president elections can monopolize lives during campaigning season.
Just over 25 percent of students voted for an SBP candidate in last year’s elections, a turnout that is almost 800 votes higher than the voter turnout for yell leader. Behind these votes is a process that starts long before the official two weeks of campaigning.
Kasey Kram, one of four candidates running for student body president, said picking the right team to support him through the process and help carry the burden of stress is vital. Kram said he feels lucky to have a campaign staff with individuals who have helped with Texas Lieutenant Governor race campaigns.
“It’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of stress on those individuals for the campaigning,” Kram said. “Campaigning is not just the two weeks that you can speak to organizations and hand out fliers and hold banners. It’s a lot of prep work beforehand, making sure each member is prepared, making sure their schedule lines up with campaign season.”
Andrea Berrios, campaign manager for candidate Gus Blessing, said between managing the campaign timeline and helping brainstorm among other managerial activities, she expects to spend four to five hours a day on the campaign. Berrios said that while she has no experience campaigning, she is a project-oriented person, a characteristic she said is necessary for the job.
“In addition to managing people and making sure things get done, I also find myself doing a lot of things I probably should have delegated to people, but we didn’t realize it at the time,” Berrios said.
Berrios said the job is ultimately a learning experience for everyone, fueled by a common belief in the role the student body president should play.
No matter what position in the campaigning structure someone holds, managing classes, organizational commitments and campaign activities is a balancing act.
Kevin von Storch, candidate Kyle Kelly’s campaign manager, said while he will be stocking up on caffeine, balancing obligations will require more than long hours — it will ultimately be a matter of setting an agenda each day and giving it his best.
Von Storch said a big part of campaigning is prioritizing classes.
“It’s going to be a full-time job for the next two weeks,” von Storch said. “This is actually something Kyle’s mom touched on at our retreat. School does come first, it just won’t necessarily come at typical times that you are doing homework late in the night. You are going to be drinking caffeine, running on low sleep, but I gave my word to Kyle, I gave my word to my parents, that I’d stay focused on school.”
Though von Storch said he would be busy with campaigning each day, he said he would still contribute to organizations like Maroon Coats and Big Event as well.
“Balance is going to be tough,” von Storch said. “It’s going to be trial and error these next two weeks, but I truly believe that if you are giving it your best that’s all that can be asked of you.”
Von Storch said that while the process is trial and error for everyone involved, Kelly’s experience in leading current student body president Reid Joseph’s campaign last year is insightful for the entire team in promoting Kelly’s goals.
“It’s really helpful for me and the rest of the team because he’s done this before,” von Storch said. “He remembers some strategy as far as, ‘Don’t forget this and don’t forget that.’”
Mark Womack, who graduated from the Bush School in 2013, worked on six campaigns for various positions within Student Government through his undergraduate and graduate career at Texas A&M, including an unsuccessful campaign with his twin brother for a yell leader position and a successful campaign for former student body president John Claybrook.
Womack said campaign staffs can total more than 100 people and can generally be divided into three tiers.
Womack said the bulk of the campaign staff is made of front line “infantry” people who do everything from holding signs to talking to organizations on a candidate’s behalf.
“You wouldn’t want to call it grunt work, because that demeans what it [is],” Womack said. “It’s the most important thing, when it comes down to it, in running a campaign.”
The second tier is made up of a core of people who facilitate activities that candidates come to rely on, Womack said, and these people make sure signs are held and promotional material is passed around.
“I think in some of the campaigns, you’ll have a group that is basically not quite campaign manager level, but is there all the time and can be relied on,” Womack said.
Womack said the last tier is made up of the managers of the campaign. These students are likely to devote the most amount of time for the longest time-span, often testing platform ideas with groups and working on designs as early as October.