Campaign managers often new to local politics

Ryan Wenzel

When Evanston Mayor Lorraine H. Morton’s campaign manager stepped down for personal reasons, Morton’s daughter knew she had to take the position.

"Politics just isn’t my thing," said Elizabeth Brasher, a business administrator at Northwestern. "But this is Mom, you know? Turning it down was not an option."

Brasher is one of many campaign managers helping Evanston candidates prepare for the April 5 elections. Campaign managers handle public relations, mailings and campaign events.

Brasher had no political experience before joining her mother’s campaign, but she said she knew she had the necessary skills to do the job.

"I knew I could bring certain organizational skills to the table, and there were some very knowledgeable people (on the campaign) to help me," she said.

Brasher said she devotes about two or three hours a day to the campaign and often accompanies her mother to political events.

"I have found it rewarding," Brasher said. "I work with really wonderful people who have been really supportive of me and Mom."

Campaigning is also a family effort for write-in candidate Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd). His son Ayinde, a Weinberg senior, canvassed the Second Ward to publicize his father’s write-in campaign.

Other campaign managers said an interest in politics drove them to become involved in the Evanston elections. Eric McNaughton, 22, read about mayoral challenger Peter Godwin’s campaign in the Chicago Tribune and asked to help.

"I basically picked him," McNaughton said.

McNaughton said he sees his involvement with the Godwin campaign as a jump-start to a career in politics. He has also worked as an intern for U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and worked on John Kerry’s presidential campaign.

"I’m ultimately looking for work at senators’ or congressmen’s offices," said McNaughton, a recent graduate of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis.

First Ward aldermanic contender Cheryl Wollin turned to a professional colleague for assistance. She picked Bill Taylor, a fellow professor of political science at Oakton Community College and friend of 40 years.

"When she told me she was running, I said I’d do anything I could to help," said Taylor, 62.

Like Brasher and Godwin, Taylor has never managed a campaign before. But he has worked on several Chicago aldermanic campaigns and the Kerry campaign. He said he sees himself as an organizational force in Wollin’s campaign.

"She and all of the people on the campaign have so much experience," Taylor said. "All of the people there are so much more knowledgeable. I see myself as more of a coordinator."

Unlike McNaughton, Taylor did not begin his campaign work as a stepping-stone. But he said working on Wollin’s campaign has made him consider doing more political work in the future.

"If there were someone like (Wollin) running for office again, I’d be honored to work for them," he said.

Even Brasher, who had no intention of getting into politics, said she would manage her mother’s future campaigns. She hasn’t even ruled out a political career for herself.

"I never say I’ll never do something," she said.

Reach Ryan Wenzel at [email protected]