Students working with campaigns aimed to affect critical elections

Jonah Dylan, Reporter

Robert Bourret said he wanted the experience of working on a political campaign before he graduated from Northwestern. And with what he called one of the most competitive House races in the country — Illinois’ 10th district — the SESP senior decided to take a quarter off of school to work on Brad Schneider’s (D-Ill.) campaign.

“It’s just a really great experience,” Bourret said. “Anyone who wants to work in the field is at some point going to have to work full time on a campaign.”

Schneider won his race, defeating Bob Dold (R-Ill.).

Bourret was just one of several students who worked on political campaigns during this election cycle. While he managed some of Schneider’s fundraisers, members of College Democrats canvassed for Hillary Clinton in states like Iowa and Indiana, and other students spent many hours working on other campaigns important to them.

Medill senior Hannah Vicente-Kliot did not leave school for an entire quarter, but she spent Monday and Tuesday canvassing in Philadelphia for Clinton’s campaign. She said she talked to registered Democrats and encouraged them to vote, even offering them rides to their local polling place on Election Day.

“It’s really empowering to be out there,” Vicente-Kliot said. “In the beginning, it’s difficult because you feel that one person can’t change the outcome of this election, but it’s the grouping together of the Hillary supporters going out and canvassing to the best of their abilities.”

Vicente-Kliot said she knew missing two days of school would be difficult but said it was more important to do everything she could to get Clinton elected. The Democratic candidate ended up losing the election to Republican Donald Trump.

Weinberg sophomore Alex Dale worked as a fellow for Hillary for America in August and continued to do so after had Fall Quarter begun. At times, he said, it was difficult to balance working on the campaign and doing school work, especially in the last few days.

But Dale said he felt the Clinton campaign was particularly important.

“I’ve been into politics for a while, and obviously I like her a lot,” he said. “She’s a great candidate, and I think Donald Trump’s a terrible candidate, so I think it was really important that she wins this year more than any other Democratic candidate in the past.”

Before Dale attended an election watch party in downtown Chicago on Tuesday night, he said he expected Clinton to win. But, in the end, Trump prevailed.

Dale, Bourret and Vicente-Kliot all said they had chosen to work for campaigns because they thought this election was critical. The race between Schneider and Dold was close — Schneider won the seat with about 52 percent of the vote, two years after he lost the seat to Dold. It was the only Illinois seat lost by an incumbent.

Bourret said he left school to work on Schneider’s campaign because he was on track to graduate a quarter early, which made it easier for him to take time off than it would have been for most students.

“It’s hard, but it’s an industry that I really like and am passionate about,” he said. “I knew that sacrificing one quarter to have this opportunity was something that not a lot of other kids in college have the chance to do.”

Although she did not take take nearly as much time off as Bourret, Vicente-Kliot said the temporary stress was worth it in the long run.

“It’s definitely stressful, but you need to look at it in the big picture,” she said. “You need to think about what’s best for you, for America, for your future and for what you care about.”

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