Krista Parker is a former Associated Students Executive Officer at San Diego State University. She graduated in spring 2012 with a degree in political science and jumped right in to working on the reelection campaign of President Barack Obama. Following is her account of what that experience was like.
On July 14th, I jumped on a plane to begin the crazy adventure of campaign life- my destination Virginia Beach, VA. As one of the most important battleground “states”, I say state in quotations simply because VA considers itself a Commonwealth still to this day, VA was the place to be for this roller coaster Presidential Election and I was the lucky one who was able to sit in the front!
While in Virginia Beach, my role as a Field Organizer resulted in sleepless nights, stressful situations and pressure that is on the border of being scary. No day on the campaign was ever the same however our ultimate goal was consistent … win. That process was centralized around three types of communications: phone calls, knocking on doors and getting people registered to vote. I was responsible for seven voting precincts and the majority of those precincts had voted Republican back in 2008 so the difficulty level was high but the challenge was accepted. I met so many people on this journey ranging from the 78 year old woman who couldn’t read therefore had never registered to vote because nobody would help her with the form, to the man who lost his job because it was shipped overseas. Every person we talked to had a story of why they supported our candidate and every person had a vote.
On September 27th, I had the honor to meet the man I was working so hard for – President Barack Obama. I could use the cliché line of “this was the best moment of my life so far” and I will. We held a campaign rally in Virginia Beach that resulted in approximately 7,000 people to show their support for him. After he spoke, he walked around the crowd shaking hands, taking pictures and talking to the voters. This was my chance to thank him for everything he had done for the country and for me as a woman and student. He made his way around the curve and he shook my hand. His famous campaign quote came out of my mouth “Don’t Boo, Vote” he came in closer and replied “What did you say sweetie?” I repeated myself a little louder and slightly more confident and he smiled with a response “That’s right, Don’t Boo, Vote. Thank you for what you are doing for this country” THAT was the best moment of my life, so far.
From July until early October, I spent most of my time developing teams to work as hard as possible during the final push – Get Out the Vote (GOTV). GOTV was by far the most exciting time on the campaign because everything started to fall into place. The polls didn’t matter in my eyes and I had to stop even looking at them as we started to inch toward November 6th. The days leading up to the election resulted in horrible fast food, absolutely no sleep and many trips to 7-11 for energy drinks. Think of finals week but far worse. Walk packets had to be prepped, scripts have to be crafted for volunteers and everything had to be perfect or you risk failure. We were lucky enough to have the best teams, the best voters and the best system – that resulted in an election night projecting our candidate Barack Obama the winner of the 2012 election.
Nothing is perfect. At some of our precincts, we had people waiting in line for 10 hours to cast their vote for the President in the pouring rain. We had systems that were meant to prevent any large problems and they were successful. We had worked for months to get to this moment. Our work had paid off and the President was re-elected. It was draining and exhausting but on election night after all the polls had closed and the results were final, it was all worth it. Four out of my seven precincts voted Democrat and voter turnout increased drastically. One of my precincts ended up having a seven vote difference, in favor of the President. That is the direct effect of a ground team and that is what won the election for the President.
Many have asked me “would I ever do this again?” My answer stays the same, I don’t know if I will ever connect with a candidate the same way I did with the President. I can’t imagine doing this for a candidate that I didn’t fully agree with their policies or their politics. The President is someone I supported and was willing to work 20 hour days for 7 days a week and to find a candidate like that will take time. The friendships I have made and the experience is absolutely priceless, so on that note, if the opportunity presents itself and one truly believes in a candidate, jump on the campaign while you can still operate in “college” like conditions. The outcome is worth it!