Students devote summer, fall semester to political campaigns

Indiana Daily Student: In a big year for both state and federal politics, many politically-inclined students are putting their knowledge to the test by joining campaigns at all levels.

By taking internships and campaign positions, students have been working hard since the primaries to help candidates move toward success in November.

Junior Nicole Keefling and sophomore Reagan Kurk took positions on Curtis Hill’s campaign for Indiana Attorney General.

Keefling, who said she has been involved with over 20 campaigns since she was in the eighth grade, serves as the County Coordinator for Northeast Indiana, where she is from.

“Sometimes you just meet those candidates that you know are going to put everything into this job, and he’s one of those candidates,” Keefling said.

The two first met for coffee at the Starbucks on Kirkwood, and Keefling said Hill was eager to include her in his campaign.

“He’s the kind of person that if you sit down and talk to him, he talks to you like you’re the only person in the world,” Keefling said.

After asking question after question in that meeting, Keefling said she now sees Hill as one of the most knowledgeable people about state law she’s ever met.

Her role in the campaign included reaching out to state delegates before the primary to convince them to hold the same high opinion of Hill she has. At the state convention, whenever another candidate lost a round of voting, she would be right there to convince those delegates to vote for Hill instead of any other candidate still left in the running.

In the end, Hill was able to clinch the Republican nomination.

“You just get the warmest feeling inside of you knowing that you played a part in this," Keefling said.

Although she continues to be involved with Hill’s campaign as Monroe County Coordinator, Kurk kept busy helping multiple candidates back through the primaries.

Through Hathaway Strategies out of Indianapolis, Kurk became involved with Jennifer McCormick’s campaign for state superintendent. During the primaries, she also worked with current Indiana Attorney General, Greg Zoeller.

Senior Bee Smale currently works with Indiana politics at a slightly higher level. Their candidate is Shelli Yoder, who is running for Indiana 9th District Representative for US Congress.

Smale first became involved in Yoder’s campaign after going to a watch party at her office. They then filled out an application and interned for Yoder during the summer before working in a more permanent position.

This position allows them to bring more youth involvement to the Yoder campaign in addition to working on phone banking, parades and policy research.

Smale said they most enjoy the short- and long-term gratification campaigns supply. Immediate results can come from something a small as new donations, while the end goal of winning the election rounds out the overall experience.

Yoder will run against a Tennessee native, which Smale said has encouraged them to work hard to help Yoder win.

“This race is incredibly important for Indiana,” Smale said.

Senior Vincent Halloran decided to go all-in for November’s election, taking a semester off school to serve as the Regional Field Director for South-Central Indiana on Democratic candidate John Gregg’s campaign for governor.

He manages eight counties surrounding Bloomington and is responsible for voter contact and registration in these areas, as well as keeping in touch with Gregg’s other offices across the state.

In addition to this campaign, which he has been working on since May, Halloran said he has been involved in two other campaigns in the past. He said he sees campaigning as a way for him to practice what he has learned through his classes at IU and take an active role in finding solutions to current political problems.

Halloran was motivated to become involved in Gregg’s campaign because he wanted to see Mike Pence taken out of the governor’s seat.

As Donald Trump’s running mate, Pence is now ineligible to run for governor, but that has only strengthened Halloran’s affinity for Gregg, he said.

“It’s a confirmation that Mike Pence isn’t concerned with Indiana," Halloran said. "He’s concerned with his own political career."

He said he sees Gregg as an inclusive candidate who is truly using his position to benefit the state of Indiana by focusing on fixing its economy and education system.

Although he said the campaign in this area is built primarily around IU students, there is a particularly young volunteer who inspires Halloran. The 14-year-old Bloomington South High School freshman comes into the office and puts in 10 hours every week, reminding Halloran to stay passionate.

“Anyone who’s motivated can have a significant role in politics,” Halloran said. “There’s no one too small or too young.”