The midterm elections are on the minds of many, but some Boston University students have taken additional steps to be more involved than most, getting in on the ground floor of the democratic process by working on political campaigns across the country.
Nina Gulbransen, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, works as a campus fellow for democratic Governor-elect Maura Healey’s campaign, which she said is “ramping things up” as the election draws nearer. She said she helps out with canvassing, flyering, phone banking and text banking, to “get more people out there and get them voting.”
Gulbransen said she chose to work on Healey’s campaign over a similar role in her home state, Florida.
“I wanted to get more involved with Massachusetts politics and … get my fellow students more involved,” she said. “I also really liked Maura’s message, and I think she’s a really worthwhile candidate.”
Gulbransen also notes that her superiors at the campaign understand that college students are balancing a lot of work.
“Maura and her campaign does a really good job of making sure that we’re not overwhelmed, but we’re still involved, and we’re still getting to use opportunities to get her message out,” she said.
Nicholas Carlson, freshman in CAS, said he is working on two campaigns in the upcoming election. He is on the campaign staff for Michigan State House candidate Phil Skaggs and is a fellow for Michigan state Senate candidate David LaGrand.
“It made me understand my community more and what their needs and wants are more,” Carlson said. “It gave me valuable work experience. I think it was an amazing decision.”
Carlson said he helped the LaGrand campaign “get up and running” before leaving for school this fall.
“I’m still pretty active,” Carlson said. “Every couple of weeks [Skaggs] will just shoot me a text, … from afar, just helping with whatever they need.”
Carlson said he first became involved in politics while working on a Skaggs campaign in high school. His responsibilities on that campaign included creating the candidates website, taking photos for said website and filming videos for the candidate’s social media, but he moved on to other duties, he said.
“I started doing more stuff, talking to voters, going door-to-door knocking, designing what to hand out to people,” he said.
Working on smaller campaigns, Carlson said, is less formal and can mean more interaction with the candidate themselves.
“I like getting to know the candidate personally,” Carlson said. “Most of the stuff at the state level you’ll have the phone number and email of the candidate and you’ll talk with them directly.”
Sean Waddington, a sophomore in CAS, is a campaign fellow for New York state senator Samra Brouk. Over the summer, he said, he worked in the office and canvassed, but is now working remotely in Boston and makes phone calls and manages lists.
Waddington said it’s the final push of canvassing, which is always hectic — he called it “get out the vote,” or “GOTV,” season.
“We’re working on mobilizing the voters that we know will vote for us,” he said. “We’re working on calling Democrats, whether they have absentee ballots or encouraging them to early vote, making sure they know their polling places.”
Waddington began working on the Brouk campaign as a high school senior in 2020.
“I think we’ve seen time and time again, state houses have a lot more power than we think they do,” he said.
Waddington said he remains “cautiously optimistic” about the race. Some of that optimism comes from his faith in the Brouk campaign.
“I feel hopeful when I’m working on this campaign because I actually believe in it,” he said. “But I can see through that different lenses of different candidates where that’s not the same story for every race.”
Waddington recommends campaign work “for anyone, to any level, any extent they can,” if they can just break past the initial barrier.
“People yell at you, people hang up on you, people are rude,” he said. “And every once in a while someone is so grateful that you called them … and that one call fuels you through. It’s not glorified work. It’s tough work, but hitting the pavement’s fun. Someone’s gotta do it.”