By Stephen Scafidi
This is one in a series of articles appearing this semester about the presidential election process. Previous articles in the series covered voter registration, Super Tuesday, and the Libertarian candidate for president.
Michael Spadoro, a staff assistant for the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, has been tied to politics his entire life. His father was the former mayor of Edison and he was part of the student government association in high school. He is now using his skills with the NJDSC.
“Working on a campaign is like a roller coaster,” Spadoro said. “There are ups, downs and you’re always moving; sometimes working close to 100 hours per week.”
All it takes is dedication to work on a political campaign, said Spadoro, and there is a department for everyone. New Jerseyans can get involved in field (voter contact), communications, and fundraising and political, according to Spadoro. Volunteers, interns and workers will have experience or no experience in more than one of these areas. It does not affect the chance of getting hired.
“Anyone can get involved with a political campaign regardless of whom they are, even if that means simply volunteering,” Spadoro explained. “There are almost always internship opportunities for college and sometimes high school students who want to one day be campaign staffers.
“For students looking to make extra money, but don’t have any experience, (they) can often take advantage of paid canvassing opportunities,” Spadoro said. “Getting an actual paid job on a campaign usually requires campaign internship and volunteer experience, and in more cases than not, a college degree. Campaign volunteer and internship opportunities aren’t difficult to find.”
Most campaign websites have links where those interested can sign up or provide contact information for a local headquarters. It is also perfectly acceptable to walk into a campaign headquarters and ask for information, according to Spadoro.
During the campaign process, volunteers, interns and campaign staffers each fill a specific role crucial for success, he said. A volunteer’s primary objective is voter contact. They are the one who knock on doors and I.D voters to see who they are voting for. They also have the chance to sway undecided voters. Interns are given a much larger role, said Spadoro.
“[Interns] do all that volunteers to, but are trusted with more difficult tasks; such as volunteer training, recruiting, and management, data entry and voter file maintenance,” he said.
Campaigning is similar regardless of what political party you work with, according to Rick Rosenberg, a representative of the New Jersey Republican State Committee.
“Political operatives running campaigns are doing so around the clock and they will often call on the quickest learners and interns that consistently put in the most hours to help with assignments that are more challenging than simply contacting voters or answering phones,” Rosenberg said. “Internships that are utilized to the full potential can easily translate into employment for future campaigns. “
Rosenberg also said that almost everyone he knows working on campaigns started off as an intern, which is one of the best ways to get involved in a political campaign.
“Virtually everyone I know that has built a career in politics did so by starting as an intern on a campaign,” Rosenberg said. “Political science courses teach a lot about theory and how government is supposed to work, but lack an emphasis on how to wage successful campaigns. Internships are crash courses on campaigns that expose students to virtually every aspect of how campaigns are organized.”
Finally, a campaign staffer is the position that gets to staff the candidate, advance for events and help set up rallies and fundraisers. This is one of the most popular positions on a campaign.
“[Campaigning] is the fun part of the job,” Spadoro said.
Rick Rosenberg Jr. (courtesy of linkedin.com)
The New Jersey Democratic State Committee is located at 194 West State St. in Trenton and can be contacted at (609) 392-DEMS (3367), while the New Jersey Republican State Committee is at 150 West State St. also in Trenton. Republicans can be reached at (609) 989-7300.
The work on a campaign runs until the very end of the presidential race, according to Spadoro.
“The bottom line is that campaigns start months before the election,” he said, “and the staffers are working constantly, until the second the polls close on Election Day.”