Emersonians join Boston#039;s political fray

by Beacon Staff • October 25, 2006

Unlike most, however, those texts and phone calls are part of Vaughan's job: getting Kerry Healey elected the next governor of Massachusetts.,David Vaughan often spends the time between classes sending text messages and making phone calls, as many Emerson students do.

Unlike most, however, those texts and phone calls are part of Vaughan's job: getting Kerry Healey elected the next governor of Massachusetts.

Vaughan, a senior organizational and political communications major, is the deputy press secretary in Republican nominee Healey's campaign. Vaughan, who is also the chief justice of the Student Government Association (SGA), started interning for current governor Mitt Romney as a sophomore and was then hired as Romney's legislative director before joining the Healey campaign committee.

"I help write press releases-my area of focus is on public safety," Vaughan said in a telephone interview. "My job is to help craft the message once we know what we want to say."

Vaughan is representative of a cadre of Emerson students who are making important contributions as members of midterm election campaigns and as leaders in extracurricular organizations on campus.

Jamal Barone, president of the SGA, did advance work for Deval Patrick's primary campaign over the summer and is now a volunteer field coordinator for the Democratic nominee.

"I got to know [Patrick] pretty well," Barone, a senior marketing major, said. "He's a great candidate."

Students pulling this kind of double duty share several traits despite their opposing politics, like a dearth of free time.

Stephanie Ellis, president of an Emerson sorority and finance committee intern at MassVictory, the Democratic organization which contributes funds and volunteers to electing Patrick, says campaign internships are "intense because it's all over November 7th, no matter what happens. We've got 19 days left to elect Deval Patrick."

Ellis, a senior organizational and political communications major, knows the stress of these time constraints well, as this is her last semester before graduation. She spent all last Monday at the Patrick fundraiser where Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry all praised the candidate, which she said was "absolutely amazing." Then she had to go home and study for two tests the next day.

She was again torn between conflicting responsibilities during Family Weekend, which she coordinates through the Office of Student Life.

"I love my internship, but now Family Weekend falls right in the middle of everything, and it's a tough balancing act," Ellis said. "It's not that it's not stressful, it's that it's good stress because you know you're doing it for a good reason."

One good reason for students devoting time to campaigns is often the cause itself.

Andrea Wheeler, a sophomore organizational and political communication major, advocates for gay rights as co-president of the Emerson Alliance of Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone (EAGLE) and as a part-time field organizer for MassEquality, where she fundraises and makes phone calls for candidates the group endorses, like state senate candidate Diane Wilkerson.

Wilkerson won a hotly contested Democratic primary by about 700 votes thanks in large part to the 3000 phone calls Wheeler's team made on her behalf.

"MassEquality was awesome. They did everything. They recruited volunteers, they helped raise money," Wilkerson said at her post-primary party, according to MassEquality.org.

Another good reason to work in campaigns is, of course, ambition. If Kerry Healey wins the governership, said Vaughan, "hopefully, I'll be asked to be on her transition team and be asked to work in the governor's office."

If Healey loses, Vaughan says he would try to work for another ambitious Republican: presidential hopeful Romney.

Ellis, too, hopes to work with the next governor of Massachusetts; she just hopes it's Deval Patrick, whose victory would help her "get another internship or even a job after November 7th."

Peter Loge, an Emerson graduate of 1987 and president of the alumni association, knows well the importance of building political connections and social relationships during campaigns.

Loge cut his teeth interning with several campaigns in the '80s while at Emerson and is now senior vice president of government affairs at M+R Strategic Services, a political consulting firm in Washington, D.C., where he remains friends-and business partners-with people he worked with over 20 years ago.

"You work together, you sleep in cars together, you get shot at putting up campaign signs together, and you form a bond with people," Loge said.

Loge said his experiences working on campaigns while a student like Vaughan and Ellis educated him in many ways.

"If someone asks you if you want to do something, the answer is always yes," Loge said. "If someone asks you if you can do something, the answer is always yes, and then you figure out how to do it."