Campaign volunteers provide backbone to 2012 elections

4:16 PM, Oct 1, 2012   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

By Tracy Clemons

St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - Besides the people running for office, volunteers may be the most important people to a campaign.

"We have almost 30 offices open across the state, but we don't have a lot of paid staff," says Sen. Claire McCaskill. "So a lot of the legwork and phoning that's being done is just being done by people who care about their country."

"They really are the heart and soul of any campaign at any level, whether you're talking about running for county council or the Romney Ryan campaign," says Republican candidate for Attorney General Ed Martin.

Whether they're knocking on doors, working the phones, or feeding their fellow volunteers, everyone has their own role and reason for volunteering.

"When I realized that I could make a difference, I began to volunteer my time going out canvassing and making phone calls," says Democratic volunteer Sheva Williams.

"I get a fulfillment of my excitement and my passion for helping this country," Republican volunteer Emily Koenig says. "I feel like this is the one thing I can tangibly do to help make a difference in the upcoming election.

This is Koenig's first round as a campaign volunteer. We talked to her at the Republican call center in Fenton on a Super Saturday.

"The people here really helped me understand we're not trying to persuade the person on the other end of the line," says Koenig. "We're just trying to see what way they're planning to vote so that other people can go and help persuade them."

"They're asking pretty simple questions about who they're planning to vote for and we use that effort closer to the election in our get out the vote effort," adds Republican Communications Director Tom Brandt.

Volunteers are just as vital to the Democratic campaigns. The emphasis for much of the party's effort in Missouri is re-electing Senator Claire McCaskill, whose seat is considered by many observers to be the most endangered Senate seat up for grabs this year. Coordinated Campaign Director Karla Thieman says they focus on getting out the vote and persuasion.

"We have to persuade a lot of undecided voters," Thieman says. "There's going to be a point in time, which we've probably reached that already, where the airwaves are filled and it's sort of becoming white noise. What really matters is person to person contact."

Using people like Kenyotta Griffin, who is new to the volunteer game.

"I'm a mom. I work full time. I go to PTA meetings. So this is my first time volunteering. But I realize that November...this is serious," says Griffin.

One question we had heading into this story was how these volunteers are trained to make sure there's no misinformation going out to the thousands of people they're calling. Staffs on both sides say there is extensive training, though each does it differently.

"When we're training our volunteers, we don't train them in the issues," says Tom Brandt. "We're not trying to persuade anybody. Our thing is just a get out the vote effort.'

"We go through a pretty extensive messaging training on the key contrast points between Claire McCaskill and Todd Akin," Karla Thieman says.

Full time staff is around just in case the volunteers get taken off script.

"When they go off script, I try to go with them as long as I'm pretty experienced in what they're talking about," Sheva Williams tells us.

"It's certainly possible that someone could ask me a question I don't know the answer to, but it doesn't give me any anxiety," says Republican volunteer Ernie Clarke.

As we get closer to Election Day, volunteers become more and more important, and both sides say they'll take help from anyone who's willing.


Most Watched Videos