Politicians recruit U students as campaign workers

When Utah politicians are in need of campaign staffers, the U is a prime hunting ground.

Dozens of U students are working on the campaigns of local politicians this fall. From low-level assistants to top-tier managers and political advisers, students are helping local politicians in their aims at office.

Landing a job managing a high-profile campaign while still in college might seem daunting to some students, but with the right connections, many U students have found their way to the top.

Joe Crocket, a senior in political science, is leading Democrat Christian Burridge’s attempt to capture Utah’s 3rd congressional district from Republican incumbent Chris Cannon. Crocket said Burridge offered him the position.

“I was a little surprised that he even offered me the job,” Cannon, 24, said. “I think I’m the youngest (Utah) campaign manager in a federal race.”

Crocket got his foot in the door with the Democratic Party as a freshman by taking an internship with the Hinckley Institute of Politics on the campaign of Donald Dunn, who ran against Sen. Orrin Hatch in 2000. Since his first internship, Crocket has worked on five different campaigns and is an officer in the Democratic Party.

Kirk Jowers, director of the institute of politics, said politicians are eager to get campaign workers from the U.

“Almost without exception any one in the Salt Lake Valley comes to the Hinckley Institute for interns,” Jowers said.

Jowers said it isn’t uncommon to have students working on the top levels of and even managing entire campaigns.

“I think too many students think ‘I’ll go stuff envelopes and put up yard signs’-that’s not the case,” he said. “We always have managers and top advisers.”

Jen Jankowski said she developed a friendship with state Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, whose campaign she is now managing, while working as her intern during the legislative session.

“She’s very much my mentor,” said the senior political science major. “I know how she works; she knows how I work.”

A number of U students get involved in local campaigns each fall through a class in political management (Political Science 3610) taught by Salt Lake City Councilman Dave Buhler. The class is offered as part of the new minor in campaign management.

Buhler said that more than 30 candidates showed up to the first session of the class in hopes of recruiting volunteers, but several had to be turned away because there are only 28 students in the class.

“The fact that you had more than 30 candidates come shows how instrumental (students) are,” Buhler said. “They are pretty much in demand.”

He said members of the class are working on nearly every major campaign, from Hatch to Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson.

Some students said their availability and willingness to work for little to no wages makes them appealing to candidates, but Buhler said they have a number of attributes that make them desirable.

“They’re young, eager and bring a lot of enthusiasm to a campaign,” he said.

Buhler said students from the U and his class in particular often have a wealth of knowledge about campaign strategies.

“Sometimes they know more than the campaign managers,” he said.

Kim Bowman, a non-matriculated masters of public administration student, said state Senate candidate Thomas Wright knew him from their mutual membership in the Sigma Chi fraternity. He said Wright chose him for the job because of his leadership experience in the fraternity.

Bowman spent the summer managing Wright’s campaign and is now Wright’s political adviser. He said the campaign experience is a good supplement to the theory he learned as an undergraduate in political science.

“That’s the idealized version, but it’s a whole different ball game to see those theories out there in play,” Bowman said.