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Campaigning with Peace

Mary Kubeny

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Peace students recently visited the campaign offices of two candidates, independent incumbent Nancy McFarlane and democratic opponent Charles Francis, during the run-off municipal election for the Raleigh mayoral position. Students received this hands on campaign experience as a part of Dr. Elizabeth Kusko’s State and Local Government class at Peace.

As a part of the class’s focus on local politics students visited the campaign offices to get an inside look on how political campaigns work but also the goals and processes of government at a local level. National elections are highly sensationalized by the media and catch the public’s attention easily while more local elections like this one require more effort to motivate the people to go out and vote.

“Local elections don’t have the same glamour of national elections but they’re still really important,” said Emma Shaw, Field Director for the Nancy McFarlane campaign.

At each campaign office students spoke with the candidate’s campaign managers and other campaign staff about the candidates, the issues facing Raleigh that they hope to address, and also generally the political career experience and how it differed at different levels of government. Students had the opportunity to ask questions and then participate and get hands-on experience working on a political campaign.

At the Francis campaign office students chose between voter data entry, where they typed the voter information in the campaigns database, and making phone calls, where students called potential voters and, using a script, tried to encourage them to vote for Francis. Things got competitive at the McFarlane campaign office when students were each given a call sheet and phone script calling for potential campaign volunteers. The first to get a guaranteed volunteer was the winner and the students were successful in obtaining at least three more volunteers for the campaign call center.

A common theme from both campaign’s staff was the need for campaign workers and the potential benefits of the full experience. For recent college graduates, working on a campaign, at any level of government, can offer valuable professional experience, networking, and even the opportunity for travel. Brett Stargell, the Field Operator for the Charles Francis campaign, first got involved with the Obama 2008 presidential election campaign but currently focuses on more local campaigns.

“There is a place for you in any campaign,” Stargell told Peace students in response to student curiosity in campaign work as a career.

During the runoff campaign both candidates focused on their platforms and letting the people choose which direction they want to see Raleigh headed in; however, students noticed the candidates had very different campaign strategies. Charles Francis primarily focused on Raleigh’s affordable housing crisis and its effects on the inner city as well as traffic issues, job growth and innovation for the city. Nancy McFarlane’s campaign took a different approach, as incumbent mayor McFarlane advertised her achievements in similar issues while pointing out her opponents past flaws and lack of experience.

The runoff election was held on November 7th, 2017. It was a very tight race with only about 8,000 votes separating the two candidates. In the end, Mayor McFarlane won 57.8 percent of the vote and was elected into the position for her fourth term as Raleigh Mayor.

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Campaigning with Peace