Students learn campaigning tips from political pros

November 12, 2021

They may not have been listening to the tenses of “Hail to the Chief” just yet, but several ASU School of Public Affairs students recently heard voting experts describe what it takes to work to win a political race.

Successful activists provided electoral advice to the nine students interested in political careers and others in the Community Candidate Guidance and Development Forum.
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Jeffrey Guncher, a board member, said the forum is “an educational opportunity not only for those who wish to run for public office but for others who wish to engage in campaign management, budgeting, fundraising, communications and voting activities.” The professor of practice at the College of Public Affairs who arranged for the students to attend.

Gunscher said this was an invaluable opportunity for students to also learn how society and business prepare for, contribute to, and participate in the electoral process.

“The information may motivate students to run for elected office, decide to work for an elected official or take responsible management positions within public bodies at all levels of government,” he said.

The October 20 event was sponsored by the National Association of Realtors and several Arizona realtor organizations, and was held at SkySong, ASU Scottsdale’s Center for Innovation.

Participants heard from John Winston, director of campaign services for the National Association of Realtors, a veteran of many national and local campaigns, and Justin Allen, a political strategist and former Colorado legislator.

A panel titled “I’ve Been Elected, What Next?” Former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, former Mesa City Manager Mike Hutchinson, former Arizona Representative Steve Hoffman of the Marana, and Kevin Kirschmayr, who ran Kate Gallego’s successful campaign for mayor of Phoenix, appeared.

Here, three students discuss what they learned from the forum and its implications for their future in politics and public policy.

Haley Aquino is an undergraduate student who will receive two BA degrees: one in Political Science from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and one in Public Service and Public Policy from the College of Public Affairs, Both in May 2022, Plus an accelerated master’s degree in public administration in May 2023.

Justin Kent will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Service and Public Policy from the School of Public Affairs with a focus in Emergency Management and Homeland Security in May 2022.

Zach Gotzeweiler is pursuing a concurrent Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater (Design and Production) from the School of Music, Dance and Theater and in Film and Media Production from the New American Film School Sidney Poitier. Both are at the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts. A minor in Public Service and Public Policy in the College of Public Affairs. He will receive his degree in May 2023.

Question: Perhaps this forum was different from your usual class in political science or public affairs. How did it differ?

Student, School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University

Haley Akino

not here: The speakers were teaching us based on their real political campaign experiences, not on theoretical or conceptual information. They came to us with confidence, knowing that they had worked through all the ups and downs of running political campaigns. I was able to apply myself to all the knowledge they gave us, which It allowed me to think of the endless possibilities that come with the pursuit of a political career.

Kent: It was very different. This was a step in a new direction for the most part. This workshop offered a different kind of opportunity for people interested in politics. Speakers brought their own experiences from both the federal and state level.

Gottzueller: Attendees were able to interact with community members and policy makers alike to implement proven ground-level concepts. Often in the classroom we focus on high-level topics and forget how to work on matters that directly affect members of society.

s: Name the most important thing you learned from the forum. Then share what you think you will do with this knowledge.

not here: Truthfully, the most important thing I’ve learned is the importance of giving people hope. Service in public office is dependent on a desire to do good to the electorate and the communities you represent in office. Seminar speakers emphasized that we need more public servants who are ready to become the specific leaders who provide people with optimism about the future. Making it a priority for me to find ways to instill and encourage hope in the lives of others will surely contribute to a better world today.

Student, School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University

Justin Kent

Kent: The seminar was the best part of this seminar. It was remarkable that former Mayor Paul Johnson and former lawmaker Steve Hoffman sat down to talk about their individual experiences with politics. Being in different political groups has no (impact) on the information they gave us. They stressed the importance of working together and doing what is best for the community. I plan to take the advice they gave us and bring it into my career.

Gottzueller: How to manage your campaign finances became one of the most useful discussions in the seminar – it’s a topic that often gets forgotten and becomes an issue as campaigns become more expensive. The tools provided allow candidates and policy makers to understand the long process of fundraising and spending while maintaining strict and fair electoral policies for all candidates.

Q: In an age of polarized political situations, is it possible for one to adequately serve one’s audience? That, no matter what the well-meaning incumbent does, will it disappoint or even anger a large segment of the electorate?

not here: Yes, there is a way you can adequately serve an entire constituency, even in an age of polarized political situations. There will always be at least one person who does not agree with something, which makes it necessary for the owner of the office to choose his battles wisely. The employee who does his job knows well how to empathize maturely with people who have different beliefs and viewpoints. Being someone who is willing to speak with all classes of people safely is key to successfully serving the public, as well as promoting civic discourse.

Kent: They wanted us to understand that you may or may not be able to keep every promise you make while running for office. Things happen and you can only promise your best. Mr Johnson has stated that after the election you should really focus on the job and not the next election. If your focus is only winning, you will end up missing out on the best parts of being an elected official.

Student, School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University

Zach Gotzweiler

Gottzueller: I think one is able to adequately serve the electorate, but that does not disregard the fact that eventually someone will be disappointed or angry. Making the right decision comes with years of policy planning and many people working together – and this has been overlooked many times by the public when the outcome seems unfavorable. Part of community leadership is the ability to see and manage the big picture and mitigate the risks that arise when making decisions.

Q: When talking about a political career with friends or family, someone may encounter some questions or even criticism. What do you tell the people you know about why you think it might be the right path for you?

not here: Certainly, the possibility of pursuing a political career is met with tension and uneasiness as this career path will be difficult. Despite this, political life can be the way for me because I have seen how tragedy and suffering have highlighted the weaknesses of government and society. I believe that restoring connection and empathy in the community will come with building innovative solutions together. It is more important for me now than ever to think about how to do my part at this crucial point in time. I welcome the opportunity to do this on a larger scale.

Kent: I like to think of myself as a problem solver. I really enjoy getting to know others and helping them when they need it. I think politics is the right choice for me. I am a person who generally gets along with everyone. I understand there will always be disagreements, and I feel that’s part of the challenge. When you’re running for office, there are things you need to remember. A major concern is the family. You are not running to be an elected official. Your family members may face some criticism. The best thing you can do is take it with a grain of salt. Everyone has a vote, and I think every concern should be taken into account.

Gottzueller: I believe that working in politics or politics is an opportunity for you to serve your community and neighboring communities. I would like to develop policy and funding for the arts within the cultural and academic fields. We often overlook the arts or think they are a waste of time and money. But in reality, our everyday world is driven just like science and innovation, and we must serve it and advance it just like any other sector we find important. Taking an interest in the arts and creating a policy that benefits the arts allows us to advance the cultural understandings of our community.

The School of Public Affairs is part of Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

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