Some Stanford students are not only voting in midterm elections but working on campaigns in the hopes of shaping its outcomes. With this year’s midterm elections rapidly approaching, students working with campaigns spoke to The Daily about squeezing in extra hours of phone banking or virtual meetings in between classes.
One of those students is Adri Arquin ’26, who is currently working on the Kelly Morrison for Minnesota State Senate campaign.
Arquin has been involved in various senate and congressional campaigns in Minnesota since his freshman year of high school. This year, volunteering looks different. Because he’s now based in Stanford, Arquin cannot go directly to voters’ doors to pass out campaign materials or phone bank with other volunteers in the campaign office.
However, being a Stanford student volunteering for a campaign has had benefits, Arquin said. The hours he spent on phone calls with voters have now turned into virtual meetings with campaign organizers where he applies knowledge and experience from classes, Arquin said.
“[Work] has been informed a lot by some of the classes that I’m taking in earth systems. Because I’m learning about these things in classes, it has been a really nice experience to balance wanting to be involved in a campaign and also be a full-time student,” Arquin said.
For some, campaigning is a full-time commitment. Sean Casey ’23 took two gap quarters in 2020 to work on Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign. Now, Casey is taking another gap quarter to work as a press secretary on Elissa Slotkin’s congressional campaign in Lansing, Michigan. He got the job through referrals from his past work on other campaigns.
Coming into Stanford as an intended math major, Casey was a bit wary about stepping into politics. He started volunteering for Buttigieg’s campaign because he was his hometown mayor. But, his interest in politics grew once the work started, as he started to realize how many of Buttigieg’s experiences paralleled his own life.
Casey now plans to work in politics post-grad. “I’ve never looked back. It totally changed what I wanted to do with my life.”
As the press secretary, he is in charge of writing press advisories, coordinating events with news organizations and managing social media platforms. His day-to-day life looks a bit different from a typical Stanford student, as most of his time learning in classes is replaced with meetings to go over the day’s press or attending events with Slotkin.
Casey agreed with Arquin that coursework at Stanford contributes to his work for the campaign.
“Nothing is going to be as directly applicable as actually doing it,” Casey said. “No classes can replicate that experience, but the kind of the skills you learn — critical thinking skills, collaboration — all that stuff is very, very valuable in campaigns as in life.”
As the election date draws nearer, Arquin said there is a shift in his work, with more energy and urgency as the campaign message is finalized and volunteers are more committed and purposeful.
“Instead of trying to have in-depth conversations, you focus on how many people we can talk to. You shift from door knocking and conversations to literature dropping. You switch from phone banking to automated texts that get sent out. You switch from town hall to more tours and speeches,” Arquin said.
Dawn Royster ’26 noticed similar patterns in her time volunteering for political campaigns in her home state of Florida. She’s currently a virtual intern for the Rishi Bagga for House of Representatives campaign, something she started in July. Before that, she took a gap year to work on Maxwell Frostand Anna Eskamani’s congressional campaigns.
She said much of her current work revolves around making sure people are registered to vote, a job she describes as “much more intense, but exciting,” compared to prior roles.
Casey said the added urgency may be due to the fact that this midterm election season “is a very important referendum on the direction the country’s going.” According to data from the Pew Research Center, candidates from the Republican and Democratic parties are largely divided on critical issues, including foreign policy and abortion rights.
“Depending on the district and depending on the race, it can absolutely change the course of the country. What happens in 2022 is going to affect what happens in 2024, 2028 and for years and years to come,” Casey said.
Echoing Casey on to the gravity of the election, Arquin said it is especially important for students to get involved. Working on campaigns is an opportunity to learn about politics and their local communities, while directly impacting policies, Arquin said.
Although it can be laborious, Arquin said he learned the most while canvassing in local neighborhoods and talking to voters. “It’s been really interesting to sort of understand that there’s these large scale identities we put over entire groups. Then inside of them, there’s these small scale individual conversations you can have” he said.
Casey also encouraged people to engage with local elections.
“I think a lot of people underestimate the change that happens on a local level. Oftentimes, the things that impact the day-to-day lives of people aren’t decided by the executive branch in D.C. They’re decided by your city hall or your state center,” Arquin said.
The Daily has corrected this article to include the correct spelling of Slotkin, rather than Slotskin, as it was previously misspelled. The Daily has also correctly attribute a quote to Arquin rather than Casey and corrected the image’s caption from “volunteering” to “on the job”. The Daily regrets these errors.