Behind the campaign
As the MSU presidential election draws to a close, candidate posters and team tables are taken down, leaving the sitting area on the first floor of MUSC to return to its natural state. Over the last two weeks, five candidates had their names and faces plastered on every wall, and they became the centre of every conversation surrounding elections. But behind every candidate are the core campaign teams, and leading the teams are the campaign managers.
Campaign managers, along with their teams, put in months of work and dedicate weeks of intense commitment to support a friend in their quest to get elected as the next MSU President. The Silhouette interviewed them to get some insight into their reasons for taking on the role, thoughts on leadership positions, and the work that goes into running a campaign.
The campaign manager experience
The campaign manager role involves planning the campaign, shaping the candidate’s message, coordinating the campaign team, and making sure the candidate is where he or she needs to be. The role varies depending on the team, but often involves keeping the team together and the campaign functioning on schedule.
“Although it’s time consuming, I still like it. I’ve never stretched myself this far. But as a campaign manager you have to help others and pick up slack. It’s a good experience. It’s skills that you need in the future,” said Kalia, campaign manager for Ehima Osazuwa.
One of the main qualities that all of the campaign managers discussed was leadership.
“Being a campaign manager gives you a leadership experience, gives you experience learning how to coordinate volunteers. I just thought it would be a really nice way to hone in on organizational and leadership skills,” said Becca, campaign manager for Corey Helie-Masters.
Similarly, Anj from Tristan Paul’s team described the campaign manager experience as one that is all encompassing.
“You gain a really great understanding of the MSU when you’re trying to determine platform points and things like that. In that capacity, it’s nice to see everything tied together as a campaign manager and get to experience the whole range of things,” she said.
Kamini, a first-year campaign manager for John Tambakis, said that the hard work really does pay off.
“At the end of it, it really does feel like this is something that you’ve made and created and put so much time into. When it’s all over you need to put it out on the table and be proud of what you’ve come up with,” she said.
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Why not President?
After speaking with the campaign managers, it is evident that they are all very competent, well-spoken, and knowledgeable of the MSU. So why not run for President?
The managers gave a variety of reasons, citing lack of interest or experience in the MSU as reasons not to run for President.
“The MSU was really never in my face. I passed through university not thinking about it,” said Kalia. “I never imagined myself as an MSU president. I got involved this year when I ran for the finance committee. [Ehima] asked me to do it and we’ve worked together before on school projects so he knows how well I can manage a team.”
Simon, campaign manager for Helie-Master’s campaign, named lack of MSU experience as a reason not to run for a leadership position.
“I had hoped to do it if I had more experience. If I had been an SRA rep last year, I may have well ran this year, but I don’t think I had enough SRA experience and enough MSU service and club experience.”
For some managers, MSU President isn’t a job that fits into their plans.
“In first year, I was sitting in [a friend’s] room in Les Prince Hall and I said, ‘mark my words, one day I will be MSU president.’ And even leading into this summer. Do I think I would make a good candidate? Hell yeah. Do I think I could win? Hell yeah. But I had to think about I wanted to do after undergrad,” said Giuliana of Clarke’s campaign.
Anj, Paul’s campaign manager, also cited this reason.
“My own personal life trajectory probably will never let me do that, in the sense that it is not what I personally want to do with my life, but I definitely see a lot of value and I love seeing the people who’ve done it in the past like Anna D’Angela and Siobhan [Stewart], they are amazing, and I’m so proud to see that.”
Advice to future campaign managers
Many of the campaign managers were eager to give their advice for future managers.
“Definitely know what you’re getting into. I thought it would be so long and would take forever, but know that it is really fast [paced],” said Simon.
Giuliana talked about encouraging women in leadership as well as running a positive campaign.
“It is possible to run a positive campaign. Our team exemplifies that. We’ve only filed one complaint,” she said. “We didn’t want to run a campaign on nitpicking and targeting – it’s not about the other candidates. If you put forth a platform that is strong and researched, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else is doing. You know that you put forward a very good platform.”
Women in leadership
While this year was an all-male race, the teams were much more diverse. Behind the scenes of the election, there’s a split of three male and seven female campaign managers. Over the last few years, the majority of campaign managers have also been women.
Anj addressed the fact that most campaign managers are women and spoke about her choice to not run for President.
“I know this is something that can be spun in the way ‘oh you’re a woman, maybe that’s why you’re not running,’” she said. “At the same time, I personally as a person, as an individual, and not as a woman, just like the idea of being in a role that supports someone else.”
The Silhouette wasn’t the only one to ask her that question though.
“It’s funny because one of the candidates actually ask me about [why I chose to be a campaign manager and not run for President] and implied that by being a manager I wasn’t doing something that was useful with my time,” she said.
Giuliana explained that although we may not have any female candidates this year, we should continue the discussion about women in leadership.
“I think it’s important for the discussions we’ve been having lately about women and groups who aren’t typically represented, showing them that MSU experience doesn’t matter. That we’ve empowered someone who might not be the typical candidate to run for MSU president. It matters that you have a vision for the future and that you care about the students.”