Amalia Skilton was one of our program’s youngest fellows when she was sent to work for Roxanne Conlin’s Iowa Senate campaign in 2010. With no prior electoral campaign background, the opportunity to work in the state best known for field campaigns turned her into a seasoned field operative, skills she has since put to use on campaigns in Arizona and Connecticut. Her fellowship wasn’t the end of her SNAP experience either – Amalia currently serves as SNAP’s Finance Director, helping to expand the fellowship program so that even more students can have the experience that got her started. Here’s what she had to say while on the campaign in Iowa in 2010:
According to conventional wisdom, there’s no place like Iowa to get field experience. And that conventional wisdom has definitely proven right so far – Elaine and I are gaining some amazing experience here, and shouldering real responsibility. The two of us are heading up the Conlin campaign’s field operation in the Des Moines metro area, as well playing a part in setting up field offices in other locations around the state.
I went directly from SNAP training to Des Moines at the beginning of this month, and was on the ground for most of the GOTV operation for the primary. Since our primary was on June 8, “Pretty Good Tuesday,” most of Roxanne’s staff (including me) spent Monday and Tuesday of that week making turnout calls. Over those two days, I spent almost 20 hours on call time – making well over 600 dials. Fortunately, I managed not to lose my voice, and was still able to cheer for Roxanne at the victory party: we won with 78 percent of the vote, and a 66-point margin!
After the primary, we had a few lower-key days moving our office from the pre-primary location in downtown Des Moines to the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP)’s coordinated campaign. These days included my first weekend in Iowa, which started with the IDP’s annual Hall of Fame dinner Friday, continued with the annual state party convention on Saturday, and finished with a bang at the Capital City Pride parade on Sunday afternoon. All three were great events, but “Hall of Fame” was especially memorable. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) was keynote speaker at this dinner, which honored his wife Ruth and longtime staffer Dianne Liepa.
Sen. Harkin spoke at length about how Ruth and Dianne – and Roxanne – had begun their careers at a time when women were not welcome in the political world. Being present as they were honored that evening gave me a better sense of how individual women had lived the gains of the women’s movement over the last fifty years, but also reminded me of the challenges which women in public service still face. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who gave the keynote address at Saturday’s state party convention, made me think more about this contrast. Since Sen. Klobuchar is the first elected female senator from Minnesota, her endorsement of Roxanne’s candidacy and remarks on her achievements in private and public life had a special significance. The senator also found time to greet staff from Iowa’s statewide Democratic campaigns before the keynote; I was excited and honored both to meet this remarkable woman and to hear her address from the floor.
The Conlin staff finished moving into our new space at the IDP’s headquarters this Monday, also the day when Elaine (who had just finished her final exams at school) arrived in Iowa. We hit the ground running on Tuesday, and have been working smooth and steady since then. As last week, this weekend promises to provide a change from the ordinary Sunday-Thursday rhythm of recruiting, training and managing volunteers. Saturday morning will see us marching with Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) in a parade just north of Des Moines, and we’ll get a well-earned break Sunday morning. But for me, Sunday may not be a break from organizing – last weekend, I ran into one Conlin volunteer and recruited another at Des Moines Friends House!