State News
May 20, 2016

Whirlwind: life on a presidential campaign

Whirlwind: life on a presidential campaign

Courtesy of Lindsay Hunn

Lindsay Hunn introduces Sen. Sanders at a rally in Claremont, N.H. ,in January.

By Elaine Ezerins, St. Albans Messenger

Two years ago, Lindsay Hunn walked into an office building on South Main Street in St. Albans, Vt., looking for a job in the legal world. As fate would have it, she had the address wrong and walked out as a full-time volunteer for the Vermont Democratic Party.

One year later, Hunn was hired as a field organizer in New Hampshire, making thousands of phone calls to get troops on the ground for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

Since August 2015, she has lived on the road: sleeping in strangers’ homes, living off bagels and making her way across the country, helping to organize Sanders’ backers in time for the presidential primaries.

She traveled west from New Hampshire to Nevada after the Feb. 9 primary. The Nevada caucuses blended with the Michigan primary in March. From there, Hunn hopped over to Ohio to lead regional training and ended her campaign stint in Philadelphia.

On April 27, Hunn was laid off, along with more than 200 other staffers, as Sanders’ campaign began to close in on the Democratic National Convention.

Sitting on a park bench back in Vermont, Hunn seems well rested, considering her whirlwind lifestyle the past nine months. Dressed in flannel and jeans, the 20-something Bakersfield resident has finally returned home to Franklin County.

She’s set up shop in St. Albans, putting her new skillset to work as the campaign manager for Denise Smith, one of the candidates vying for the open state Senate seat.

Hunn told the Messenger all about the last nine months.

Q&A with Sanders field organizer Lindsay Hunn

Messenger: What was Bernie’s campaign like in the beginning, in New Hampshire?

Hunn: We were building things while we were going. We had a lot of people who had a lot of campaign experience, but we also had people like me. Just trying to piece everything together and figure out what kind of campaign we wanted to be and what is the necessary structure for running against the establishment. It was kind of a whirlwind.

M: What does a field organizer do?

H: I directly worked with voters and tried to convince them to vote for Bernie. We did a lot of volunteer empowerment and tried to get people connected with their communities. My job would be to make phone calls to people and knock on doors, get people to volunteer and build this movement. I had a huge turf in New Hampshire and I would not have been able to single handedly do it.

M: How did you get people to volunteer?

H: It was kind of like a shot in the dark in the beginning because I didn’t live in New Hampshire. I started going to the party meetings, but I tried to tread very lightly because we were kind of against the establishment. It was finding that balance and wanting to work with the establishment Democratic Party, but also understanding that the stance we took was against it… It’s honestly, completely grass-roots. The people who helped the most are the people who had maybe never done it before. So it’s about talking to each person that comes into your office, talking to each person you call on your phone and having a real conversation with them and making a connection… They say people come for the candidate and stay for you.

M: What were the main reasons people supported Bernie?

H: He’s honest. He doesn’t take money from Super PACs. It’s all the things you hear about Bernie. He stands up for what he believes in. He believes in equal rights. He has stood for the same positions forever.

M: Where do you think Bernie’s campaign picked up speed?

H: At the Milford parade in Milford, New Hampshire, when we had more people walking with Bernie than all the other candidates combined. We had between 300 to 400 people at least. It was crazy. That was when Bernie’s face began appearing on all the newspapers. Milford parade, I guess, is where you want to be if you’re running.

M: What did you eat?

H: I usually stopped at Tim Horton’s for coffee and a bagel on my way in. I’m also a vegetarian and that’s really hard on the road. It’s hard to eat cheap, healthy and not have meat. Those were things I was always trying to get.

M: Why did you stay on the campaign trail for so long?

H: To be honest, that was something I was always trying to narrow down. I guess, it was because of the people that needed Bernie. I knew that if Bernie wasn’t president, I would still survive. But a lot of people wouldn’t. A lot of people are starving. A lot of women can’t pay their bills because they make less than men… This one woman said, she’s 72 years old. She just went back to work the week before because she cannot pay for her medication and her groceries.

M: Do you think Bernie created a space in politics for Millennials to have a voice?

H: Definitely. I think that might have started with Obama in 2008 because he attracted a lot of Millennials. But at the same time, Bernie has hit records all over the place. Individual contributions. Rallies… I don’t think he intended to attract milliennials. I think that his message just resonated with them.

M: What was one of the more annoying experiences of life on the campaign trail?

H: One time in New Hampshire, this guy volunteered a couple of times. He was kind of a difficult person to work with because he had different ideas. He wanted to give out bumper stickers in a mall. That’s how he thought we would win votes. That’s fine. But he gave me a ton of grief for weeks for no reason. And then at the New Hampshire primary celebration, he came up to me and called me Ashley. And that was like, after all of this, you couldn’t get my name right?

M: How did you stay sane with such a busy schedule?

H: It’s easier to not try and have a social life because then it just stresses you out. It’s like, ‘Oh I have to cancel because Bernie is coming to town.’ It’s the weirdest reason for having to cancel things.

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