Austin Tour: Day 3–NPF Conference

Our third day in Austin and our second at the “Campaign Bootcamp” was the most intense.  Gone were the cultural activities or the speeches by former Supreme Court Justices.  Today was devoted to learning about the nuts and bolts of the modern-day political campaign.

Our itinerary was as follows:

  • Fundraising, by Pasha Moore
  • Crafting the Message, by Parag and Luke Marchant
  • Targeting Voters, Parag and Jeff Mason
  • Polling,Chris Perkins
  • Creating a Field Plan,
  • Earned and Paid Media, Liz Chadderdon
  • Social Media, Vincent Harris
  • Campaign Team Work

Our favorites varied, with Cody preferring “Polling,” by Chris Perkins.  Perkins was engaging, and stressed the importance of planning up front to achieve greater return on investment—or, as Perkins put it, “bang for your buck.” Perkins emphasized the importance of polling prior to even running for office, a move that will help campaigns know how to direct their message and prioritize their voter targets.

Chris Perkins Discusses Polling

Chris Perkins Discusses Polling

Dulce’s favorite was the fundraising session, led by Pasha Moore.  Moore’s presentation emphasized three major components: (1) being personable while conducting yourself professional; (2) doing more than asking for support—you have to tell them how to support you; (3) and ask for more than you expect, but be realistic.

Pasha Moore with Dulce Martinez

Pasha Moore with Dulce Martinez

Jessica had two favorites.  She enjoyed Vincent Harris’s session on social media, learning that websites are 50% more effective than email, ads, or facebook. Harris stressed the advantages of social media—it’s cheaper, more targeted, and has an immediacy for issues, advocacy, and defining who you are and who you are opponent is.  (Cody, on the other hand, found it frightening that Harris noted that the “internet is the most trusted media by voters.”)

Vincent Harris Discusses Social Media

Vincent Harris Discusses Social Media

Jessica’s other favorite was the “Earned and Paid Media” session by Liz Chadderdon, who stressed the importance of print media and direct mail.  She discussed “inefficient markets,” places such as New Jersey, where candidates who want television ads must pay for New York or Philadelphia markets, which means the candidate is paying for far more than the candidate’s targeted voters.  Jessica, a photographer, enjoyed Chadderdon’s discussion of photography, who encouraged staffers to capture candidates looking strong, trustworthy, and caring about people.  Her candidates are often shown in candid shows—hugging, celebrating, or smiling.

Liz and Jessica--Smiling and Hugging, Of Course

Liz and Jessica–Smiling and Hugging, Of Course

Dulce also enjoyed this session, recording to memory the three-step strategy from the session: (1) being likeable to candidates, which will encourage voters to (2) listen to your message, and (3) creating trust.

Following a long day of seminars, we then regrouped for mock campaign work.  For her team, Dulce focused on demographics for the Democratic candidate.  Jessica, on the hand, had the same role for the Republican candidate, a role that may have been uncomfortable for her as a Democrat, but a role she took on with gusto.  Cody was also working for a Republican (and is a Republican), but his job involved event planning and outreach.  The presentations are Sunday, but we have still have much to do.

Jessica's Group Gets Down to Work--Will it Pay Off?

Jessica’s Group Gets Down to Work–Will it Pay Off?

That’s a lot to pack into a day, and it lasted from 8:30am through 10:00pm, with additional work in the hotel room (Jessica was up until 2:30am).  But it also involved fantastic learning opportunities, wonderful chances for networking, and a great opportunity to get (mock) hands-on experience campaigning.

We appreciate the New Politics Forum hosting this opportunity annually and bringing in a great set of speakers for us to learn from.



Happy Birthday Sam Houston!

Article by Arjenae Walker

Article by Arjenae Walker

Picture this: The first floor of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is filled with tables draped in elegant black linen, complete with the smooth sounds of a string quartet lightly playing in the background, coupled with the aroma of assorted hors d’oeuvres tempting your palate. The focal point of the evening was a beautiful chocolate and vanilla cake surrounded by luscious chocolate covered strawberries atop the famous mural depicting the diversity of Texas History. How fitting for an evening designated to celebrate the birthday of Sam Houston. Men and women from the Texas State University System, Texas Legislators and staff, as well as the distinguished alumni from Sam Houston State University all gathered together in his honor. As a college freshman, and a prospective Junior Fellow, I was immensely honored to be a part of it.

SHSU Alumni at the Bob Bullock Museum

SHSU Alumni at the Bob Bullock Museum

My favorite part of the night was interacting with the alumi. As a freshman, it was amazing for me to see their Bearkat pride—still as strong as when they were students. Their eyes lighted up when they talked about their time at SHSU, and one specifically referred to those years as “the best years of my life.” It means a lot to students to have alumni believe in their alma mater, and believe in its motto: “The measure of a life is its service.” By continuing to participate in events such as the Sam Houston Birthday Celebration, they give back to the University, and they help ensure the future success of current students.

Austin Interns Learning from SHSU Alum Jennifer Garrett

Austin Interns Learning from SHSU Alum Jennifer Garrett

One of the evening’s highlights was meeting the TSUS Vice Chancellor of Governmental Relations, Sean Cunningham. Jessica Rodriguez (a veteran Junior Fellow) and I had the pleasure of conversing with Vice Chancellor Cunningham, and he took time to get to know us and to offer us tips for success. It was truly inspiring to hear such encouraging words coming from a man who himself overcame adversity to be successful.

We also had the chance to meet alumni Blake Roach and Emily Johnson; Mayor Mac Woodward and his wife, Leanne; alumnus John Hoyt; Provost Jaimie Hebert; Dean John de Castro; and we even took a picture with President Gibson.


President Gibson with the Junior Fellows

We also met some peers. The Austin Interns—Annel Gonzalez, Melva Gomez, Bianca Kyle, Jessica Oswald, Miranda Landsman, and Jeremiah Bailey—were there, and they seem to be doing quite well. Several have been promoted to “Legislative Aide,” some are writing legislation, and all are an inspiration. It was a great night.

Junior Fellows with the Austin Interns

Junior Fellows with the Austin Interns

It was a privilege to attend this event, and we are very grateful for the staff at Alumni Relations, particularly Charlie Vienne, Casey Hughes, and Justin Haynes, for allowing us to assist. We’d also like to thank the President’s Office, particularly Maggie Collum, for inviting us and giving us helpful advice. They all created enormous positive energy, and provided a model for students such as myself who want to make a difference and hope to have a future engagement with the Capitol!

Junior Fellows in front of Capitol Building

Junior Fellows in front of Capitol Building

Austin Trip, Day 2: Deanna Tyler (June 1, 2012)

The second day for me to actually visit the great city of Austin was phenomenal! The morning started off early with a good breakfast at the hotel and then it was off to the French Legation Museum. The French Legation Museum tour was quite unique. The house had belonged to French Ambassador Alphonse Dubois and was built in 1841.

Having worked at The Wynne Home Arts Center in Huntsville, I was quite interested to learn about the history of the home. The tour guide first told us the history of how Alphonse Dubois had acquired the house and how he struggled to feel welcome in Texas. That never really worked out for him, and he abandoned the house.  The house was eventually bought by a Catholic bishop and then by the Robertson family

With this history under our belts, it was time to tour the home. The home was a lot smaller than I had expected; however, it was uniquely laid out to serve its purpose to the Robertson family who had 11 children in their home.

My favorite room that we toured was, of course, the kitchen. I enjoy cooking and seeing the different utensils that were used in the late 1800s to early 1900s was a treat. One of the most interesting contraptions in the kitchen was the rotating toaster. Bread was placed in metal prongs and the utensil would swivel around, which allowed the bread to toast evenly on the fire.

Kitchen of the French Legation

After leaving the French Legation, we all traveled to the Capitol building which was an eye-opening experience. We began in the office of Representative Otto, with whom we have more than a passing acquaintance.  In the past week, we met with him briefly at the HEARTS Veterans Museum and the Grand Opening of SHSU’s Woodlands Center. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see him today, but we did have a nice visit with his Legislative Assistant, Justin Coleman.

Mr. Coleman advised us to build relationships as much as possible, and he provided an overview of his duties in Representative Otto’s office.

He joined us for a Capitol Building tour, one that was quite entertaining, with original paintings of Santa Ana Surrendering, and the Battle of San Jacinto by Henry Arthur McArdle, spacious House and Senate Chambers with “Lone Star Chandeliers,” and the Rotunda Archway which seems to go miles upward; the Capitol Building is a remarkable symbol of the Legislative Branch works in the Lone Star State.

The Capitol As Viewed From The Underground Extension

After leaving the Capitol Building, it was off to lunch at Second Kitchen, where we met with Will Phillip’s father, Steve Phillips, who serves as a tax and transactional attorney at Giordani, Swanger, Ripp and Phillips.  Mr. Phillips brought a clerk in his law firm along with him, and the two of them were great informational resources on topics as broad as blogging, law-school preparation, and even the restaurant at which we were eating.

The Group at Second Kitchen

The restaurant, by the way, was great.  I ordered a Chicken Salad Club Sandwich with Avocado and it was one of the biggest and tastiest sandwiches I’ve ever had.

With our jam-packed morning, we barely had time to get to the start of the New Politics Forum Bootcamp.  We were given background information on how to organize a campaign. One particular speaker, Matt Mackowiak, who has been a campaign manager for several successful campaigns, helped put things into perspective on how to organize a campaign and shared information on how to fundraise.  When the three speakers for the day were done, it was time to get into our campaign teams and to devise a plan. I somehow got teamed with a party that I am not affiliated with, but I took this as a challenge that will help me learn and I volunteered to be the Press Secretary for our candidate. My job is to ensure that we get our candidate’s message out in the most effective way. I plan to do so by using a lot of social media and to come up with a catchy slogan. Speaking of my Press Secretary job, I must get back to working on my “homework” and get a good night’s rest for the big day tomorrow at Campaign Bootcamp. Good night all!

Austin Trip, Day 2: Ryan Brim (June 1, 2012)

Today was the second day of the trip, but the first day of the New Politics Forum’s (NPF) Campaign Bootcamp. After a restful night’s sleep, we kicked off the day with a visit to the French Legation.

The French Legation, the oldest house in Austin, was completed in 1841 by Alponse Dubois de Saligny, the French diplomat to the Republic of Texas. Dubois did not stay in the house long, though.  Dr. J. W. Robertson and his family bought and then lived in the house for almost 100 years! In 1956, the house opened as a historical museum cared for by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

We had a pretty good, but quick, tour of the Texas Capitol after seeing the French Legation. The first capitol building was erected in 1853, and cost about $150,000. In November 1881, the capitol went up in flames and burned to the ground. By the end of 1886, a new capitol was built and cost more than $3,700,000.

The Junior Fellows in the Capitol

Second Kitchen was where we had lunch with Will’s father and Mr. Phillips’ summer clerk. Personally, this has been the best place that I have eaten in Texas. I had the Short Rib Sliders, and they were so good! The restaurant itself was amazing. It is, by far, my favorite restaurant in Texas.

Short Rib Sliders at The Second Kitchen

NPF started this afternoon and the seminar that I attended was the Introduction to Campaign Bootcamp and the Overview of a Successful Campaign.  It was a lot of good information and really described the conference in detail.

It was a long day, and I’m tired now, but I can’t wait for tomorrow’s seminars and events.


Austin Trip: Annel Gonzalez (June 2, 2012)

This morning the Junior Fellows began their second day of the Austin Trip by touring the French Legation Museum. The weather was definitely on our side, it was a nice warm morning in the high seventies.

We learned an incredible amount of Texas history in just one hour! We began by learning about the situation the State of Texas was in during 1836. They had just declared their independence and were going through a particularly difficult time dealing with national debt, the fear of further conflict with the Mexican government, and angry Native Americans who felt they had been run off the land. They were eager to find friends with political power in Europe, which is where a French Man by the name of Alphonse Dubois became part of Texas History. The French government sent Mr. Dubois on a fact-finding mission to see whether Texas was a country was worth investing time and resources. Mr. Dubois fell in love with the natural resources of the land and the positive experiences with its people. He spent his time touring the East Texas and enjoyed the idea of big plantations. When the King received Dubois’s positive feedback, he decided to move forward with the relationship, and France became the first European power to sign a treaty with Texas.

Mr. Dubois spent some time in Washington D.C. and was then sent to Austin, Texas. At this point Austin was a young city and only beginning to develop. The trip to Austin was very rough. For Mr. Dubois this was a big change; he was used to living luxuriously in Paris. He purchased 22 acres of land and began to build the Home that is now the French Legation Museum. While his home was being built he rented a cabin from Richard Bullock. After a very long and drawn out conflict with Mr. Bullock over high rent prices and out-of-control pigs, Dubois felt that the situation needed the government’s attention. He attempted to solve the situation by demanding that the Presidency deal with Mr. Bullock, but when it failed to do so he finally decided to move to New Orleans.

Although the issues with France were eventually mended by President Sam Houston, the capitol of Texas was moved from Austin to Houston. The home that Dubois built was sold to a Catholic Bishop who, in turn, sold it to Dr. Moseley Baker. Mr. Baker’s daughter, Lillie was the first to share the home with the public by giving tours. Once she passed away ownership of the home was finally in the hands of Texas government. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas were named custodians of the home. After some restorations and research the home was finally made into a Museum and open to the public in 1956.

The home itself is the oldest in the city of Austin. It was built in 1841 as a French style creole cottage. The front of the home is facing the south and has a very big porch. The home has three large doors leading to the porch and a significantly high ceiling which helps the heat rise during the hot Texas summers. The kitchen can be found behind the house; this was common because the kitchen was a very probable source of fires and distance was key to containing the fire and keeping it from spreading into the home.

The French Legation Kitchen

The view of the Capitol from the porch of the French Legation was one of the most memorable moments of the tour.  By law, this view must remain unobstructed, and it was absolutely beautiful!

Capitol View from the French Legation

Although the skyline won’t let us forget how far we have come, the view of the Capitol and the style of the will never let us forget our history and where we came from.

Austin Trip, Day 1: Ryan Brim (May 31, 2012)

Hello, everyone. Today was my last day at school and the first day of our first summer trip – to Austin. The drive here was good, at least for one of the cars (ours). The other car (Christian, Melva, Diana, and Annel) had a completely different experience. They almost drifted off of the road and into a cornfield trying to avoid hitting another car.

The first real site we saw today was Mount Bonnell.  Mount Bonnell, named after George Bonnell, is a beautiful site to see, especially at night. When we arrived, the sun was starting to set.  It’s a great place to visit at least once if you’re in Austin.

Ryan Brim, Holding the Moon

The students chose from dinner options that included Indian, Brazilian, and Ethiopian food, and they chose Aster’s Ethiopian Restaurant.  Traditionally, the Ethiopian way to eat is with your fingers – my kind of place.  They served all our food family style, or all together on a huge platter.  They give you a special type of bread called injera, which is a spongy type of bread. You rip off pieces of bread, and pinch and scoop the prepared foods from the platter with the injera.  The food was good, and the experience was, too.

It is late now, and we have a long day tomorrow, so I better not stay up too late.  Goodnight!


Austin Trip 2012: Day 1, Christian Bionat (May 31, 2012)

This weekend we have the wonderful opportunity to attend the New Politics Forum’s Campaign Boot camp hosted by the Annette Strauss Institute, where we can learn the fundamentals of campaigning and how to run an effective operation.

Were it not for a few lucky breaks on the way to Austin, we may have never arrived.

We almost drove into a cornfield, caused traffic delays at the toll booth when we didn’t have change, and then close to being rammed on I-35 on the entrance ramp by a pick-up truck!

Thank goodness we got to Austin in one piece. . .

Fortunately, we had a chance to regain our senses at the hotel for a few minutes, and then we went to Mount Bonnell.  This is a well-visited area near Lake Austin just off of the Colorado River.  Mount Bonnell is one of the highest points in Austin, standing about 780 ft. above sea-level.

Junior Fellows at Sunset

The viewpoint, named after Texas publisher George Bonnell, provided an astounding observation point for Austinites and tourists.

Christian Bionat, Holding the Moon

 Following our adventure, the Junior Fellows voted to eat Ethiopian food at Aster’s Ethiopian Restaurant. I ordered an Alicha Siga Wott which is a tender beef stew with onions, garlic, and turmeric. In addition, I also tasted the Ethiopian coffee which is normally served with their meals. It was the first time I have ever tried Ethiopian cuisine and it was a very different experience having to rip the injera (bread made with the tef grain), pinch the meat, and then eat it. The spices were also quite invigorating and seemed similar to Indian food. Overall, Aster’s provided a wonderful example of a taste of the “Birthplace of Humanity.”

Tomorrow we look forward to the French Legation Room and beginning of the NPF camp!