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Students in the Trenches for High Stakes Congressional Race


This summer a dozen Hamilton students gained academic credit and an insider’s view into one of the country’s most hotly contested congressional campaigns. As part of Congressional Campaign Politics taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Government Joel Winkelman, students interned with either incumbent Anthony Brindisi (D) or his challenger and former incumbent Claudia Tenney (R) in their quest for New York’s 22nd congressional district seat.

Students met weekly to discuss their internships and relate their experiences to course materials. Winkelman said the class emphasized comparing the NY-22 race to other congressional races throughout the country. Past courses taught by Phil Klinkner, the James S. Sherman Professor of Government, and supported by the Levitt Center helped inspire the Congressional Campaign Politics course, which, Winkelman said, sought to help students understand how they can “fit into American political life.”

As the course ran remotely, Winkelman also experimented with new teaching methods. “[Assistant Professor of Government] Heather Sullivan and I are married, so I conscripted her for recording a weekly podcast where we would discuss recent political science research to supplement the textbook and tie the research to our online discussion,” he said. The students learned how campaigns function on local, state, and national levels, by considering such topics such as campaign financing.

Lily Delle-Levine ’21, who interned on the Brindisi campaign, said the course felt pertinent given the recent New York primary elections and the upcoming general election. “I enjoyed our weekly discussions about all aspects of Congressional campaigns and especially the podcasts Professor Winkelman recorded about our course material,” she said. “We were able to connect our readings to the national political moment, which allowed us to easily internalize course concepts.”

Ten students interned for the Brindisi campaign, with two students contributing to the Tenney campaign. The students performed a variety of tasks, from phone banking to conducting voter data analysis. “I think it’s the only race in the country where you have a current incumbent and a former incumbent going at each other,” said Fred Romero ’22, describing his interest in the district. As an intern for Tenney, he said he appreciated the tone of the course. “Despite many political differences in the way we see things, the people we work for, and just what we really believe in, [the students] were all just really cordial,” he said.

Bryce Febres ’22, a Brindisi campaign intern, said that working in the NY-22 district exposed him to new campaign strategies and voting groups. “I thought it was really interesting working with someone whose voters will vote for Trump but who’ll vote for a Democrat locally,” he said. 

Several students are continuing their internships into the fall semester. Enogie Omoregbee ’21, who worked for Brindisi during her term in the Hamilton Program in Washington and again through the summer course, plans to continue supporting the Brindisi team. She said that she appreciates the opportunity to stay involved in politics. “I’ve loved politics since I was a kid. I love everything about it, the campaign side (and) actual policy.”

The students enjoyed stepping into campaign politics, and many anticipate future work in politics and public service. Winkelman appreciates the students’ efforts and is grateful to the Levitt Center, the Off-Campus Study program, the Dean of Faculty’s Office, and Sam Gordon ’19, internship coordinator for the Brindisi campaign, for their support.

 

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