Local student vies for office

This summer, a 27-year-old University of Maryland student is working with student volunteers – including GW graduate students – to be elected to the U.S. Congress.

Andrew Gall is challenging Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in Maryland’s 5th District. Hoyer is the longest-serving House member from the state, and is now in his 15th term.

Gall would be the youngest member in Congress if elected, but first the graduate student has to make it past the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

Gall said in June the campaign was going well and he had received “really positive reception.” He said the timeline of the primary also works well for his academic calendar.

“It’ll work well for my schedule,” he said of the election, with a laugh. “Either I go back to classes or skip the last semester.”

Why he’s running now, instead of waiting to finish his degree, has to do with his political beliefs, and some life lessons.

“The idea of putting it off – tomorrow’s never promised,” Gall said, explaining that he had a friend who died due to a heart attack at the age of 32.

Though winning the election may put his degree in public policy on hold, Gall said he definitely plans to complete his graduate degree.

The rest of his staff understands balancing student life with the campaign. Four of his staff members are GW students, all in the Graduate School of Political Management.

Justin Kutner, 23, is Gall’s press secretary but still finds time for another job and evening classes.

He said what is unique about the campaign is the young staff, which has harnessed the power of social media for the campaign.

“We’ve grown up using Facebook, Twitter. it’s really been a natural transition,” Kutner said.

When Kutner began working with Gall, he got classmates Ryan Sims and Eric Glasson, both 23, interested in the campaign.

Sims is the director of new media operations and, coincidentally, is taking a class this summer called “Running for Office.”

His focus is on rebuilding the campaign website to further integrate Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

“We’re still working toward a unified strategy,” Sims said.

As for fundraising, Gall said he has raised close to $2,000 or “enough to pay for gas.” Most fundraising dollars came through his website.

“I’m trying to make use of every free opportunity there is,” Gall said of his campaign, citing YouTube as another way to reach voters and volunteers.

Glasson is the deputy policy director for the campaign. Though he’s only been on board a few weeks, he said via e-mail he’s been trying to get support from progressive organizations and is doing policy research.

He said what he has learned in classes at GSPM has helped him so far.

“I am eager to use the other skills I have learned as the campaign moves forward and progresses,” Glasson said.

An incoming political management student, Josh Pudnos, is also working with the campaign remotely from Texas as the deputy new media director. The 22-year-old said he was attracted to the campaign because it didn’t require prior experience.

“Being a student, he really wants to speak out to the Millennial generation trying to get jobs,” he said.

Gall and his volunteers are reaching out to voters of all ages. Gall acknowledged that some residents may stay loyal to Hoyer, but he and his staff have a positive outlook.

“Our goal right now is doing our best to connect with every voter before the primary,” Kutner said.

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