Behind the platform: Meet the campaign managers aiding SA candidates

Media Credit: Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

From left: Sophomores Jillian Wolons, Hayley Margolis and Aashka Varma and freshman Andrea Cardenas all serve as campaign managers for Student Association candidates this year.

When Crystal Nieves Murphy wakes up every morning, she sends a text: “What do you need me to do?”

Nieves Murphy, a former Hatchet reporter and the campaign manager for Quentin McHoes, a candidate for Student Association executive vice president, said balancing different tasks, like managing his calendar and scheduling meetings with student organizations, is part of the day-to-day work that keeps McHoes and the rest of his team on track before the election.

She and four other students said they met the candidates for the SA’s top two spots in other student groups and slowly took on managerial roles as their friends expressed interest in student government. They said their behind-the-scenes work, including scheduling meetings with students and administrators and teaching other members of the campaign team about SA election rules, allows those vying for top spots to focus on the substance of their campaigns instead of nitty-gritty details.

“It’s mainly a lot of multitasking and knowing what everyone’s doing at any point in time,” Nieves Murphy said. “I’m really just an organizer.”

Nieves Murphy said she and McHoes worked together this academic year as vice president and president, respectively, of the District House Residence Hall Association council. She said that while she is studying abroad in the fall and likely would not serve on his staff if he were elected, she wanted to jump into behind-the-scenes campaign work because she supports McHoes’ platform points.

“When he asked me, I said yes because I totally believe in what he stands for,” she said. “I truly believe that if he is asking me, he knows that I’m capable of doing the job.”

SA Sen. Hayley Margolis, CCAS-U and the campaign manager for SA executive vice presidential candidate Amy Martin, said she wanted to join Martin’s campaign because the two have worked together on advocacy projects throughout the year as SA senators. The pair spearheaded an effort to change the Colonials nickname, which Martin included in her platform.

Margolis said that as a campaign manager, she can continue her work as an SA senator and help Martin create graphics for posters or organize the candidate’s schedule. She said she would be interested in serving on Martin’s staff if she were elected but did not specify a particular role.

“When I heard she was running, I thought it would be a really good opportunity to support her and, in my own way, have a new experience in the SA of helping someone else’s campaign and supporting a friend rather than just my own campaign,” Margolis said.

Sophomore Jillian Wolons, the campaign manager for SA presidential candidate Nicole Cennamo and the SA’s vice president for community affairs, said she and Cennamo have become “good friends” after working on the SA together for two years. She said she wanted to join the candidate’s campaign team to experience a new element of the SA outside of the executive cabinet.

“I really wanted to have the opportunity to influence all aspects of the student experience and not just one particular piece of it,” she said.

Wolons said she sends hundreds of texts and Facebook messages to Cennamo’s team – which consists of about 10 students – each week, checks on peers who run Cennamo’s social media and assists with tasks like helping Cennamo prepare her ballot statement.

She said one of the “biggest” aspects of being a campaign manager is making herself available to take on any last-minute task as it arises. Even as she balances an internship on Capitol Hill and a full course load, Wolons said she often finds herself at work and in class dealing with campaign-related issues.

“It’s really just about prioritizing her needs,” Wolons said. “I know her slogan is ‘Prioritizing You,’ but in a way, I feel like I’m prioritizing her.”

Aashka Varma, the campaign manager for presidential candidate SJ Matthews, said she joined Matthews’ team after bonding with the current RHA president through their memberships in both the RHA and the Panhellenic Association. Varma said she was eager to join Matthews’ campaign because she wants to help the candidate foster a sense of community on campus.

Varma said she assigns daily tasks to team members and oversees projects like producing graphics, creating videos and prepping Matthews for the SA debate last week.

“A lot of people, I feel, personally run for SA president to pad their resume a bit, especially at GW,” Varma said. “At a school like this, that’s something that a lot of people end up doing, but SJ does not need to do that.”

Freshman Andrea Cardenas, the campaign manager for SA Sen. ShanTorrian Underwood, CCAS-U and a candidate for SA president, said she joined Underwood’s campaign because she supports her platform point advocating for a retreat for students of color. She said she typically spends time helping Underwood caption social media posts and organizing question-and-answer events with students.

“I really love the fact that she wants to have the people of color retreat before coming in,” Cardenas said. “That was something that I know a lot of my friends at predominantly white institutions have, and I never had that experience, so that was something big for me to even know that someone cared enough to think of an idea like that.”

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