This year, Sam Arora, CC '03, and Robby Mook, CC '02, are doing more than joining the College Democrats and wearing Kerry/Edwards buttons. With 15 days to go before the election, they are working around the clock with the Democratic National Committee to swing Wisconsin into the blue.
Six years ago, Arora came to Columbia having already interned on the Hill. Though he hadn't thought about being politically active at Columbia, he joined the College Democrats and the campaign of Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) By the time he graduated, he had joined the executive board of the College Democrats, and had helped found the Columbia Political Union. He credits his political experiences at Columbia with helping him get to where he is today. Arora graduated as a political science major and he said he decided to join the Kerry campaign because he "thought that President Bush was taking the country in the wrong direction, and I believed that John Kerry would get us back on track."
Working for the Kerry campaign, he helped create the Democratic Party Meetup--an innovative system which uses the internet to bring Democrats together to hold monthly political conversations. Six months ago, he began work as a political analyst for the Democratic National Committee, where he wrote daily briefs detailing public opinion in swing states for DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe. "[Working for Chairman McAuliffe] was pretty remarkable," he said in an interview as he drove to LaCroix, Wis. to help a student initiative to "get out the vote."
Working in the DNC's Wisconsin headquarters, Arora reunited with Mook, director of Wisconsin's get-out-the-vote operation, whom he had met on Columbia's College Democrats executive board. "It's gonna be a dogfight," says Mook about the campaign in Wisconsin, "but we feel that with our get out the vote organization, we will carry the state."
Four years ago, Al Gore won the state by fewer than 6,000 votes, less than one vote per ward. The latest polls have shown the state, which many Democrats believe Kerry must win, is a statistical dead heat.
As director of Wisconsin's GOTV operations, Mook is putting in 16-hour days, seven days a week, building an organizational support system which will encourage Democrats to go to the polls on election day. Among other things, volunteers will call and visit state Democrats in the five days leading up to the election.
Mook has been working to get Democrats elected since he graduated from Columbia. He worked for Howard Dean's campaign before joining the DNC as deputy field director for programs and directing. He said, "I find what I'm doing very important--we're trying to change the direction of this country."
Like Arora, he gives credit to Columbia for helping him to get where he is today, noting that his experiences with the College Democrats, such as organizing two state-wide College Democrat conventions at Columbia, taught him how to manage a budget, ask for money, and to organize major events. Mook says that Columbia also helped provide him with perspective. As a classics major, he said, "I didn't engage too much politically in the classroom... [but] I still read those books today, and they remind me that there are other things in life."
Arora said that Mook "is doing such great work... he's always been an organizer... [he is] born to win campaigns," recalling how he proposed creating a Columbia University Voter File to list students' demographic information and party affiliation several years before the DNC first proposed creating a national one. "I think that Robby has a brilliant organizing mind, and he has a passion for electing John Kerry that excites everybody he works with," Arora said. He added that Mook is "a rising star... [and is] the future of the party... he has impressed many people in the DNC."
Arora and Mook aren't the only recent Columbia alumni who are working towards the election. Many others work for both Democrats and Republicans, including Adam Jentleson, CC '03, who is also working in Wisconsin for the DNC, and Jamie Snyder, CC '03, who is a speechwriter for Dick Cheney.
Arora and Mook both urge students to give money, make calls, and get on buses on Nov. 2 to get out the vote--whatever they can to help.
"The most important thing is to get active," said Mook.