Campus / News / April 13, 2011

Campaigning for change

This past fall, sophomore Anna Novikova managed a political campaign for Illinois state representative candidate Matt Flamm. She knew Flamm through previous political connections from working with the Obama campaign her senior year in high school. Novikova was asked first to stand as his “acting” campaign manager. The position soon became permanent.

Novikova stated that her previous experience with the Obama campaign, her position as a page in Congress, working for former U.S. Representative Melissa Bean and experience in the House her junior year in high school gave her the confidence and ideas for strategies as a manager.

She worked with volunteers and 20 interns, ranging from juniors in high school to graduate students. Novikova moved to create a work environment that empowered the volunteers and interns, providing them with enough room to remain creative while providing enough guidance to maintain the campaign’s priorities. Novikova said her idea was, “bridging and nurturing professional relationships in a professional environment.”

Novikova affirmed the most difficult part about managing the campaign was responding to other people’s reactions to her age. The most important thing she learned was how to conduct herself professionally and maintain a comfortable and capable persona. Novikova remarked that people who found out her age before they talked to her would often judge her competence. However, “people who talked to me before they found out how old I was didn’t think anything of my age when they found out,” she said. Once she mastered her professional persona, respect followed. Sometimes, Novikova said, she would simply decline to answer when asked her age.

Flamm shaped his platform around the issues affecting the state. The campaign began taking door-to-door public opinion polls on weekends in June and by fall they were out in the community every day, asking what issues mattered to the people. Some of the biggest concerns were the budget deficit, health care and property taxes. Novikova explained that many of those who worked in areas of social service were in favor of raising the taxes because it would mean more money for schools and health care, while those not connected to social service occupations favored a lowered property tax.

The campaign raised over $100,000 in donations from group endorsers such as teacher’s unions, Planned Parenthood and Personal PAC, as well as individual endorsers Secretary of State Jesse White, the Honorable Toni Preckwinkle, Senator Terry Link and the Honorable Judge Larry Suffredin. Novikova said a big part of the campaign was going to events and “schmoozing” with their endorsers.

They also worked with other campaigns. Novikova believed one of their biggest accomplishments was their five-point improvement above Pat Quinn.

Flamm lost the election. Novikova admitted that it took her a while to recover from both the loss as well as the end of the campaign. She recently declared her Political Science major after grappling among Political Science, Economics, Computer Science, International Relations and others. She expressed her love for data.

“I never met a spreadsheet I didn’t like,” Novikova said.

Now fully recharged, Novikova plans to change the world.

Elizabeth Schult

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