Students get involved in political campaigns

Eilish O'Sullivan

This summer, government junior Andrew Herrera had an opportunity most college students won’t. Herrera tried to help elect more than 20 Democratic candidates across Williamson County as a coordinated campaign executive director.

Through the full-time job, Herrera coordinates all volunteer management and training, and runs outreach efforts, such as phone-banking and block-walking, which is where a volunteer goes door-to-door to get name recognition and voters for their preferred candidate. Herrera also formulates the county party’s strategy and messaging to reach disaffected voters, and helps manage four offices to “get out the vote” in Georgetown, Round Rock, Cedar Park and Taylor.

“This is a really big opportunity for someone as young as I am,” said Herrera, president of University Democrats. “A lot of younger people don’t really get the chance to be this involved in the decision-making.”

But Herrera isn’t the only UT student involved in political campaigns. Biochemistry senior Saurabh Sharma is at the forefront of volunteer efforts for the “Chip Roy for Congress” campaign. Sharma is chairman of Young Conservatives of Texas, and he said after the group endorsed Chip Roy in the race for the 21st Congressional District of Texas, the organization became very active in the campaign. 

“We were very passionate about helping him out,” Sharma said. “We would just (block-)walk for Chip Roy and knock on doors, and it was a great experience for our members, a lot of them had never block-walked to that extent before.”

For a whole semester, Sharma block-walked for Roy’s campaign every weekend. Sharma said because of his consistent involvement with the campaign, he was put in charge of block-walking right before the runoff election. 

In the past, Sharma has also worked full-time in the Texas Capitol and district office for Sen. Van Taylor. This inspired him to change his future plans and switch from pre-med to pre-law. After graduating from UT, he wants to go to law school and study intellectual property and patent law. 

Sharma first got involved with politics after joining YCT. 

“My political beliefs had evolved quite a bit, I kind of came to conclusions as far as what is it that I believed,” Sharma said. “I decided I wanted to join a group that would allow me to kind of develop those ideas and further exercise my political ideas.”

Herrera, who is from Williamson County, said he is thankful for the opportunity to have a seat at the table, and he hopes he can be a voice for millennials as well as encourage people who have hesitations about getting out and voting as a Democrat. 

“For the most part, people haven’t seen a Democrat running in some of these local races for years and so they don’t even know what a Democrat looks like,” Herrera said. “There’s a caricature that people invoke about (Williamson County) as being so extremely conservative, that a Democrat can’t win here, and that they shouldn’t run, but that’s not true.”

Herrera has dreams of going to the LBJ School of Public Affairs to study public policy and then eventually working at the federal level. 

“What I want to focus on is a broad, ‘What do we need to do to make the most difference in the most people’s lives?’” Herrera said.