‘The youngest person on the email thread’: students take to working on campaigns ahead of November

Raga Justin

On the morning of primary elections last semester, Jacob Springer woke up at 7 a.m. On a normal Tuesday, he would have been attending classes until early afternoon. But on March 6, Springer ditched his classes and took to the streets of Austin to knock on doors and pass out campaign pamphlets for nine hours straight. 

“This is what I care about more than school,” said Springer, a government political communications sophomore. “I care about the government and the elected officials that are representing me. And so I am often willing to put other things on the line to work on campaigns.”

As the midterm elections approach, “politics” has been a campus buzzword. For Springer and other like-minded students, voting is not enough to satisfy a deep interest in government and policy. So they turn to campaigns, finding positions as interns or volunteers and working alongside the potential lawmakers they support. 

Springer is a field organizer for Joseph Kopser, the Democratic nominee for Congressional District 21. Last semester, he founded Students for Kopser, a UT political advocacy club, and now, he supervises all campus volunteering efforts for the Kopser campaign. 

As someone interested in a political career, Springer said the practical experience is invaluable for him. 

“You get to watch the entire campaign process develop to where you can see yourself running a campaign in the future,” Springer said. 

Saurabh Sharma, chairman of UT’s chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas, said he takes civic engagement seriously. Sharma has worked for multiple Republican campaigns, including those of CD 21 candidate Chip Roy, incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. He still does door-to-door canvassing on weekends and actively recruits interns for those campaigns.

Sharma said he believes merely talking about his political convictions is not productive. Pouring his own passion into campaign work was the next logical step, he said. 

“For me, it was never enough to just talk about what I believe,” biochemistry senior Sharma said. “It’s kind of morally incumbent on me to go out and do what I can. It’s an obligation really … like if you really believe in your ideas so strongly, what are you doing sitting down and not doing anything about it?”

Like Springer and Sharma, Jared Hrebenar, an international relations and global studies senior, is also working on a campaign this election season. He is a co-digital director for Mike Collier, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. 

Working for Collier’s campaign is a 24/7 commitment, Hrebenar said. A typical weekday for him starts with an 8 a.m. phone call with the campaign team. In between classes, Hrebenar said he’s constantly sending emails, setting up events, managing social media pages and keeping track of the campaign calendar. 

Hrebenar said being “the youngest person on the email thread” has never been an issue in a setting where college students are scarce. 

“It’s a really cool experience because no one is ever judged for being younger,” Hrebenar said. “We always work to show our worth, to show our value, but we’ve never really been handicapped by the fact that we’re younger. It’s just seen as a novelty sometimes.”

Students at UT can live in a bubble, Sharma said. Talking to voters and understanding the reasons behind their affinity for certain candidates can be enlightening, he said. 

“We’re sitting in our ivory towers reading books about political philosophy, but when you go out and block walk, you realize that people don’t think about voting for candidates the way you do,” Sharma said. “It can just be a really humbling experience, and it keeps me grounded.”