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First-Time Campaign Volunteers Share Their Reasons For Getting Involved


Door knocking, phone banking, planting yard signs - these are the critical, even if sometimes tedious, jobs of political campaign volunteers.


Well, we wanted to hear from people who decided this was the year to grab a clipboard and get involved for the first time - people like Susan Dillingham (ph) of Kansas. Dillingham is a Democrat and a teacher. She really connected with the candidate running for Congress in her district. But she says signing up to volunteer was kind of scary.

SUSAN DILLINGHAM: It had never even crossed my mind to get involved in a political campaign. And I didn't have any friends that were doing it. I didn't know anyone at the time. And just stepping up and doing something completely on my own was a little nerve-wracking. But I've ended up making some fantastic friends - like people I would never have met otherwise.

CHANG: Newbie volunteer Samuel Hinz was recruited to join in. We caught up with him today on a door-knocking shift in Iowa.

SAMUEL HINZ: I'm standing under the gazebo because it's drizzling a little bit. It's a little rainy. It's rained a lot over the past couple of weeks. But I think it's worth it.

CHANG: When a libertarian group asked Hinz to come knock on doors in a tight state House race, he jumped at the chance.

HINZ: Today I'm probably going to knock on about 300 doors. Some people politely decline. Some people aren't home. But a lot of people - people on, you know, every side - are just willing to talk and have a nice conversation.

KELLY: Meanwhile in Illinois, Danielle Wilson (ph) has been hitting the road, too. She is campaigning for a Libertarian gubernatorial candidate she is excited about. Wilson has driven more than 750 miles delivering yard signs all across the state.

DANIELLE WILSON: I've got two toddlers. So I mean, they strap in in the back seat, and they get their dinosaur books. And my limit usually is 150 miles one way.

CHANG: For lots of new volunteers, distaste for President Trump is a big motivator. Chris Chen (ph) of Georgia voted for Trump in 2016. Now he says Trump's rhetoric, especially after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, has changed his mind.

CHRIS CHEN: It's really that level of violence that really drove me to want to speak out and to participate in the political process.

CHANG: This year he's been encouraging Asian-Americans to vote for the Democrat running for governor, Stacey Abrams.

KELLY: Well, for first-timer Leslie Foley (ph), it is not just about the current moment. She's been volunteering for Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona, and she says this campaign will not be her last.

LESLIE FOLEY: I do plan on volunteering really for the rest of my life. I have absolutely loved every minute of this. And I can't wait for next time.

CHANG: The voices of campaign volunteers all making their first jump into the political fray. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.