WACO – Now, in the midst of election year, is the perfect time for many students to get involved in political campaigns, and that is exactly what one Baylor student is doing.
Caleb Gunnels, a first-year Baylor Law student from Fairfield has been involved with political campaigns since his junior year of Baylor undergrad. Starting out, he interned for Greg Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign. Afterwards, he was offered a full-time staff position as a field representative, where he managed multiple Texas counties and oversaw campaign events all while he was a student. Currently, he is assisting with Ralph Patterson’s campaign for Congress.
After learning how to work on a campaign while going to school, Gunnels offers advice to other students who are also interested in getting involved on the campaign trail.
How did you get your start in campaigning?
When I was in political science classes, it was really neat to study everything, but I really wanted to see how (campaigning) worked. In reality, with political science, the way to actually to go out and do something in public service or in campaigns after graduating is by having connections. If you don’t have connections, you are just another student studying and that’s it.”
“It was my junior year at Baylor. I had the opportunity to do an internship for Greg Abbott, and I was able to see how the campaign worked. I put a lot of work into it and just busted my tail, and when the internship was over, I was offered the job, and off I went from there. I was making more money than I was working in restaurants, and I was making connections and meeting people.
What was your experience like on your first campaign?
I pulled my hair out a few times. It was just busy. I liked the fact I could travel around to different counties in Texas. I was making thousands of phone calls, knocking on doors, setting up events to try and get people locally involved. It was a lot of busywork and a lot of responsibility, but I had a good time doing that. Talking to professors, talking to my friends and telling them to get involved was pretty cool.
What was the most challenging thing you encountered on your first campaign?
I was really hoping that when I talked to people about voting for Greg Abbott, they would be a lot nicer, but when you call people on the phone Saturday or Sunday afternoon or knock on their door and talk about political stuff, people are not as nice to you. Some people were really nice, but a lot of people were not. Some people slammed doors in your face, other people yelled at you and cussed at you.
My first event, I went down to Austin to block walk for Greg Abbott’s campaign. There were a lot of people protesting about abortion and women’s rights, and people were yelling and chanting. We had to walk by them and not say anything while they were yelling all this derogatory stuff. I think that was my first actual event on Greg Abbott’s staff, and that was a little scary. That’s some of the stuff I didn’t expect. I mean, you see it on the news. But as a student, you aren’t really a part of it, so it was really eye-opening for me.
What is something you wish you would have known in the beginning?
To jump into it earlier. When I jumped into it, it just opened up that world. It’s a whole different ball game than just opening up a book and studying. Just jump in and get involved as quick as possible because the amount of people I was able to meet in the short time period made everything worth it. It doesn’t matter what year you are in college; my advice to you is to just get involved, especially if it’s something you really have a passion for. If you’re just willing to study it but not go out and act on the problems you’re trying to solve, then you are really wasting your time.
How do you get involved in campaigns in the beginning?
You look at who is running, shoot them an email and say you are wanting to intern or volunteer. I don’t think there is one single candidate who is running for political office right now who will not accept volunteer or internship work. A lot of students don’t want to dive into volunteer work because it’s free and there isn’t class credit, but as a student, you shouldn’t be too prideful to do free work because in reality, you’re doing that free work in hopes of getting an internship or a job. You have to start somewhere. If someone tells you no, just keep going. Then you haven’t lost anything.