Home2019-2020Issue 3Students staff campaign of Senate candidate

Students staff campaign of Senate candidate



Deb Patterson’s campaign for Senate District 10, an area that encompasses Marion and Polk counties, is one centered around healthcare, climate change and gun laws, with the slogan “Oregon that Works for Everyone” driving Patterson’s political vision forward. 

As the November 2020 election day approaches, Patterson has been working hard to get her message out and flip the district from red to blue. Back in the 2018 election, Democrat Patterson received 45.9 percent of the vote, while Republican incumbent Jackie Winters secured 53.9 percent. 

Two years after that close race, students from Willamette have proven to be crucial in Patterson’s second push for state senator: her campaign manager, Malea Kirkland, is a winter 2019 Willamette graduate and three interns are current students on campus. 

Kirkland, who began full-time work in January after part-time work in the fall, spends her workdays “catching up and taking all of the information from running last cycle and adapting it… being on the phone, sending emails, recruiting volunteers and managing Deb’s time.” 

Her internships while in college, particularly her one as an organizing intern for Pro-Choice Oregon, as well as her experience with event planning from Willamette Events Board and past consulting work have all contributed to Kirkland’s sense of comfort with and interest in state politics. 

From these opportunities came Kirkland’s appreciation for learning through involvement, which is why she hired students Claire Mathews-Lingen (‘21), Ian Curtis (’23) and Bryce Henshaw (‘21) to help with the campaign in exchange for hands-on political experience, academic credit and a small stipend. 

Two main duties of the interns are to assist with volunteer mobilization and idea development. Kirkland said they “bring extra eyes and brains” to the campaign.

Although there are several hundred volunteers signed up to assist with tasks such as canvassing, calling parties and postcard writing, it is difficult to bring everyone together to act. That’s partially why Kirkland and Patterson will be visiting Willamette’s College Democrats on Feb. 24. The hope is to introduce Patterson through a question-and-answer session, discuss the impact and benefits of volunteering and examine the campaign’s strategy so far. 

Of course, working on a political campaign can be overwhelming and fast-paced; however, it can also be very rewarding and inspiring according to Kirkland. “As campaign manager, finding a balance between managing up and being able to say, ‘This is my opinion’ is personally challenging… I know how exciting the race is and how invested Deb is. I know it’s a big deal playing a part in something so important,” Kirkland said. 

Interns Mathews-Lingen and Henshaw feel similarly about this opportunity and its personal and professional impact. Both spoke about their desires for campaign experience, their support of Patterson’s mission and the benefits of voter and constituent interactions. 

Sociology major Mathews-Lingen said: “I have worked on campaigns before and I always learn so much through the hands-on work. I am excited to be working on a competitive race and will definitely be taking these skills into my future career experiences as I work more in politics and maybe eventually run my own campaign.” 

Henshaw, a economics major, agreed: “As someone that has never worked on a campaign before, this was a really important first step to learn the basics of campaigning before I try to get a job in a national campaign. Also, some of the tasks that are assigned made me feel nervous, but I now have more confidence talking to others about issues that they are facing in their communities.” 

Kirkland, Mathews-Lingen and Henshaw all acknowledged that political involvement at a young age is something that has the potential to transform the status quo and create lasting change. Henshaw concluded: “We are living in a time where the United States is having a political awakening. It is important that youth movements have a say in what the future looks like.” 



Deb Patterson


Deb Patterson talks to former president Barack Obama during one of her visits to the White House.

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