Jessica Altagracia Woolford: Democrat for Assembly, Bronx, NY
This summer, I had the pleasure of working for Jessica Altagracia Woolford, a candidate for the New York State Assembly in the 81st district. As an intern for Jessica, I got a firsthand look into the inner workings of a campaign. My team’s task this summer was steep—we were attempting to unseat a 28-year incumbent with a stronghold on the predominant voting population in the district and significant donations from corporate PACs. We ended up losing the primary, but I gained a breadth of experience this summer that I am so grateful for.
My role on the campaign was threefold. First, I assisted our campaign field organizer with our field operation. I helped assign door-knocking shifts, recruit volunteers and plan events. Next, I oversaw the campaign’s social media, helped plan talking points for debates and “staffed” Jessica for days when the press was involved. I additionally engaged in “chase calls” to reporters and newspapers, directing them to cover events that our candidate would be at. Lastly, I worked directly under Bilal Tahir, my internship supervisor and Jessica’s campaign manager. I assisted him with assignments including editing palm sheets, negotiating with caterers and venues for future events or looking through our opponents’ financial disclosures.
Because Jessica was a first-time candidate running against a 28-year incumbent, name recognition and voter engagement were crucial to the campaign. A big part of my role was engaging on the field myself—there were days and weekends where I would be with our volunteers, conversing with voters at train stations or knocking on doors. I found that doing this was quite out of my comfort zone; I had never knocked on a stranger’s door before or approached a stranger at a train station. It was quite nerve-wracking and took a particular amount of courage to do. After much practice, I was able to step into this role within the campaign and bond with the resilient individuals of the Bronx.
One of the main reasons I wanted to work for this campaign was so I could get a look into how policy is implemented on the ground level. I was able to see the weight of local and state elections after working for Jessica and meeting local and state level officials. Being able to observe and dissect the roles of these officials helped me to understand the inner workings and feasibility of ground-level policy.
Working on a campaign for the summer was at times very difficult but also incredibly rewarding. I learned that being adaptable and “cool under pressure” in this field is a must. I am so grateful that the ’68 Center and the Estate of George Mead provided me with this opportunity, and I can’t wait to carry what I’ve learned into my junior year at Williams.