The Volunteers Behind the Politics

By Matt Daray

Behind every great man or woman running for political office are a large number of volunteers who spend their time promoting their candidate in hopes of a victory.

The race for the 115 District seat in the Illinois House of Representatives has heated up as Republican Terri Bryant is now facing Democrat Bill Kilquist after both won the March 18 primaries. Both parties will vie to win the seat, but it may come down to the work from the little guys behind the candidates that gets them into office.

Kilquist Campaign

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Army veteran Will Addit has spent nearly five years in politics  to promote awareness for veterans and veteran’s issues. Addit said he volunteered with the Jackson County Democrats in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

“The nice thing about being a volunteer is that you get to choose your candidate,” he said. “You can look at both candidates and choose which one is the best for the district, which one is the most ethical, the most well suited to support and represent the people where you live.”

Addit said he did his research when the race began and decided Kilquist was the right candidate  to support. Work can vary each day depending on a volunteer’s personal schedule, he said.

“One day you might be driving around knocking on doors, one day you might be putting up signs,” he said. “The next day, you might be going and recruiting volunteers from a church in Mt. Vernon and the next day you might be setting up an event in the bottoms of Jackson County, so it’s a pretty versatile thing.”

Working as part of the political process allows volunteers to know the candidate better and get a better understanding of politics — for the Kilquist campaign, Kilquist makes sure to rotate volunteers so multiple people have a chance to work personally with the candidate, Addit said.

“(Kilquist) very much so reached out to us and made sure we felt that we were doing a good job and that there was a reason to do that good job,” he said.

Each campaign tends to brings changes in the people who volunteer as a portion of volunteers are union members or students, Addit said. He said some volunteers stay on from campaign to campaign, but most are brand new.

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Bryant Campaign

Carolyn Cano, a  Jackson County Republican general committee precinct committeeman, said she has a life-long passion for politics and has volunteered in many campaigns. She has worked with almost all of the Jackson County Republicans, including Mike Bost, who has been the 115th District Representative since 1996. Cano became involved with the Bryant campaign because Bryant asked her to join.

Cano said she is the treasurer for the Bryant campaign and is responsible for many of the financial and election reports.

“I do (Bryant’s) treasure work for her with all her accounts and all her receivable accounts payable, all her reports current for her and all her April election reports,” she said.

Campaign spending usually consists of buying ads in newspapers and on television, placing yard signs, handing out materials and scheduling meet-and-greet sessions, Cano said. The main goal is to get the candidate’s name out to the public and make sure they understand his or her platform, she said.

Cano said she is not jaded after working on so many campaigns and feels like she makes a difference daily.

“The reason I say, as far as me volunteering, that I will help (Bryant) or any other candidate is because I know how to keep the books and keep them straight for them and it takes the worry off of the candidates,” she said. “They can be moving on to something else … and they don’t have to worry about their accounts.”

Cano volunteers for the joy of working in politics, she said.

“I enjoy politics. I like working with politics and I have been involved with politics for many years,” she said. “It’s a tradition of the family.”

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