Williston college student volunteers for

Shaw campaigns for Obama on East Coast

By Tim Simard
Observer staff
It was a busy January for Williston resident and college student Katy Shaw. Instead of relaxing at home over winter break, Shaw, 19, was busy holding signs, making phone calls, canvassing neighborhoods, and organizing events, all for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. Shaw volunteered in the biggest primaries of last month’s presidential campaign, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

When the Democratic presidential field was full of candidates, Shaw, who attends Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, chose to support Obama after seeing him speak in Portland at a September 2007 event.

Shaw said she liked his views on education, health care, and the war in Iraq. Better international relations is an issue important to Shaw and she believes he’s more willing to open dialogues with other countries than is his opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton, of New York.

“What he had to say was about change and doing things differently,” she said. “It was good for me to hear because I feel like a lot of young people are cynical about politics today. They don’t think they are listened to.”

According to her mother, Joanne, Katy’s hard work has helped the Obama campaign in a lot of ways.

“She’s gotten many, many people enthusiastic about Barack,” Joanne said.

Volunteering in N.H.

Shaw said she’s always been interested in politics. She grew up listening to NPR at home.

“Politics have always been a part of my life,” Shaw said.

This was the first presidential election in which Shaw would be eligible to vote and she looked forward to helping select the next president of the United States. Shaw became involved after receiving a campus-wide email from Obama’s grassroots student organization. She expressed interest in volunteering and the organization asked her to campaign in New Hampshire before the Jan. 8 primary.

She was sent to volunteer in eastern New Hampshire on Dec. 31, 2007, in the White Mountain community of Conway. Shaw said she was one of 11 staffers and volunteers at the Conway location. Part of her job was to go door to door in the rural towns of Freedom, Ossipee, and Effingham in Carroll County, as well as hold Obama campaign signs and place phone calls to area residents.

In the week leading up to the primary, the media reported Obama was ahead in the polls and that he could win New Hampshire after his Jan. 3 win in the Iowa caucus. Shaw said she and fellow Obama supporters were cautiously optimistic about the senator’s chances.

“When the polls kept coming out that he was so far ahead, we didn’t really believe it because we kept talking to people who were either voting for Hillary or were undecided,” she said.

On New Hampshire primary day, Shaw made last minute phone calls and held Obama signs in and around the Mount Washington Valley. When results came in later that night, Sen. Clinton took an early lead and held it to the end.

“It was unfortunate, it was disappointing,” Shaw said. “It was hard to be there a week and then lose.”

Clinton won New Hampshire with 39 percent of the vote. Obama wasn’t far behind with 36 percent. However, he did win Conway and Carroll County. It was a tie in the delegate count, with Obama and Clinton picking up nine each.

“The change that Obama is talking about and the change he’ll bring, it would have been too easy for him to win both Iowa and New Hampshire,” she said. “It would have been too fantastical.”

The South Carolina primary

After the New Hampshire primary, the next big contest for the Democratic candidates was the Jan. 26 South Carolina primary. Shaw volunteered her time once again and flew down the week before the Saturday contest. She worked in the small, south-central town of Bamberg, S.C. in Bamberg County. Since she was one of only three volunteers and staffers at the location, Shaw had more responsibilities. Instead of knocking on doors, she made phone calls and helped organize events in Bamberg and Barnwell counties.

While in South Carolina, she was able to attend a rally in which Obama’s wife, Michelle, spoke.

“It was great to meet her,” Shaw said. “She was very supportive of all the work I’ve done and the work all volunteers had done.”

South Carolina proved to be a huge victory for Obama. He easily won South Carolina’s primary, taking 55 percent of the vote and picking up 25 delegates. Hillary Clinton received 27 percent of the vote and 12 delegates.

“That felt really good,” Shaw said. “I was disappointed in New Hampshire, but was then part of a big win, so it was great.”

Maine and Vermont

While back at Bowdoin College at the end of January, Shaw helped campaign for Obama in between class responsibilities. On the Maine caucus day, Feb. 10, Shaw hung door hangers on dorm doors encouraging students to come out and caucus in Brunswick. Town residents and students braved cold temperatures and snow to caucus, giving Brunswick one of the highest voter turnouts in the state. Obama won the town and the state easily with 59 percent of the vote, picking up 15 delegates.

As for the upcoming Vermont primary on March 4, Shaw said she wants to help out either from Bowdoin or a quick weekend back in Williston. Shaw said that she’s very proud to be from Vermont and she’s excited that this year, Vermont’s voice will be heard.

“Vermont actually is mattering more than it usually does!” she said.

Shaw has gotten her family involved, as well. Her father, Tony, joined her in New Hampshire to canvas neighborhoods and her mother and younger sister, Emily, plan to volunteer locally.

“Her passion has been contagious,” her mother, Joanne, said. “She’s gotten the whole family on the Obama bandwagon.”

As for Obama’s goal to win the Democratic nomination, Shaw believes “it’s totally possible.”

“He’s still the underdog in some ways in terms of name recognition,” Shaw said. “The only way he can win the nomination is if people go out and vote. It’s up to the 15 states or so that are left.”