November 17, 2010
Josh Benjamin, Staff Writer & Ali Jawetz, Online News Editor, Print Copy Editor
Mutale Matambo is a high school junior, a campaign volunteer and a political advocate. His experience with the mid-term election campaign process gave him an interesting view of politics and campaigning as a teenager in high school.
“It was kind of weird at first [working on the campaign everyday], and then I started getting used to it,” said Matambo. “I went to people’s houses, knocked on their doors, and took surveys of who they were going to vote for. I felt really great when I was working.”
Matambo campaigned for Ariana Kelly, a democratic candidate who succesfully ran for the open house seat in District 16, which represents Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac. Kelly is actually a WJ alum , and when she was a student, she volunteered for the Clinton-Gore presidential campaign.
Matambo first found out about this opportunity from social studies teacher Sarah Bourgeois (who is currently on maternity leave). He simply contacted Kelly’s campaign manager and was eager to get involved.
After the escalation of the campaign throughout the summer, on Election Day, Matambo really experienced the crux of his volunteer work.
“I had to wake up at 6:00, and then go to [the polling location] St. Jane Frances De Chantel [Catholic Church], on Election Day, from 7:00-1:00,” said Matambo. “It was a long, long day. I was talking to everyone about politics, but I was just a volunteer, so I didn’t really know a lot. [But] it was pretty fun.”
From his work, Matambo has a positive attitude towards politics and greater values the importance of advocating for candidates.
“[My favorite part] was going door-to-door, and getting the door slammed in your face sometimes, because people don’t want to talk to you,” he said.
Because of his experience campaigning for Kelly, Matambo wants to volunteer for more political campaigns in the future. Although he is not sure if he wants to go into politics as a career, he has already started contacting politicians so he can participate in future elections.
Instead of receiving pay for his work, Matambo accumulated 60 student-service-learning hours. His contribution led to Kelly’s victory in the general election.
“I feel like I accomplished something, because we won the whole election, and I was one of the few volunteers that remained for the whole [process],” said Matambo. ”So I feel like I played a big part in winning the election.”
Q&A With Delegate Elect Ariana Kelly
When you went to WJ, what did you want to be?
AK: I was always interested in politics, but I did not see myself as the candidate. I was interested in working in policy, and social services. I was, however, voted “loudest” in senior superlatives.
When did you become interested in politics?
AK: Growing up near Washington DC, I was always interested in politics. However, I paid more attention to the national stage. State and local politics became interesting to me in 2005 when I started running a Maryland nonprofit organization that lobbied in Annapolis, and was governed under Maryland law.
What did you major in?
AK: I went to the University of Wisconsin and majored in History.
Why did you want to run for State Assembly Delegate?
AK: After having lobbied on women’s health issues in Annapolis, I joined the board of an organization known as the Democratic Women’s PAC of Maryland. We work to ensure women are elected to office in Maryland. Maryland has still never had a woman Governor. Currently only one of our eight House of Representatives seats is held by a woman (Donna Edwards), one of our two US Senators is a woman (Barbara Mikulski) and NONE of our other statewide elected officeholders are women (our Gov., LG, Attorney General, and Comptroller are all men).
I became interested in supporting qualified women candidates. When a vacancy opened up in my home district, I tried to recruit a strong woman to run. I called several women, and they all told me that they didn’t want to run, but they thought I should run myself! They believed I had the best experience for the job, the strongest ties to the community, and that I would be really good at the job if I won. I ended up as the only woman running against ten men in the Democratic primary for the open seat.
What was the campaign like?
AK: We started campaigning in May, and it was really hard work. First, I had to go through the organizational endorsement process, where you fill out tough policy questionnaires, and interview with leaders of interest groups. You are competing with all the other candidates for endorsements. Of course, I had to do a lot of fundraising, because campaigns are expensive, and organizations usually won’t endorse a candidate unless they thing s/he has the capacity to win. And I also had to do a lot of door knocking and phone banking. My volunteers and I knocked on over 11,000 doors this summer talking about my campaign and hoping to earn people’s votes.
What was it like working with student volunteers?
AK: Working with student volunteers was the best part of the campaign. I loved teaching young people about the political process, and their enthusiasm and energy kept me going. With all this hard work, it was important for me to keep in mind that I was running because I wanted to ensure these students, and others like them, have a strong and safe community and great jobs when they graduate. In addition to helping with door knocking and phone calls, the students also contributed lots of fresh ideas for social media, fundraising, and our photo shoots. And without their hard work and dedication, we would never have earned enough votes to win.
What did you do when you found out you won the election?
AK: The first thing I did was tell my daughter, who is six years old. She was so happy and excited that all of our hard work and sacrifice had paid off.
What is your actual job as a delegate?
AK: During legislative session (January through April) you work with community members and advocates to introduce legislation that will (hopefully) solve problems in the state. You serve on a committee (I don’t have a committee assignment yet), and hold hearings to find out about legislation and why it may be needed. The job involves a lot of listening to testimony from concerned citizens and experts. It also involves working closely with other legislators from all across the state to identify and address the problems and opportunities we have here in Maryland.
What are your main goals?
AK: I want to make sure all the kids from WJ, and our neighboring schools, have a great quality of life for decades to come. I want to make sure you are well educated for jobs, can afford college or other job training, are able to eventually buy a house and raise a family if that’s what you want. I want to reduce our traffic congestion and improve public transportation, protect our environment, and expand civil rights for everyone.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
AK: I have many inspirations. However, one special person that pops out is The Honorable Mary Boergers. She was a State Senator in Maryland who even ran for Governor. She was also the mom of two kids who went to WJ with me. Former Senator Boergers was one of the first people to sign up and help me with my campaign, and she has also offered me a tremendous amount of advice on how to be a successful candidate, and successful in Annapolis. Another inspiration is Former Senator Sharon Grosfeld. Her kids went to B-CC, but she inspired me when I worked with her in Annapolis on women’s health care issues. She gave me the confidence to run and still be myself.
How has your high school experienced shaped your life today?
AK: Many of the friends I made at WJ were very helpful in the campaign, and in helping me identify policy priorities. One of my teachers, Ms. Donohoe, was also very helpful. I wouldn’t have won without her strong support and encouragement. I also remember Mrs. Parker, who used to teach history at WJ. She taught me that I could be my own person, and should not let anything hold me back. And Dr. Garran, who was a history teacher when I went to WJ, was also an inspiration to me.
What was your favorite part of the campaign?
AK: Although it was physically exhausting, I really loved doorknocking. Not very many people get the opportunity to knock on their neighbors doors and ask them how they could help make their lives better. It was a wonderful feeling to meet so many great people and learn about their lives.
What is your favorite part of your job now?
AK: I’m still learning the ropes, but I do enjoy brainstorming legislation. I spend a lot of time talking to people and groups about their ideas for improving our lives, and the great state of Maryland.
What are your future aspirations?
AK: Right now I am just thinking about being the best Delegate I can be.
What is the most important thing you have learned from the political process?
AK: For me, it was wonderful to learn that anybody can do this. You don’t have to come from a political family, or have a PhD in political science. The value of a citizen legislature is that real people who are part of the community are representing us in Annapolis. I was so happy to see that process, and the hard work of a grassroots campaign, really pay off.