Inside the Democratic Party of Orange County’s Santa Ana headquarters, Lindsay Hopkins ’07 works the phones while surrounded by mismatched furniture, stacks of campaign mailers and one sorry-looking pink Christmas tree, a holdover from the holidays.
“This is crunch time,” she says. As the party’s new political director, Hopkins will put in long days from now until the November election trying to get out the vote, and she couldn’t be happier.
“I love working on campaigns,” she says. “It’s talking to people. It’s getting them engaged in politics. It’s sharing experiences. And it’s telling those who never thought their vote would matter that it really does.”
Hopkins honed her campaign skills while getting her bachelor’s in political science from UCI. As a volunteer for California Public Interest Research Group, a student-run consumer advocacy and environmental organization, she coordinated a campaign to lower the cost of textbooks. But she wanted to work on political campaigns, and CalPIRG’s non-partisan stance left her “sidelined.”
“I knew how to get students to register, but I couldn’t get them to take the next step and vote for a candidate, and it frustrated me.”
She got her first exposure to partisan politics her junior year through the political science department’s Public Affairs Internship Program. She worked on Costa Mesa City Councilmember Katrina Foley’s campaign, then went to Sacramento for the Angelides for Governor 2006 campaign and to San Francisco for the California Democratic Party’s statewide campaign.
“I’ve always identified myself as a Democrat,” she says.
After returning to campus last fall to finish her degree, she began working as an intern at the party headquarters. She impressed her boss, DPOC Executive Director Melahat Rafiei, and started her new job as political director the Monday after she finished finals.
Hopkins now works with the party’s precinct captains, who walk their neighborhoods talking to Democrats about the election and encouraging them to vote. She helps boost the number of the county’s registered Democrats – now approximately 463,000, compared to 715,000 Republicans. Ever the optimist, she isn’t daunted by the numbers:
“People think we’re such a red county, but it’s not true. We have more Democrats than San Francisco if you look at numbers, not percentages. And we have more Democrats than 20 states in the union.”
One perk of the job: She’s met several presidential candidates – including Senators Barack Obama and John Edwards. She hopes to someday become a chief of staff for a key political office. First, though, she plans to take the GRE in 2009, “when it’s not an election year,” and go to graduate school – perhaps at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.
“I’ll probably float between politics and nonprofits,” she says. “I want to continue working for something I believe in, and making sure I’m trying to make the world a better place.”