Local intern sees good, bad of political battle

Two weeks after the Aug. 3 primary election, Megan McCarty still feels the disappointment of Tracey Mann?s third-place finish in the hotly contested Republican race for the U.S. House seat from the First District.

At the same time, she has no regrets about her summer spent as a part-time intern for the Mann campaign.

?It was definitely a positive experience,? said McCarty, a Hillsboro native preparing for her senior year at Tabor College.

And, truth be known, she feels the Mann campaign was the ultimate winner, choosing to remain positive when his two closest competitors went negative against him after a television news poll late in

the campaign showed Mann, Tim Huelskamp and Jim Barnett tied with 24 percent of the vote.

In the end, Huelskamp won the six-candidate race with 35 percent of the vote, followed by Barnett with 25 percent and Mann with 21 percent.

McCarty said Mann maintained from the start that his campaign was not just about getting the most votes.

?Tracey felt led by God to run,? McCarty said. ?After he called up Tim Huelskamp to say congratulations (on election night), they prayed together over the phone.

?He came out and said to us, ?We didn?t win in the votes, but we won overall because we?ve impacted so many lives?and our lives have been impacted through this.? Hopefully, we planted seeds in people throughout the district.?

Timely opportunity

McCarty first heard about the internship from her Tabor College history and political science professor, Bill Kostlevy, who had received an e-mail inquiry from Audrey Mann, the candidate?s wife and a Tabor alum.

A social science major with an emphasis in political science, McCarty was immediately interested.

?I thought I might as well try it out,? she said. ?I e-mailed her, found out what I needed to do and sent in my resume.?

McCarty then interviewed with Audrey Mann, the campaign manager and deputy manager in their Salina office.

?I had looked at his Web site, and he had his ?Mann Plan? listed on there,? McCarty said. ?I pretty much agreed with everything I read on there. It was, you know, I?d sure like to do this.?

McCarty got the call to join the Mann team the next day, joining three other interns. The internship was unpaid, but McCarty will receive class credit for her work this fall.

Making personal contacts

On average, McCarty put in 16 hours a week, working from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday in the Salina office.

The interns? primary task was to contact potential voters on the phone and door-to-door.

?Sometimes over a week, our goal was to call 10,000 people,? McCarty said. ?So we?d make 3,000 phone calls a day. I?m sure I made at least 1,000 phone calls (in a day).

?We also went to about 22,000 doors over the last six or seven weeks. We met a lot of people.?

The campaign?s call list was comprised of registered Repub?licans who voted in at least three of the past four elections.

?It?s people who are serious about getting out and voting,? she said. ?We only had so much time to call all of the people in the First District.?

McCarty said making personal contacts with strangers was intimidating at first.

?You never knew what kind of response you were going to get on the other side,? she said. ?Even walking up to people?s houses, you just never knew? first, whether they?d be home. I had people answer the door with their shirt not on; we had caught them at a bad time.

?Most of the time they were pretty nice,? she added. ?They?re a lot nicer to your face then they were over the phone.?

McCarty said whether or not a conversation resulted in a vote for Mann, the campaign had a higher objective.

?Our goal was to positively impact everyone we met with,? McCarty said. ?One day Tracey said, ?It really helps me if I pray for the people that I?m talking to before I call them. Then you?re impacting their lives somehow ?you?re praying for them.?

?So, just before I?d call someone, I?d say, ?God, I?m praying for Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and as I call them now I hope my interaction with them can be positive.??

Then she added with a smile, ?Sometimes I?d pray to get their answering machines.?

Election night

On election night, she and her parents, Byron and Wendy McCarty, along with Tabor faculty members David and Joanne Loewen, joined with Mann?s family and friends to watch the voting returns at the Courtyard by Marriott motel in Salina.

The very first report showed Mann with a lead. Even though that quickly changed, the mood remained upbeat, McCarty said.

?Everyone kept a smile on their face because Tracey had said at the very beginning when he came in that even if we lose in the polls we still win overall.?

Lesson learned

McCarty said she learned a lot about Kansas politics through her summer experiences. Not the least of which is a greater appreciation for the sheer size of the First District.

?The First District is kind of crazy because it?s all the way from Emporia to Colorado, then from Nebraska to Oklahoma,? she said. ?I knew people were moving to the urban areas, but I didn?t realize how much. After this latest census is counted, our district will probably be even bigger.

?Right now it?s 69 counties?that?s a lot of traveling,? she added. ?We did 80,000 miles in the Mann Mobile, which was our van that had ?Tracey Mann? all over it.?

Being exposed to negative campaigning opened McCarty?s eyes in several ways.

?I was surprised how negative things could turn between campaigns,? she said. ?There are some things that happen that if people knew (the truth), they might change their minds. But you can?t just go around always defending yourself.

?People will go to any means to try and make the other person look bad,? she added. ?There?s a lot of half-truth and a lot of taking things out of context to make things look a lot worse than they really are. I didn?t realize how much of that goes on.?

McCarty admitted she used to be one of those people who were influenced by negative ads.

?Now, I understand that those things aren?t true and real,? she said. ?If I don?t investigate them, then it?s really easy to fall for that stuff.?

Even for all the shortcomings of modern politics, McCarty said she is convinced people need to get more politically involved, not less.

?If they?re going to sit around and complain about what their government is doing, they need to do something about it.?

Down the road

As for her own future, McCarty said she expects to remain politically involved?but more than likely behind the scenes.

?Truthfully, I was hoping Tracey would win and I could maybe work for him someday,? she said. ?I think I?d like to be a representative for a representative?like a local face that voters can talk to and express their concerns to. I can also talk to them and relay messages and things like that.

?I don?t think I really want to be a politician,? she added. ?I?m just not strong-willed enough to do that. I don?t like people yelling at me.

?I definitely want to do something in the political arena,? McCarty said. ?I?m also minoring in communication and international studies, so I?d like to do political writing and things like that.?

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