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The People Behind-the-Scenes Who Get Candidates Elected


While presidential candidates may need money to run a campaign, volunteers and campaign workers are just as critical to winning a race. Behind the scenes workers get people excited so they’ll go to the polls and vote.

Vietnamese American Tim Phan was in-between jobs and decided to become a full time volunteer for the Hillary Clinton campaign. He has been working nonstop for more than a month in anticipation of the California Primary.

“Every night we stay up late entering data, planning out the next day’s events and stuff,” said Phan.

Phan works close to a 12-hour-day recruiting volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls in languages that include English, Korean and Spanish to remind people to vote.

Volunteers knock on doors and make phone calls in languages that include English, Korean and Spanish to remind people to vote.

Volunteers knock on doors and make phone calls in languages that include English, Korean and Spanish to remind people to vote.

“If they do pick up the phone, cause sometimes people don’t answer the phone or it’s a wrong number, hopefully they tell us yes, they’re voting for Hillary.” Phan added, “We just kind of thank them for their support. Even if they don’t vote for Hillary, we still mark their support for other people as well. It’s a good way for us to track our progress in certain districts, certain counties and cities.”

Phan also helps organize special events with leaders from different immigrant communities to rally voters and volunteers.

Bernie boosters

A few miles away, passionate Bernie Sanders volunteers like Jeremy White are also working so their candidate can get the votes.

“For me the best part is when you meet somebody else who just have that empathy in them and just has the passion to drop everything and do whatever they can for this revolution and to get our voices heard and the voices of those who aren’t represented,“ White said.

Visitors come to the old Bernie’s Coffee Shop now converted to a Sanders art museum filled with original work from supporters.

Visitors come to the old Bernie’s Coffee Shop now converted to a Sanders art museum filled with original work from supporters.

Jeremy White works as a freelance production designer in the film industry and suspended his career for the last few months to help Sanders win votes. He rented an old coffee shop and created a Sanders art museum filled with original work from supporters. In big letters on the front of the building visitors will see “Bernie’s Coffee Shop.”

Usually we have about three people come in asking for coffee. We tell them we don’t serve that unfortunately but they can sign up and volunteer,” White said.

Besides knocking on doors and calling potential voters, Sanders supporters are also selling Bernie T-shirts made by volunteers to support their efforts.​

Trump rooters

No one from Donald Trump's campaign responded to VOA’s request to interview a campaign worker. Without access to volunteers, VOA found plenty of supporters at a Trump rally in Orange County, California. While they are mainly white here, there are a small handful of immigrants and their children to speak for Trump.

Supporters at a Trump rally in Orange County, California.

Supporters at a Trump rally in Orange County, California.

“Well I think the things that he said are offensive are things that need to be said though. In the end all that matters is that America is safe, America is strong and American is great again,” said the son of Indian immigrants, Vishnu Vallatharasan.

“We’ve had a lot of presidents. They’ve been movie stars. We’ve had generals become president, people who have been in the army, governors, senators. We’ve never had a billionaire. I want us to try something new,” said Vietnamese American Peter Pham.

Whether it is at a rally or a campaign office, campaigners may vote for different candidates but they have one thing in common. They share the belief that every vote counts.

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