by Christina Russell
Keagan Buchanon, a senior politics major at Whitman, is proof that Whitties don’t have to travel to a major metropolis in order to gain the work experience they desire for their prospective careers. Buchanon has spent the past four months serving as Democrat Bill Grant’s campaign manager for the upcoming election in November, an invaluable experience that is serving as a foundation for the future he hopes to pursue in campaign politics.
Buchanon was proactive in his pursuit of a job in campaign politics. He contacted the House Democratic Campaign committee last Spring, saying that he was interested in living in Walla Walla over the summer if there was a candidate in the area on the democratic ticket looking for assistance.
At first, he was recommended to the Coordinated Campaign, a group that works primarily with Maria Cantwell’s campaign. Buchanon was fortunate to be contacted by Grant, who accommodated his wish to run the campaign but still be a student.
Where did Buchanon receive training to manage a campaign? He didn’t. “I don’t have any experience,” he said.
“I still marvel at the fact that this is my job,” said Buchanon, who compensates for what he lacks in the way of experience with a genuine enthusiasm for his position. “It is really surprising that my only experience is watching West Wing. I [also] read the news constantly; I love political gossip. I read all the blogs I can, right and left.”
Buchanon spent the summer developing Grant’s webpage, composing and distributing upwards of 7,000 fundraising letters (“I had labels all over my room,” he said) and coordinating work with media consultants out of Olympia.
Buchanon mentioned that outside of gaining experience campaigning, he has enjoyed “being here over the summer, getting outside of Whitman, really investing myself in the community.” Buchanon frequents community events with Grant, where he meets local democrats. “It has opened my eyes to the fact that [outside of Whitman] there are actually people here.”
In the past, Grant has relied mainly on his wife Nancy for campaigning assistance. However, this year, when it became apparent that he would have a serious opponent, Kevin Young, to defeat, Grant decided to hire Buchanon to “help do a more expansive campaign.”
Grant has served 10 terms as a representative for Washington’s sixteenth legislative district. He is unique in that he is one of few Democrats who has held a dominant presence in Eastern Washington. Grant graduated from Whitman College in 1959, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education.
A fourth generation wheat farmer, Grant has fostered strong ties with the local farming community, a crucial connection for Washington Democrats to preserve, as Democrats have historically failed to capture this demographic. In the primary elections last month, 38 percent of voters registered as Democrats, three percent more than is typical for this area.
Buchanon explained that because it is not likely that the House Republicans are going to retake the majority in Washington State, they are looking to eliminate a “trophy head” Democrat.
That Grant has been in office for 20 years and represents a minority political party east of the mountains makes him an ideal candidate for the Republican State Party to try and take out. Buchanon is waiting to see whether Republicans will be investing funds in Young’s campaign for this purpose. “His job and my job is to make sure we retain those Republican votes,” said Buchanon.
Students interested in volunteering for the November election should contact the local Democrats office in Walla Walla at 120 E. Birch Street, Suite #4, or by telephone at (509) 529-5273.
Buchanon also encouraged students to contact him. He leaves every Saturday from the Reid Campus Center at 11 a.m. to distribute literature about Bill Grant to the community.
“It is really hard to get Whitman students to do anything,” said Buchanon, “just because everyone is so busy.”
Closer to the election, Buchanon will be leading Get Out The Vote efforts, which Buchanon said “is really fun to do. It is when everything starts to come together.”