How did local teacher Laura Del Savio become communications director in a congressional race in Tennessee’s 1st District?
REDDING, CT — Laura Del Savio is a teacher at Weston High School, and until recently, she had never gotten involved in elections. Today, she is communications director for Democrat Blair Walsingham, congressional candidate in Tennessee’s 1st District.
How’d that happen?
“People often volunteer for local candidates, but they should also be looking outside the state to become politically active because there are a lot of great candidates emerging whose interests coincide with ours,” Del Savio said.
Del Savio found her political muse in the presidential campaign of Andrew Yang, where she worked as a campaign texter. She thought that her political activism would end when the campaign was suspended. Then she was recruited to set up the Email Response Team for Yang’s organization Humanity Forward, helping to distribute COVID-19 relief funds. Shortly after completing the set up, Del Savio was contacted by the former Tennessee Yang Gang regional coordinator, Ian Ratner of Nashville, who asked if she would consider volunteering for a small campaign he was managing in Tennessee.
“I jumped at the opportunity because even though I have little connection to Tennessee, I loved her policies and thought Blair could be a great new representative in Congress.” Del Savio soon found herself communications director, in charge of all communications including graphics, social media, video editing, press and public relations and is even coordinating the release of a candidate podcast. “I’m doing things I never imagined I would have the chance to do.”
One of the best parts of working for a small campaign, she says, is the opportunity to work at a level amateurs would rarely see in the larger, more well-funded campaigns.
“I know people who work on local or presidential campaigns, and it’s usually at a low-tier volunteer position. Working on a small campaign you can be involved in policy discussions and bring ideas to the table that usually only come from an elite group of experienced campaign
The experience has given her a better understanding of the issues, and her work demands that she do a significant amount of research into local concerns, even spending time talking to policy experts. “I spoke to a candidate for the Tennessee State House the other day who told me she had to wait hours and then be transported to a hospital two hours away while her daughter was suffering seizures and was unresponsive. Can you imagine that being your local health care system?”
Del Savio says she wishes more young people and adults would get involved with campaigns that align with their values across the country, and that particularly for young adults, it’s an opportunity to get valuable job skills. “We have volunteers 17-21 years old who are getting the experience of a lifetime, and are able to build portfolios of work they can use when applying for jobs!”
The teacher turned communications director says that small campaigns benefit from the experience and skills of adults who have the time to contribute their skills to candidates who don’t have the funds to hire professionals. “My candidate, Blair Walsingham, may not have the same money as her opponents, but she has a great team of people, from our website designer in Hawaii to our graphics team manager in Queens. We may not be campaign experts, but we all have professional level skills that add to the team.”
Del Savio has been able to manage all this working remotely from her home in Redding. She plans on being back in her Weston classroom come the fall, but hopes to spend some time on the ground in Tennessee if the COVID-19 spike there subsides.
“I don’t know if Blair can win since the television ads her opponents can afford are the best way to spread a message during COVID, but who knows? We are making the most of our talented team and technology. Since she’s the last Democrat standing, we know we are in this through November.”
What Del Savio really hopes is that more regular people like Blair can have a shot at representing the needs of communities by finding support from all over the country from those who take an interest in the politics beyond their own local elections. “If you can’t volunteer, consider donating to the smaller down-ballot candidates whose ideas resonate with you. The best path to national progress is by supporting candidates who are in a good fight.”
Del Savio has been a teacher for almost thirty years, and says she loves her career, but the opportunity to do something new has been “rejuvenating.”