Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


GOP worker on a losing campaign: ‘Frustrating but rewarding, too’

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Republican candidate Chris Fields debating Rep. Keith Ellison during the 2012 Minnesota State Fair.
Erica Schumacher
MinnPost photo by Brian HallidayErica Schumack

Part 11 in a series

It was a difficult election year for Republicans in Minnesota. The DFL gained control of both houses of the Legislature, Sen. Amy Klobuchar trounced her GOP opponent and Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack was knocked off in the 8th congressional district. Among the GOP candidates to lose was Chris Fields in the 5th congressional district. Erica Schumack, Fields’ 23-year-old campaign manager, describes what it was like running against Keith Ellison in a Democratic year:

I jumped at the chance when I heard Chris was looking for people. I will say a lot of us are young. You can afford to be an idealist when you are young. It’s important to work for someone you truly believe in, and that’s what important. 

Chris Fields was just refreshing. He reaffirmed that politics was what I wanted to do. The combination of his personality, of calling it like it is but also being a first-time candidate, not knowing not to call it like it is.

It was just a real break-in. It was kind of cool to be on this campaign for Chris because it was kind of the first time for both of us. I worked on campaigns but never anything on this level with this much responsibility. Chris had never been a candidate. It was two rookies working together.  Frustrating but rewarding, too. 

Debates were the highlights of the campaign. They were the highs and the lows, for a couple of reasons. I thought Chris always performed really well and I never saw the numbers turn after that. Even knowing that we were putting our best foot forward, still the fact that our candidate had an “R” behind his name, that was not going to change.

[Reflecting on the radio interview in which Ellison called Fields a “scumbag” when Fields brought up Ellison’s failure to pay child support.]

Minnesota Moments 2012That goes to the lows. It was a good day for me. We got media recognition, something that we always struggled with. That was the high point. We got national recognition. There’s 800 races going on in the country. It’s rare to get recognition on a national stage. But then again, you didn’t see [Ellison’s] support wane.

You had a sitting congressman who had a complete meltdown on live radio, personally attacking his opponent and you just did not see evidence that his supporters were going anywhere. So that was discouraging.

I think you need to revel in the discouragement for a while. You really do. But I don’t think to the point where you give up. Again, I think that might be the young idealist in me, but I fight to fight, not necessarily to win. I fight to hold these politicians accountable. And sometimes it’s not fair. That’s just the way it is, I guess. 

Monday: LRT construction: ‘Business dropped by about 40 percent. I cried many nights.’

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 12/31/2012 - 06:39 am.

    I think that if a strong leader moves the Republican party just a little, the Tea Party will self-deport itself. The Republicans adopted the Tea Party when they were down in 2009 and the Tea Party looked like a way to win. Now that the Tea Party looks like a way to lose, I don’t think they’ll be tolerated for long. Republicans are nothing if not ruthless.

  2. Submitted by rolf westgard on 12/31/2012 - 08:07 am.

    Chris Field’s positions

    Reading Mr Field’s positions from his election web site, suggest that he was not in the main stream of MN voters in 2012. His views on abortion, “broadening” the tax base, anti-Medicare, etc. would defeat him, R or no R after his name.

  3. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/31/2012 - 11:50 am.

    A “Good” Day?

    You work for a candidate who uses a radio debate to make false accusations against his opponent, and it’s a “good” day, because the opponent was provoked into a meltdown and you got media coverage?

    Such is the mind of the modern American conservative. Lie and pick fights, but it’s okay if it gets you some ink.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/02/2013 - 08:55 am.

    Similar experience

    I spent a campaign season in Colorado working on behalf of a candidate who got clobbered at the polls, largely on the basis of voters who reflexively voted for the incumbent. The difference, of course, was that my candidate was the “D,” and the incumbent was the “R.” I didn’t have Erica’s level of responsibility – something for which I was, and am, very happy – but otherwise, the experience sounds as if it were similar. I’d have to say the frustration was considerably more than the reward, and I expect that, in the end, Erica likely feels the same way. It IS kinda fun too just have the experience of being actively involved in a campaign when you’ve not done anything like it in the past – the similarities to show biz are pretty striking, for one thing – but the goal is not simply to make an appearance, but to win, and when you get pounded at the polls, as my candidate and Chris Fields did, the “fun factor” shrinks considerably, and quickly.

Leave a Reply