Students on the Stump

Presidential campaigns tap Duke talent to make their case.
September 27, 2012

As North Carolina shapes up to be a key swing state in November’s presidential election, two Duke students—Daniel Strunk ’14 and Elena Botella ’13—are playing leadership roles in helping their candidates land the state’s fifteen electoral votes.

Strunk, the college manager for North Carolina Young Americans for Romney, is coordinating efforts among fifteen (and counting) college-student organizations working to elect former Gov. Mitt Romney to the White House. He helps the campaign formulate outreach effort with specific demographics, such as Latino students and women. As the election nears, he will lead volunteers in planning campus events and phonathons.

The campaign is the first foray into partisan politics for Strunk, who has not been involved in Duke’s College Republicans. “A lot of organizations on college campuses are geared toward Republicans, and while I didn’t create everything, I was able to get this organization up and running to help [Romney’s] campaign in North Carolina,” he says. He attended the party’s nominating convention in August, carrying with him fifty-six North Carolina state pins and a goal of trading them all away.

On the other side of the race is Botella, president of the College Democrats of North Carolina chapter and former president of Duke Democrats. Botella was selected to serve as a North Carolina delegate at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, her hometown. In addition to voting on her party’s platform, she helped plan convention events for the College Democrats of America and promote President Obama’s public acceptance speech. Her focus now is on building momentum toward November.

“I want to help students turn out to vote, help students become leaders, and help communities to turn out to vote,” she says. “We need to make an investment in the leadership capacity of students and keep being leaders going forward."