The University of Florida’s Graduate Program in Political Campaigning is a two-year program of study leading to a Master of Arts degree in political science, with a certificate attesting to the specialization in campaigning.

Our program is designed to provide students who want a career in politics or public service with:

  • technical skills related to strategy formation, message development and communication, resource management, polling, and other key aspects of professional politics in the 21st century;
  • an understanding of why certain actions and strategies succeed whereas others fail; and
  • a sensitivity to the democratic context of American politics, and to the notion that candidates, officeholders, and their advisers have obligations to society that extend beyond the short-term goal of winning a particular election or enacting a favorable piece of legislation.

Students in the Program take a variety of classes, involving both traditional political science (topics such as public opinion, voting and elections, political participation, survey research) as well as applied politics (campaign strategy and tactics, issue advocacy), the latter being taught by experienced professional consultants and augmented by frequent guest lectures and workshops. They also may take elective courses on such topics as political communication, data management, fundraising, speechwriting, and the policy process, and are required to complete an internship during the summer between their first and second years.

From an entering class of just two in 1985, the Political Campaigning Program today has roughly 10-12 students enrolled at any given time. Although the number of applications has risen over the years and some additional growth is anticipated in the future, it is the department’s desire that the Program remain what it has always been – a unique and highly personalized educational experience in which students receive a degree of personal attention and regular contact with instructors that they are unlikely to get at another school.

Alumni of the Program have experienced remarkable success since graduating from the University of Florida. Their ranks include, for example, U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL, formerly chair of the Democratic National Committee), former Congressman Thomas Rooney (R-FL), Florida Secretary of Agriculture Nikki Fried (D), Donna Victoria (founder and president of Victoria Research, a polling firm with clients nationwide), David Rancourt (former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Jeb Bush and founding partner of Southern Strategy Group, a lobbying firm in Tallahassee), Becca Guerra (Director, New American Majority Funds), Jay Payne (vice president of creative services for Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm, a leading Washington-area media consulting firm), Jon Anderson and Scott Simpson (founders of Mad Dog Mail and Resonance Campaigns, respectively, two direct-mail firm with clients in several states), Michael Luethy (founder and president of Oak Grove Campaigns, a consulting firm operating primarily in the South), Kolby Peterson (director of polling for one of the major AFL-CIO unions), Joe Pileggi (an election consultant and formerly political director of the Republican National Congressional Committee, Elizabeth Sena (partner with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a major Washington-area polling firm) and many others.

The Political Campaigning Program is not an easy one, and we are looking for quality students. Those who succeed have an excellent opportunity to make the kinds of contacts that will help them to get started in their professional careers. Prospective students who have questions or want additional information should feel free to contact Dr. Michael Martinez at martinez@ufl.edu or Dr. Smith at dasmith@ufl.edu.

Thank you and Go Gators!

Debbie Wasserman Schultz has dedicated her public life to serving South Floridians and standing up for justice, equality, and opportunity wherever and whenever it is threatened. As Florida’s first Jewish Congresswoman, she has earned the respect of her colleagues for working tirelessly on behalf of seniors, children, and families for nearly three decades.

First sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz previously served in the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate where she originally displayed her philosophy that there is “no task too small, and no goal too big.”

Only two months after her arrival in Congress, Wasserman Schultz became a leading national voice in opposition to President George W. Bush’s involvement in the Terry Schiavo case. Facing a House of Representatives controlled by Republicans, she stood up for civil rights and defended the idea that “Congress is not the appropriate venue to decide end-of-life or any private, personal family dispute.”

Known for vigorously defending her progressive values, the Congresswoman has also demonstrated her ability to pass meaningful legislation in a bipartisan fashion. She teamed up with former Republican Senator Arlen Specter to write a resolution – passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and signed by President Bush – to declare May as Jewish American Heritage Month in an effort to reduce anti-Semitism, hate, and bigotry.

As a mother of three, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz has worked to prioritize the safety and security of our nation’s youth. She authored the first federal pool and spa safety legislation – the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. Since its passage in 2007, there have been no drain entrapment deaths in any public pools in the United States. That same year, she sponsored the PROTECT Our Children Act, which created the largest law enforcement effort ever formed for the protection of our nation’s youth.

After announcing her own battle with breast cancer in 2009, Wasserman Schultz introduced the EARLY Act, a piece of legislation designed to increase breast cancer education and awareness. The EARLY Act became law as part of the Affordable Care Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2010. Wasserman Schultz also worked with Republican Congresswoman Renee Elmers to write and pass the PALS Act, which helps increase young women’s access to mammograms.

A leading advocate for women and girls, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz introduced the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act to encourage more states to allow women to terminate the parental rights of a rapist, based on clear and convincing evidence. The bill was signed into law by President Obama in 2015.

Currently Wasserman Schultz serves as a Cardinal on the Appropriations Committee, making history as the first-ever woman to Chair the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, where she is committed to ensuring our nation’s veterans have the resources and support they need. In addition, she serves on the Homeland Security Subcommittee, as well as the Energy and Water Subcommittee, where Wasserman Schultz is a leading advocate of the efforts to protect the Florida Evergladestake bold action on climate change, and safeguard our air and water.

In the 116th Congress, Wasserman Schultz also serves on the Committee on Oversight and Reform (COR), which has vast jurisdiction over the government and private sector, and plays a key role in overseeing the Trump Administration.

As Chief Deputy Whip of the Democratic Caucus, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz has the unique ability to work with and help lead her colleagues in support of a progressive policy agenda. She has been a tireless defender of Social Security and Medicare and is strongly committed to expanding access to quality and affordable health carepreventing senseless tragedies of gun violence, and defending the fundamental idea that all Americans have the right to be treated equally under the law.

Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz attended the University of Florida where she served as president of the Student Senate and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science in 1988 and a Master’s Degree in 1990. She has been married to Steve Schultz for more than 20 years and together they have three children.

Wasserman Schultz has said that representing the people of Florida’s 23rd district is the greatest privilege of her professional life. A proud South Floridian who represents parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz resides with her family in Weston.

Tom Rooney was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When Tom was 14 his father, Patrick J. Rooney Sr., moved to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida where the family owned a dog track and gambling business. He graduated from the Benjamin School in North Palm Beach, Florida in 1989. In college, Rooney played football for Syracuse University and Washington & Jefferson College outside of Pittsburgh where he earned his B.A. in English Literature. He was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

Rooney attended the University of Florida where he received his M.A. in Political Science with a certificate in Political Campaigning. After that he went to the University of Miami School of Law where he received his J.D. and met his wife Tara Lombardi.

As his first job out of college, Tom Rooney worked for U.S. Senator Connie Mack III, who had worked with Tom’s father, Patrick J. Rooney Sr., at one time. Tom started in Senator Mack’s mailroom: “We opened every letter and that’s where I learned what people’s issues were. It really helped shape a blank slate in my life.” After getting his Masters, he returned to Florida, where he went to work as an Assistant Attorney General. While working as a criminal prosecutor for Attorney General Charlie Crist, he joined the Board of Directors with “The Children’s Place at Home Safe,” a Palm Beach County shelter that helps abused, neglected, and abandoned children. In 2005, Tom was named CEO of Home Safe and because of his work there, Governor Jeb Bush appointed Rooney to the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County Board of Directors in January 2006. After his second year as director, Rooney returned to the Board of Directors of Children’s Place and resumed his practice of law in Stuart, Florida with the law firm of Kramer, Sopko & Levenstein, P.A. He is a graduate of Leadership Palm Beach County.

Rooney went on to represent Florida’s 16th Congressional District, serving from 2009 to 2013. In his first election, Rooney challenged Democratic incumbent Tim Mahoney to flip the seat.  On the campaign trial, Rooney leaded on his experience in the Political Campaigning program. Rooney said, “The Political Campaigning Program enabled me to understand politics in a way that most candidates would not. Running for Congress is extremely difficult, but the program at UF taught me what to expect and lent insight into the strategy that we are using in our campaign.”

Tom Rooney speaks to current students
In a visit with students on January 25, 2020, Rooney discussed the importance of the UF Political Campaigning program in shaping his first and subsequent campaigns for Congress.

David Mica, adjunct professor and Executive Director of the Florida Petroleum Council, led a seminar in state lobbying which culminated in a trip to Tallahassee for the Political Campaigning students. The biennial trip provided the students with great insight into the inner workings of Tallahassee and how lobbying operates within the state government system.

Students were assigned an issue advocacy topic at the beginning of the course and worked in teams of four to present a sales pitch to mock clients in Tallahassee. Mica assembled a team of professional lobbyists to judge the students’ presentations and provide feedback on their work.

Following the presentations,  Mica brought the students on a tour of the State Capitol, where the students were welcomed into the House Chambers.

 

 

workshop
The annual Spring Reflections and Projections Workshop took place in January at the Hilton Hotel. There were two panels of noted academics, journalists, and political consultants that led a discussion on the implications of the 2018 election and forecasting what to expect in 2020. This workshop was a great source of information to those interested in the political world. Click here to see pictures from the event. 

To the right: Campaigning students with top Washington lobbyist and Republican strategist Charlie Black in September 2012