Perhaps the most famous graduate of the Political Campaigning Program is U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who completed her degree in 1990. While many former gators have gone on to enjoy success in the political arena, she is probably the most recognizable (if controversial) figure active today. After serving in both the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate, she was elected to Congress in 2014. The first Jewish congresswoman ever elected from the state of Florida, she has served since 2011 as chair of the Democratic National Committee.
On March 14th, 2015, Rep. Wasserman Schultz visited her old digs in the Political Science Department at UF. In town for meetings with local Democrats and members of the Gainesville Jewish community, she took time to stop by Anderson Hall and re-connect with several of her old professors and to meet with students who are currently enrolled in the Political Campaigning Program.
The representative talked about her days as a stu-dent in the Program, and then fielded questions on a variety of topics. One student asked about candidate recruitment, which is a key responsibility for anyone who chairs one of the national party committees. Rep. Wasserman Schultz confirmed the importance of that role, especially at a time when Democrats have had mixed success in elections at all levels.
She fielded questions from the Republicans in attendance with characteristic humor and aplomb, and revealed something that the rest of the country would learn about three days later — that she will not be a candidate for Marco Rubio’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016. Many questions dealt with her experience as a student and, specifically, with how the Campaigning Program helped her to take advantage of the political opportunities that came her way. She replied that the Program had been critical in helping her land a job as legislative assistant to Florida Rep. Peter Deutsch, whose seat she later won when Deutsch decided to run for the Florida Senate. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Campaigning students were grateful to Rep. Wasserman Schultz for interrupting her busy schedule to spend time with them. Her willingness to do this (on short notice, no less), and the openness and candor of her answers to their questions, make a powerful impression. If nothing else, it demonstrated that being a graduate of the Campaigning Program is a proud tradition that can provide a channel to a successful career in the field of politics. Heck, you could even wind up in Congress someday.