“All Politics is Local…”
— Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, late Speaker of the House of Representatives
Special to the Jewish Times
For the majority of Americans, their focus turns to the political process every four years when our nation elects a president. For some, perhaps, attention is paid to the political arena every two years when members of the House of Representatives are up for re-election or their state representatives are vying for their votes.
For a small dedicated group, politics is a daily passion, one that drives them to spend countless volunteer hours working on campaigns, going door-to-door for their candidates and making phone solicitations to raise adequate funds to promote their candidates. Some pursue political aspirations on a professional level, spending their working days living and breathing policy and legislation.
This month, iNSIDER takes a look at four dedicated “behind-the-scenes” Jewish Baltimoreans who are trying to make a difference in the political world.
Upon graduating from Harvard, Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School graduate Ariel Wolf moved “inside the Beltway” (Washington, D.C., that is) to pursue his love of politics. As an intern during college working for Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon, Wolf developed relationships with Capitol Hill staffers which led him back to “The Hill” in 2005.
Wolf remembers with clarity
watching the 2000 Presidential debates between then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore and relating to Bush’s fiscal policies. It was, however, 9/11 that solidified Wolf’s core beliefs as a Republican, admiring Bush’s response to the attacks of that day and his policies on national security and domestic affairs.
Currently working for Republican
Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas as a legislative assistant on foreign policy, Wolf loves the atmosphere of Capitol Hill. While he appreciates the role of the campaign in the election process, he feels he can make a difference on the legislative side of politics.
“Some are born to work on campaigns and others are born to do legislative work,” notes Wolf, who also worked on former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich’s gubernatorial re-election campaign in Montgomery County.
His own political dreams? At night, Wolf is pursuing a law degree, because he sees the value of having an additional academic pedigree to move him into a law career that will allow him to make a difference in people’s lives. He would like to work at a firm which represents international clients and which does work on human rights.
A fan of history and politics, Jesse
Haladay was raised in a Democratic family in Mt. Washington. A graduate of The Boy’s Latin School of Maryland and Skidmore College, Haladay moved to China for two years after college to teach English, before returning to the U.S. and pursuing his love of politics. Upon his return, he got involved with then-Congressman Benjamin L. Cardin’s campaign for the United States Senate.
Having grown up in Cardin’s congressional district, he knew a bit about Cardin, but learned much more as he got more involved. One of his many jobs on the campaign was to attend events where Republican opponent, then-Lt. Gov. Michael Steele was speaking and he would video the speech. He then would return with the video to the campaign office, analyze what was said for any contradictions and formulate a response for Cardin.
In addition to his reconnaissance work, during the Cardin Senate campaign, Haladay spent the summer prior to the election canvassing, knocking on doors in Essex and Dundalk and reaching out to people who had not yet heard of Cardin. “We had to reach out to people and tell them about Cardin because outside of the district, they didn’t know who he was.”
Now on Cardin’s staff, Haladay is press assistant, keeping the Senator on schedule and driving him to appointments, as well as back and forth between Baltimore and Capitol Hill. He also deals with the press. He says that the Senator is a “great guy to work for.”
Political aspirations himself? “No, I just appreciate learning how the system works.”
Amy Adler has been campaigning
literally since she was in a stroller. Her sister, 17 years her senior, ran for a seat on the Howard County Central Committee and she went along for the ride. Now in her senior year at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Adler, a native of Columbia, continues her life-long love of politics in her studies and in her spare time.
Campaigning for Gore in 2000 and Senator John Kerry in 2004, Adler spent this past summer working on Congressman John Sarbanes’ re-election campaign and working the phone banks for Barack Obama. The summer of 2006 was spent driving around her pickup truck and erecting four-foot by eight-foot signs for Sarbanes throughout the congressional district.
Now a registered voter in Nevada because, notes Adler, that state needs more Democratic voters, she attended the Democratic National Convention in Denver and will continue to campaign for Obama and canvass for Democratic campaigns in Nevada.
As for her own political future, Adler intends to move back to the Baltimore-Washington area and perhaps join Americorps, the Peace Corps or Teach for America and also pursue a career in photojournalism. But working on campaigns will probably always be a part of her life.
“You can protest until you are blue in the face or you can write letters to the editor. But ultimately you pick who you like and work as hard as you can until you get them elected to see the change you want and think should happen,” she says.
Adam Block, former president and current board member of the Northwest Baltimore County Democratic Club, has been involved with politics for the past five years. He always had an interest in politics and, upon returning to Baltimore after completing his master’s degree at the University of Michigan, took a job as a governor’s policy fellow, a two-year, post-graduate, non-partisan position. That gave him the opportunity to gain valuable insight and exposure to public policy on the State level.
After leaving the program in 2005, he did a one year stint in the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management. Currently, he is a Conservation Easement Planner and Legislative Liaison at the Maryland Environmental Trust, a unit of the Department of Natural Resources, a job he has held for the past two years.
While in Annapolis, he reconnected with then-State Delegate Bobby Zirkin who had been a substitute teacher of his at Pikesville High School. Block got involved with Zirkin’s campaign for State Senate where he says he was inspired by Zirkin’s mission to allow young people to take on leadership roles. He ultimately became Zirkin’s campaign treasurer. He observed that local government and local politics are far more approachable than national politics. “We can’t all be (State) Senators but at least we can get to know one,” referring to Zirkin, who he greatly respects.
As far as his own political aspirations? Block ran for a seat on the Democratic State Central Committee in 2006. The group is responsible for party building, supporting candidates for higher office and deciding replacements for vacancies in political office. He lost by 162 votes.
Block hopes to continue in politics and currently is pursuing a law degree which he sees as a prerequisite for high level policy work or elected office.