Menlo Students on Political Campaigns


Senior Nina Chandra and other interns working on Gavin Newsom's campaign. Photo courtesy of Nina Chandra.

Page Wolfenden, Staff Writer

Political topics often fill conversations and debates at Menlo, but seniors Nina Chandra, Natalie Hilderbrand and Max Dostart-Meers decided to take their interest in politics beyond school discussions by working on actual campaigns for the 2018 Midterm Elections.

Chandra worked on Gavin Newsom’s campaign for governor of California. She decided to join this campaign out of support for many of the same positions as Newsom. “Newsom issued same-sex marriage licenses to couples in 2004, a time when doing that could have damaged the rest of his political career. I admire how he stuck to his beliefs despite opposition and did not prioritize his own career over the rights of others,” Chandra said in an email.

Chandra posing for a picture on Election Day. Photo courtesy of Nina Chandra.

Her job on the campaign was to work on the rapid response team. “Whenever there was anything urgent or time-pressured, the team I worked on would be the first ones to respond,” Chandra said. Her daily tasks varied constantly. “I compiled fact sheets about potential endorsements and did opposition research. I also worked on researching campaign expenditures to find local campaign consultants, made fliers for events, addressed letters, inputted primary vote data and wrote phone banking scripts.”

Chandra’s favorite part about working on this campaign was attending press conferences. “It was really cool to watch how a press conference works and to stand behind Newsom while he spoke about policies that would improve California.” Among the many benefits from her experiences, Chandra enjoyed being able to contribute to Newsom’s victory. “I learned a lot about California politics and campaigns in general. […] It was a rewarding experience to work for a campaign, knowing that I played a small part in getting Newsom elected.”

Hilderbrand also decided to extend her political interests to a campaign, working for democrat Jackie Rosen in her run for Senate. “I was spurred into action with the mass shootings that had been happening. Last year, I took part in the walkout, as a lot of Menlo students did, and I posted about it on social media. I have a good friend who worked on this campaign and she reached out to me about internship positions, […] so I decided to do it for a month in the summer,” Hilderbrand said.

Senior Natalie Hilderbrand poses for a photo with Jacky Rosen. Photo courtesy of Natalie Hilderbrand.

Hilderbrand worked as a finance intern, making phone calls and conducting research on donors. “The candidate spent a lot of her time calling people who were likely to give money to her. I helped prep bios for those people so that she could use her time as efficiently as possible.”

Hilderbrand and other interns on the campaign pose for a photo. Photo courtesy of Natalie Hilderbrand.

Hilderbrand feels that her time working on the campaign was beneficial and overall a great experience. “I really liked being in an environment where everyone was so engaged and active in what is going on around the world and in America. It helped me learn a lot more about current events and become more engaged,” Hilderbrand said. She highly recommends working on a campaign. “There are a lot of campaigns that often have internship positions available. [I recommend] reaching out and asking about internships because there is no harm in trying and it’s a great experience.”

Dostart-Meers previously worked on Hillary for America in 2016 and, more recently, Santa Clara Congressman Ro Khanna’s 2018 re-election campaign. His interest in public policy and economics drove Dostart-Meers to take action. “I saw [working on these campaigns] as a chance to promote good policy and people of high integrity into positions of power,” Dostart-Meers said. Like Hilderbrand, he worked on the finance teams of both campaigns. “On the Hillary campaign, I did a lot of research on California donors and officials, writing bios on them for the campaign to use as briefings for fundraising.”

Dostart-Meers with the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Tim Kaine, at an event in Portola Valley. Photo courtesy of Max Dostart-Meers.


Dostart-Meers enjoyed being able to extend his political opinions into an environment where he could apply them. “[I got] an inside look at what politics is really like,” he said. While he experienced many positives from working on the campaigns, Dostart-Meers also highlighted the “grunt work” involved. Nevertheless, he believes “it can be oddly satisfying to do that grunt work knowing that it’s serving a higher purpose.” Overall, working on political campaigns provided Dostart-Meers with impactful experiences and a better understanding of the political world. “You meet some fascinating people and fulfill a certain civic duty I believe we all have as Americans, because democracy takes real effort to maintain.”