Standing in the Trenches of a Battleground State

November 14, 2012








Fornof
Brittany Fornof ’11 with volunteers for the Republican Party of Florida.


Ever since she was in third grade, Brittany Fornof ’11 has been contemplating a life in politics. She remembers learning about great historical figures, such as John Paul Jones and Martin Luther King, Jr., and feeling inspired to pursue a life of service and purpose. “History seemed like a treasure to me—something to be guarded and protected. And as I grew older, the future seemed the same way.”

While at Rollins, the political science major founded WTF Rollins?!: We Tackle the Future at Rollins, a political, non-partisan organization designed to register, educate, and motivate campus voters in anticipation of the 2008 presidential election. Fornof, the organization’s executive director, helped her team register more than 400 student voters as well as hold debate-watching parties and a huge Election Day event on The Green.

So, it’s not surprising that she’s continued on the political track since graduating. As a field coordinator for the Republican Party of Florida, Fornof was deep in the trenches in one of the biggest battleground states in the country.


What does an average day look like in the role of field coordinator?
I oversaw three major counties in the heart of Florida. It was my job to coordinate all of the grassroots volunteer efforts for the Romney/Ryan campaign in my area. I organized a volunteer-driven phone bank, which produced an average of 25,000 calls a week. I also met with local Republican executives to discuss strategy, to deliver news from the Romney headquarters, and to collaborate on how to best involve these communities in the volunteer effort.  

Lastly, I assisted the Romney campaign in prepping for events in the area. A few weeks ago, Mike Huckabee visited Ocala. Last month, the Romney bus made a pit stop at our Get Out the Vote BBQ, and Governor Rick Scott cheered on our volunteers at the Victory Headquarters. One of the highlights of the campaign was welcoming vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan to our historic Downtown Ocala, where he made a town-hall speech

What has this taught you about the importance of participating in the democratic process?
As a political science major, I spent four years studying various governmental systems as they exist and prevail in nations around the world. I’ve learned why dynasties fall, how leaders battle for control, and how shifting norms and economic conditions ripen society for a political change.

I’ve always understood what a privilege it is to live in a democratic society. America prides itself on being a nation founded upon the notion that citizens elect leaders to serve them and that government exists to protect and preserve, not provide.

As a worker on the campaign trail, I spoke with thousands of voters. I have heard their needs, listened to their frustrations, and responded to their questions. However, working on the campaign has also illuminated a dark side of society—that of voter education. In a society where the Kardashians and Justin Bieber dominate the media, voters are blissfully unaware of the pressing issues that are churning the heart of America.

In your experience, what impact do the people behind the campaign have on its success or failure?

The work that we do at the grassroots level can mean the difference between a win or a loss in a swing state such as Florida. In 2008, the Republican Party lost Florida by 2.8 precent of the vote. We weren’t going to let that happen again. That’s why we worked seven days a week for the past five months.

Romney won in all three of your counties. That must have felt like an accomplishment even though he didn’t win the election.  
Although Romney won the vote in all three of my counties, I don’t necessarily feel a sense of accomplishment. North Central Florida, barring Alachua County, is traditionally heavily conservative. Therefore, there wasn’t too much fear of losing the Republican vote.

However, I do feel a sense of pride in the fact that Florida’s election results were so narrowly marginal that the state still wasn’t called more than 48 hours after the election.

Florida has always been a battleground state. When it “went blue” four years ago, conservatives were frustrated, disappointed, but even more motivated to turn the state red in 2012. So, we built a large grassroots network of more than 15,000 volunteers, and we fought tooth and nail to earn Florida’s vote this election. We reached out to moderates and swing voters of every demographic. We spent thousands of hours knocking on neighborhood doors, holding rallies, and making voter contacts over phone. The close race results in Florida exemplified the hours of labor that we poured into the state. And although, we lost the vote in Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin, we can still hold our heads high because we fought to the finish all across the nation and especially in the sunny state of Florida.

Has the fact that Romney didn’t win make you feel like this was a wasted effort?
I do not feel like my seven months of slaving away on the campaign trail was a wasted effort. I firmly believed in the end product. I believed that Mitt Romney would be the best person to fulfill the role of the President of the United States. I believed that he and Paul Ryan would rescue us from this economic disaster and that he would restore America to a position of prosperity--economically, politically, and socially.  I worked 80-hour weeks for a brighter future for America, and I am able to walk away from this experience, knowing that I devoted my heart and soul to this job. I did everything I could to get Governor Romney elected, but in the end, the American people chose a different path.

On November 6, I was tired and hopeful. On November 7, I was shocked and disappointed. But on November 8, I was more determined than ever to dedicate my life to helping America restore her former glory. Though faded, the true spirit of the red, white, and blue will always prevail.

Is politics in your future?
Working on a presidential campaign against an incumbent in a battleground state was the hardest task I’ve ever undertaken. It was grinding and exhausting. There were days that I felt like I couldn’t continue on—that it was an endless endeavor. But ultimately, it was the most exhilarating feat I’ve ever accomplished. This job made me realize that there is absolutely nothing in this world that I cannot do. So, as I send my resume out to various offices in Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee, I dream of all that is to come. Gubernatorial campaign manager? Fox News anchor? Or how about, Secretary of State?


By Kristen Manieri

Office of Marketing & Communications
For more information, contact news@rollins.edu


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