Alumnus shares his campaign experience

Geneseo hosted distinguished speaker Sean Gavin ‘05 on Wednesday March 13 to discuss his participation in numerous political campaigns, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s 2012 election campaign. 

Gavin began his address by describing his time at Geneseo and offering advice on how to find success after graduation. 

“My advice to you is to pick what it is you’re most passionate about and do that. It doesn’t matter what it is or where it will take you; it doesn’t matter what your friends or family think about it. Pick your passion and do it,” Gavin said. 

During an internship in 2005, he met Gillibrand, who at the time was an attorney interested in running for Congress against John Sweeney. Gavin then became the scheduler, driver and body man during the campaign, or as he became known around the office, “the chief of stuff.”

According to Gavin, almost every candidate in modern political campaigns has a body man. 

“Their role is to always to be by the side of the candidate. They travel to every political event, they know what is going to happen at the event and they report back to the rest of the staff in the campaign office and let them know what is happening on the ground,” Gavin said.

He explained that one of the major tactics during the campaign was “to make sure that we did everything right and ran a near flawless campaign,” but also needed Sweeney to make a few mistakes.

The day before the 2006 election, Gavin was offered the opportunity to go to Washington with Gillibrand if she won the election. She did, winning eight out of 10 counties in New York’s 20th Congressional District. 

After this he was offered to work as a field organizer for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign during the Iowa caucus. As a field worker Gavin said that he was “in charge of 14 of the 1700 precincts and my job was to train people in my precincts to know how to handle the politics that were happening in the caucus location itself.” 

After Clinton’s loss, Gavin returned to working for Gillibrand and helped her win the 2008 election with 62 percent of the vote. 

Shortly after Gillibrand’s reelection into the House of Representatives, she was appointed to the Senate in January 2009 to succeed Clinton as she rose to Secretary of State. Gavin again aided Gillibrand as she prepared for the Senate elections of 2010, which she also won. 

After this Gavin said that he was chosen to be campaign manager and run Gillibrand’s 2012 campaign.

“In this campaign [Gillibrand] won 72 percent of the vote, the largest percentage ever attained by a candidate in New York state history,” Gavin said.

Gavin ended the forum fielding questions from the audience, many of which were about how his Geneseo education helped him get to where he is now. While he said that he was lucky to meet Gillibrand, his Geneseo education was also a part of his success. 

“The political science department and the lessons they taught me, as well as always encouraging me to get hands-on experience was very important. The nature of hard work and treating people correctly, all those lessons I learned here I took with me,” Gavin said.