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With Fifth Grade Over, Campaign Manager Can Focus On Winning


Over the next few months, you might get a knock on your door from someone volunteering or working for a political campaign. Often, these are college students, eager to explain their candidate's vision, or the virtues of their political cause. But residents of Cambridge, Massachusetts might see a much younger face at their door. From member station WGBH, Anne Mostue reports.

ANNE MOSTUE, BYLINE: When a candidate has no political experience, everyone around her has something to add; some experience to share, some advice to help the campaign.

JOYCE GERBER: It was March, we were doing some canvassing.

MOSTUE: Candidates like Joyce Gerber, who's running for Cambridge school committee and was looking for help crunching the number and analyzing voter data.

GERBER: I had just posted a job description at the Harvard School of Government because I was looking for someone to help me with my campaign. I knew what I needed.

MOSTUE: What Joyce didn't know is that the successful applicant didn't drive, couldn't vote, and was significantly shorter than her. She bumped into a neighborhood boy, Zev Dickstein, an 11-year-old. A fifth grader, a political wonk beyond his years, whom she'd seen volunteering for Senator Elizabeth Warren's campaign. And she made him an offer.

GERBER: We had a little discussion, we had a policy discussion. And he sent me a very nice email and said he would love to be my campaign manager.

MOSTUE: That's right: campaign manager.

I said, well, I should talk to your mom, so.

Joyce talked to Zev's Mom, who signed off, and he started knocking on doors for Joyce's school committee bid, just as he'd done for Warren.

ZEV DICKSTEIN: Well, I mean, I learned what voters thought. I learned how to canvass. I had no idea in the beginning. And I learned what people thought of campaigns.

MOSTUE: It would be easy in our cynical, political world to see Zev the campaign manager as a mere gimmick. But this boy is doing the grunt work that thousands of campaign workers do all across the country every year.

DICKSTEIN: I create voter lists to contact, I do strategy, I helped with the website, and I've created the campaign literature. Luckily, the election is going to be, I mean, most of the time's in the summer.

MOSTUE: Summer - a time when most 11-year-olds are in camp, in a pool or riding bikes to friends' houses. Zev does those things, too. And he's got time management down pat.

DICKSTEIN: I do my violin when I get home and then I work on the computer for Joyce. It's really, like, really, really busy.

MOSTUE: In politics, sometimes you need luck to fall your way. In addition to serving as campaign manager, Zev enjoys performing magic tricks at Joyce's events. For NPR News, I'm Anne Mostue in Boston.


NEARY: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anne Mostue’s work in radio journalism has taken her from black bear dens in the North Woods of Maine to the streets of Seoul and San Juan.