Before the Fall: A Peak Behind the Curtain of a Campaign

Two days before the election, Hillary Clinton's New York campaign manager talked to NYCity Lens about the candidate

By Evy Poumpouras

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The music vibrates off the ground floor windows. A booth with turntables is set up in the front of the large room. The DJ holds his headphones up to his head with one hand while he mixes music with the other. He moves to the music as he plays. The 200 people in the room move along with him.

Banners of red, white, and blue hang high above alongside posters to match. A collage of signs in shades of green and blue are artistically put together on one wall in the enormous shape of the state of New York. Another banner is displayed, this one with the letters “H-I-L-L-A-R-Y.”

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The scene, two days before the national election, is more reminiscent of a festival rather than the campaign office of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. People are laughing and everyone is smiling, taking selfies and simply hanging out. At least that was the scene before the votes were counted.

Behind it all is Erin Stevens, Clinton’s campaign director for the State of New York, a position she earned due to her extensive political background and diplomatic communication skills.

“The festive environment keeps people engaged,” said Stevens, who has been with Clinton from the very beginning of the campaign.

As she walks around the massive room in a constant state of multi-tasking wearing blue jeans, sneakers and a hoodie that reads “Empire State of Mind—the same hoodie worn by all the volunteers—there’s no mistaking she’s in charge. She makes it a point to talk with everyone, while fielding never ending calls to her cell phone.

She is completely surrounded by people wanting her time – whether it’s her staff, weekend volunteers or a few enthusiastic supporters who have been waiting patiently on line outside on this cold November night. Everyone gravitates to her.

This isn’t Stevens’ first political job in New York, however. In 2001, she worked for Thomas DiNapoli’s campaign for Nassau county executive, which he lost. She then went on to work for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office covering intergovernmental affairs and helping to pass the first budget post 9/11 and later for the city’s Department of Education under Joel Klein and again for Thomas Napoli, when he came Comptroller for New York State—before leaving to help run Clinton’s campaign.

At the beginning, Stevens was the sole staffer for New York, which meant handling every issue, big or small, all on her own. She did everything from grassroots engagement with the communities, to intergovernmental relationships with politicians, to being the unofficial tour guide for new campaign staffers. Clinton inspired her from the get go.

“She always had something encouraging to say. She always believed in me,” says Stevens. “Being a black woman in politics is not easy and she has been a huge supporter of me in my career. She is the unsung hero amongst black women.”

According to Stevens, an unprecedented number of black women held leadership positions on both Hillary and Bill Clinton’s staff. “There is a culture on the campaign of women of color that is unsung in the media. We have more black women on this campaign than in any other presidential campaign ever,” she says, her eyes welling up with tears. “I am very proud to be one of those black women.”

When she speaks of Clinton, it’s with deep admiration. “No matter how she is painted in the press, no matter what she is accused of, the things she goes through,” she says. “I would want to close the door and stay home and eat a pint of ice cream. She goes out and gives a speech.”

Two days before the election, when Stevens was asked what she would do if Clinton won, she responded: “I will probably cry, a lot, then immediately clean out our campaign offices.”

And if Clinton loses? She contemplated for a moment, and then answered with a laugh. “I will probably cry,” she said, “a lot.  And then immediately clean out our campaign offices.”

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