In the campaign, the last hours go by fast.
"It was definitely a blur," said Robert Paulsen, a 23-year-old student at the University of Tulsa law school.
Paulsen served as an enthusiastic volunteer for Mayor Dewey Bartlett, waking up before 4am on election day as part of a final push to put up signs and then make calls reminding people to vote.
"I definitely would say that I made a difference," said Paulsen, who estimated he spent about 30 hours volunteering in the final two days leading up to the June primary election.
C C O O U U R R T T E E S S T T Y Y O O F F T T A AY Y L L O O R R F F O O R R T T U U L L S S A A
If there's one thing Bartlett's campaign and former Mayor Kathy Taylor agree on after a bruising primary, it's the importance of volunteers.
Undecided voters are "more likely to be persuaded by a friend or a volunteer," said Taylor. From a candidate's standpoint, "that's what makes a successful campaign," Taylor said. "They're out giving our message because they believe in the cause."
As a volunteer, Paulson described the rejection that every political caller faces: "Getting hung up on 10 times to just talk to that one person who's uninformed and wants help making the decision," he said.
Phone volunteers start out with a script. "You've got several bullet points you want to get across," he said. "After that, it's just you and that person talking." On a personal level, Paulson said he enjoyed the opportunity to "step into their world for a little bit."
He described his efforts as paying off. On nights when he'd work the phones, "I had about five people a night that were on the fence that ended up definitely voting for Dewey, or I would have three or four strong in another camp, and I would at least draw them in the middle," he said.
Such results, if multiplied by a few hundred volunteers as passionate as Paulson, could no doubt influence a tight race.
So while it's a slow time in the campaign after a bruising June primary, Taylor and Bartlett undoubtedly realize that it's always a good time to recruit volunteers.
The Bartlett campaign in the last week of June put out a call on social media for more helpers. Taylor said she's always prepared when people show interest in helping out.
"We're continuing to work to engage volunteers. I carry cards with me everywhere I go. I was at lunch, a couple of people came up to me and said, 'I voted for you. How can I help?'" Taylor said.
Volunteers take different paths to helping out a campaign.
"I would consider myself to be a political person," Paulsen said. He first developed a taste for volunteering after working on the campaign to re-elect John Sullivan to the U.S. House of Representatives. Though that campaign was unsuccessful, Paulsen found himself drawn to the Bartlett campaign, volunteering three or four nights a week.
Bartlett's appeal to Paulsen involves his memories of darkened street lights while in high school, a cost-saving measure put in place during the worst of the recent economic recession.
Upon Paulsen's return to Tulsa following college in Texas, he said he felt a sense that the city had been revived. "I just remember coming back and the city being vibrant," Paulsen said. He said he'd never met Bartlett before volunteering, though his younger brother had shared a story about having an informal conversation with the mayor at a basketball game.
"I remember my brother telling me Dewey was really personable," he said. It all came together and was enough for Paulsen to commit his time.
Rex Berry, 63, said he spent time helping out the Taylor campaign in part because he's strongly opposed to ideas voiced by tea party conservatives.
"She seemed the furthest from the tea party values and thoughts," said Berry, a former police officer. He went on to describe Taylor as "just a friendly, good-hearted individual."
Paulsen said he'd recommend volunteering on a campaign to others. "I think it's a great place for young professionals to really hone their people skills," he said, also describing the camaraderie working with other Bartlett volunteers.
Making sure volunteers have a good time is actually a top priority for the campaigns. Anna America, Taylor's spokeswoman, described the importance of having volunteers understand they really were contributing.
"It was very organized. People knew when they showed up, it was real clear what they were going to do," America said. "Nobody felt like they had busy work."
As for the summer, volunteers might be utilized for a few tasks. Taylor's campaign held a few events featuring 12 to 18 guests at the homes of supporters, and there might be some get-togethers that take place in the summer.
But Taylor said she expects it won't be until around September that the phone calls and house visits from volunteers start up again in earnest.
Dan Patten, campaign manager for Bartlett, said the campaign has been put on pause for volunteers. "We've given them about a month break, because they did work so hard. We'll probably start knocking on doors here pretty quick," he said, though he added the plan is to get "a lot more intense" in the fall.
While the candidates traded barbs in the primary -- and political television is filled with angry talking heads -- Paulsen said he's had very civil experiences with those supporting a Bartlett opponent.
"At the end of the day, we're all Tulsans. I think that those on both sides can agree, we're here to make Tulsa better," he said.
And while the volunteers influence voters, they also make an impact on the candidates they support.
"For me, it's very humbling and encouraging to walk into a room full of people who have given up their time because they believe in the vision and leadership that I can help establish for the city of Tulsa," Taylor said.
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