Politically driven

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by Michael Dashiell
Sequim Gazette

Save for an event-threatening storm, Ashley Merscher is headed back to the Democratic National Convention.


The 2004 Sequim High School graduate has been invited to join the staff at the DNC in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 3-6, helping the more than 35,000 members of the local, national and international media cover events.


It’s the second time around for Merscher, who volunteered for a spot at the 2008 convention in Denver and wound up as a paid staffer by the end.


“It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” Merscher recalls.


At the time, the Sequim native was studying political science at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, a town about an hour from Denver.


A friend in the political science department helped her join the 2008 DNC staff as a volunteer. After a staffer dropped out halfway through, she was offered more responsibilities in helping media outlets such as CNN, Politico and the New York Times get information before key convention speeches.


Merscher admits Barack Obama wasn’t her first choice during the 2008 campaign.


“I was definitely a huge Hillary Clinton fan (but) at that point, we knew Obama was going to be the nominee,” she says.


Sure, but the future president’s appearance Wednesday during that convention following a rousing speech from running mate Joe Biden still shocked everyone, including staffers.


“We were shocked. We thought, ‘Who could be entering? Everyone’s here,’” Merscher remembers.


On the side of the stage at the Pepsi Center, Merscher and other DNC staffers shook hands and talked briefly with the Democratic nominee.


“He wanted to know where we were from (and) he thanked us for working for the DNC,” Merscher says. “That moment was crazy for me.”


She also got to meet former president Bill Clinton, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


Merscher said the 2012 convention will have similar energy but not the same as 2008. It will be different for her, surely, as she’s taking her mom Mitzi Sanders, the career counselor at Sequim High School, for the duration of the DNC; Sanders plans to assist as a volunteer.


Merscher will be back distributing information to the media corps and coordinating convention volunteers.


Merscher grew political roots in college. As a freshman in 2004, she helped freshmen register other voters. Since then she’s worked on a handful of campaigns in Colorado, where political scuffles about environmental issues are abundant.


“It’s definitely a swing state, politically,” she says.


After earning a degree at Colorado College, Merscher is studying for a master’s degree in environmental policy and management with a focus on natural resources management from the University of Denver.


Merscher worked with the Clallam Conservation District Board of Supervisors in the fall of 2011. She says she enjoyed being part of a process that helps people connect with government, not create divisions between the two.


“The focus of it wasn’t regulatory,” Merscher says. “It was people reaching across, saying, ‘Hey, I need help with my property.’ In Clallam County, we depend so much on our natural resources. There needs to be more of a moderate approach.”
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