How Campaign Directors Write

Sean Coit, ’10
Communications Director, Sen. Chris Coons (Del.)
Former Campaign Director, Katie McGinty, ’85,

Quick Facts

Favorite word?

Favorite place to write?
Coffee shop.

What are you reading now?
“If Nuns Ruled the World” by Jo Piazza.

Word you always misspell?

SJU Writes: How long does it usually take you to complete an assignment?
SC: I finish writing projects in my day-to-day on the campaign trail. The timeframe of a campaign is pretty darn fast, so you have to have a stump speech and work from that. Typically, I edit other people’s writing and write directly for Katie. When I have something to start, I’ll show it to her and bring in her perspective and personality.  We like to start with a couple facts and go from there, so if we’re talking about college debt, we start with the average debt for a Pennsylvania college graduate, for example.

SJU Writes: What is your favorite aspect of your various writing processes? What is fun for you?
SC: There’s this saying that all politics is local. My favorite part of writing is when we’re able to find a local issue that really matters to people, and hitting that well. Katie actually met an 84 year old grandmother on the trail, whose daughter and  granddaughter had student loan debt. We didn’t expect to talk to her about student loans, but sure enough that’s what we talked about. So Katie opened her speech that day with that woman’s story. That’s what we want to doㅡto find a real life example to illustrate issues in a relatable way. Anyone can rattle off facts. It’s important to find the real people behind the facts.

SJU Writes: What is the hardest part about writing?
SC: Particularly in politics, you never want to be “out of touch.”  At the end of the day, what we’re doing is talking to people about their world. The difficult thing is staying aware. If Katie’s in Pittsburgh and something important happened, we want to get it in our remarks.When she’s ready to get on stage, I’ll quickly check Twitter.If there’s breaking news, I’ll grab her and say “we need to change this section of your speech.” You never want to just say “it’s great to be in Scranton, it’s great to be in Philadelphia!”

SJU Writes: What is the best thing you’ve ever written?
SC: Well it certainly wasn’t in college! Oddly enough, it was a eulogy. I was working for Senator Patty Murray of Washington, when the former Speaker of the House Tom Foley, also from Washington, passed away. Senator Murray went to the funeral. I did a lot of research and ended up knowing a lot about him. I talked to Senator Murray to get her input and stories about him. He had been in Congress for a long time when she first entered the Senate and he actually took her in and showed her around. The story she told me was the story I used to end the whole thing.

SJU Writes: Does anyone’s advice echo in your head?
SC: As far as teachers, Dr. [Jenny] Spinner was too good to me. Also Fr. [Patrick] Samway, a Jesuit. I think more than anything else, I try to copy my favorite writers. I’ve always loved reading the newspaper, even as a kid, and I still love reading through to see all the different ways people make their arguments. If I see  a really good argument, I’ll try to remember how they made it.

—Julian Lutz, ’19