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Casting for a Candidate

Allie Harrison 2

Allie Harrison at the Republican Natinal Convention in Minneapolis in 2008

By Gillette Vaira

For two weeks straight, Allie Harrison slept no more than three hours a night, yet the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis recharged her passion for politics.

“It was like nothing else I’ve ever been to,” the 22-year-old said. “By the time I got back, I was drained, but I was so, just so enthused and ecstatic the entire time I was there.”

A first-time voter in a presidential election in 2008, Harrison had spent most of her student years as a conservative thinker in a liberal town.

She served as the president of the College Republicans and a senator of the students association at the University of Montana in Missoula, from which she has since graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

“I’m probably the only person in history that went to the University of Montana for the College Republicans,” she said, laughing.

Harrison said that she learned not to take politics personally.

When you’re caught in the fire, you have to stick to your guns, she said. “You have to know what you believe.”

Politics in the Blood

College wasn’t the first battleground for Harrison, who grew up in a political family. Her father, a president of the Missoula City Council, and her mother, a school board president, warned her about politics when she was growing up.

“My parents said, ‘Just don’t ever get involved in politics,’” she said.

But, that didn’t stop her.

“When it’s in the blood, it’s in the blood,” she said.

Harrison believes that politics is fueled by passion rather than by ambition.

“It’s the desire to make sure that people are free,” she said. “Free to make their own choices and live their lives in the best way possible.”

She said she had always felt passionate about her country.

“Since I was a kid, every time I see an American flag I point at it,” she said.

During her senior year of high school, she spearheaded a national fundraising project for children of fallen soldiers. The Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund raised $11,000.

“That launched me more into politics,” she said. “Not onto the partisan side, but more into a love of country and love of the service of the people who really fight to defend our freedoms every day.”

In spite of her successful project, her high school experience was a bit rocky.

“I was coming out of a really, really rough period of my life a few years ago, and I thought, God, I just need to dream again.”

She made a list of things she wanted to do in her life, including playing the electric guitar and flying an airplane.

These days, she plays in a worship band at the First Presbyterian Church and is working on obtaining her private pilot license. She hopes that will help prepare her for the Air Force or the Air National Guard.

“I think you should serve your country,” she said. “You should want to, because that’s what keeps this country alive and vibrant.”

In 2008, Harrison was the campaign coordinator for a Republican candidate for county commissioner. She thinks that a trickle-down effect from the presidential elections led to his defeat.

“I was so disappointed that night, not really for the national reasons, but for the local reasons,” she said. “A lot of Obama supporters voted straight ticket Democrat, all the way down, and that really heavily influenced the county commissioner race.”

A Traditional Conservative Woman

Harrison, who graduated from the University of Montana in 2009, is unsure whether she wants to go into politics, even though others think she’d do well.

One of her political science professors and the College Republicans adviser, Jeffrey Greene, described her as “more of a traditional conservative Republican woman.”

“She represents the good parts of conservatives. She’s not in your face,” he said.

In 2008, Harrison voted for former Gov. Mike Huckabee in the primary. She then cast her vote for Sen. John McCain in the general election for lack of an alternative.

“I have not seen my candidate yet,” she said. “I think this is a period of evolution in party history.”

The Republican National Convention got her fired up about politics, but she didn’t experience it as a rallying cry to the Republican Party.

Politics, to her, should be less about individual politicians and less about parties.

“I think this should be more about America,” she said. “It’s about every single one of us, and we have a part to play in this country.”

Minding the Mountain

Return to Young Voter Portraits

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