MCHS alum Daniela Belton headed to Washington D.C.
By Emily Patrick
Few people remember the 2000 presidential race like Daniela Belton does: as a fifth grader.
Although she was only a child, she was fascinated by the disputed electoral college results and the Supreme Court case that followed. Her dad helped her understand the political concepts involved.
“I would come home from school everyday like, 'Alright, who's the president?' and he'd say, 'Well, we don't have one yet,'” she recalls.
This summer, Belton is heading off to Washington D.C. to pursue a career in the political world that has interested her so deeply ever since her childhood days.
Now, the Morgan County High School alumna is finishing her third year at the University of Georgia, and she will spend the summer working for Senator Johnny Isakson in his D.C. office before returning to UGA for one more semester. She will graduate with a degree in Political Science in December, one semester early.
This summer won't be Belton's first time in the political sphere. In the summer of 2010, she spent six days a week working on Isakson's reelection campaign. She is currently interning at Turner, Bachman and Garrett, a law firm based out of Atlanta.
She said that most of her work so far has been in fundraising, an area she is interested in exploring further while also developing new skills.
“I think that fundraising has gotten really important with PACs and Super PACs, so I think I could do it. But I would like to try and get a lot of exposure to different things and decide what I like the best,” she said.
Even though she has lived in Madison since she was in second grade, she is not intimidated by the big city. She has enjoyed working in Atlanta, and she is excited about living in an even larger place. She is especially interested to see the differences between Northern and Southern politics.
“Southern offices—my experience has been—are very relaxed. You have lunch and things like that where everyone's just talking and really building relationships,” she said. “I think seeing those kinds of offices and how different regions do that kind of thing will be interesting.”
She has taken several Southern politics courses under Dr. Charles Bullock at UGA, so she hopes the first-hand experience she gains in D.C. will enrich her classroom knowledge.
Belton's interest in politics is tied to the place she grew up.
“I think Madison is interesting politically because it has a history of being very Old South Democratic, but it clearly is a conservative base, so in the 1990s when the Republican revolution started, it became very Republican,” she said. “I think Madison's a good town for—you can be a big fish is small pond. If you really try to work hard, then I think you can really get involved in a lot of big things and see the impact that you could make, which is nice.”
As a high school student, she took advantage of the opportunities that Madison had to offer. She was president of the Young Conservatives Club and served as the House majority leader in her 10th grade mock congress.
Belton said the biggest influence on her has not been the place she grew up but the people she grew up with: her family.
She remembers how political discussion was always encouraged around the dinner table, even though her family often disagreed.
“We're like conservative Kennedys,” she jokes. “We're not all the same at all, so having healthy discussions about things, it's been really good to see things from all different perspectives.”
She has brought this philosophy of listening and learning from others into her career.
“You can learn a lot from people,” she said. “So that when it's your turn to do it, you'll do it the right way.”
But don't expect to see Belton taking her turn at running for office anytime soon. While she likes working on a campaign, she never wants to be the face of one.
“I like working with people, but I also like the strategy and the analytical part of it,” she said “It's hard dealing with uninformed people who are very stuck in their ways, and I think as a candidate, having to work with that, I just don't think I would be the best person, and I think you can find people that are. I would just like to work with them and help promote a really great person.”
Printed in the May 3rd, 2012 edition.