Culloden native works with Obama on campaign
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On Nov. 6, Luke Bassett got into a pretty lengthy discussion with a woman in Denver who was undecided about who she would vote for in the presidential election.
"We talked through a whole bunch of issues and I think I made a case and helped her come to a decision," Bassett, 29, who grew up in Culloden, said. "After, she didn't tell me who she voted for, but hopefully she went for the president."
While working as an intern at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Bassett was offered to join President Obama's re-election campaign last year and move to Chicago.
He had gotten a glimpse of politics from an early age -- though he admits on a much smaller scale. His grandfather, Tommy Harbour, is the former mayor of Milton.
"Through his career I saw the value of public service," Bassett said.
The graduate of Cabell Midland High School attended Emory University in Atlanta and earned two master's degrees: one in ethics from the Yale Divinity School and another in environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
"I worked with a lot of people who supported the president on a whole range of issues. What helped me be drawn toward the campaign and the reason I support the president is because he does care about not just environmental goals for the sake of environmental goals, not just industry for the sake of industry, he has a very thoughtful balanced approach to things and it's clear to me he puts in the work to understand the issues," Bassett said.
"The decisions that are tough are really dealt with in a way that I appreciate and value and could only hope to do the same on a smaller level as part of the campaign or wherever," he said.
In Chicago, Bassett was assigned to work in the communication division and help with research. He mainly covered energy and environmental issues. To help the campaign, he made a conscious effort to remain neutral about things he had an opinion about, especially coal.
"I think it's an issue that has great potential for progress, but it's also one that obviously comes with a lot of heartache for me," he said. "I say that even though my family wasn't specifically involved in coal mining, but West Virginia is a small enough place so you know people and know their story and know the economic ups and downs of the industry and how it effects all of us."
Seeing President Obama criticized over coal was a bit disheartening for Bassett.
"The president had long been committed to coal, specifically clean coal. Even back as a senator he supported it. His administration invested in it ... it was a little hard for me to see the amount of criticism because I think the whole issue is one that needs bipartisan compromise and compromise in general," he said.
Compromise is something Bassett values. He said there are plenty of reasons for someone to support the president, but he also understands reasons someone could have supported his opponent, Mitt Romney.
"But I think what our campaign did was invite people in from any background," he said. "The grass-roots side [of the campaign] was truly an honor to be a part of.
"President Obama is the type of candidate who really attracted people who had never been attracted to politics before," Bassett said.
Two of those people were Bassett's parents, Ralph and Brenda, who couldn't be more proud of their son.
"They've never been very political and I don't think they had ever volunteered ... I'd tell them about what was happening and stuff that was interesting throughout the year," Bassett recalled. "Finally, during the last two weeks or so they went over to Ohio and knocked on some doors."
Ralph Bassett, a Milton attorney, said he and his wife braved the rain one Saturday morning and talked to several people in Proctorville, Ohio, about the election.
"I was afraid [Luke] would come home and be mad at me," he joked about as the reason he campaigned. "I'm very much a supporter of President Obama."
In Denver on election night, soon after the polls closed, Luke Bassett said The Denver Post called the election.
"It was a surprise, we had been positive and optimistic but I don't think it was ever any definite thing. We drew our confidence from the support we had from so many volunteers," he said.
When President Obama thanked his volunteers, Bassett said he could see him tear up from where he was standing. It's something he'll never forget, he said.
"It was amazing. I was there because I support him and to see him say how proud he was of our work, when we're clearly proud of what he's done -- it was pretty amazing," he said.
Reach Kate White at email@example.com or 304-348-1723.