By SARAH SMITH
Dem. Krystal Ball, age 27, adopted an unorthodox fundraising technique in her campaign for Virginia’s first district House of Representatives seat. She initiated the Student Loan Challenge, in which the participant who raises the most money can win up to $50,000 toward paying off student loans.
“I wanted to show that a young person could win based on their ideas,” Ball said of her motivation to create the program.
“If we [as a generation] continue to be active, engaged and vocal, we can have an impact,” she added. “We have a valid voice that needs to be heard.”
The contest began on Aug. 8 of this year and will end Sept. 30, according to Ball’s campaign website. Though aimed at Virginia’s 1st District young demographic, the contest is open to people from across the U.S. and does not stipulate that participants have student loans to pay off.
If the winning participant is without student loans, the payout is $10,000. Alternatively, the loan repayment reward is a minimum of $10,000, and any additional sum is dependent on both the winner’s student loans and the contest’s success, according to the official rules of the contest.
The maximum payout is contingent on how much money the challenge raises. Starting at a total of $20,000, the maximum reward becomes half the contest’s total earnings, up until the contest has raised $100,000. At that point, the maximum prize holds at $50,000.
“We spent most of August trying to get people to participate,” Ball said.
Consequently, according to Ball, participation has been greater during September, and the leading participant as of Tuesday morning has raised $250.
Ball, who would be the first woman under 30 to be elected to the House of Representatives, came to speak to the Young Democrats at Mary Washington earlier this month.
“I really liked getting to hear her speak,” Audrey Westmoreland, senior and Young Democrats secretary, said. “I wasn’t sure about her because she’s so young, but she seems really serious. I like that she’s young and a woman. She’ll bring a different voice to Congress.”
When asked why she thinks more candidates do not take this approach to fundraising, Ball credited the emerging nature of new forms of communication such as Facebook and Twitter.
“The mediums we are using are still pretty new,” Ball said. “I think it’s still developing.”
Additionally, the campaign has to be capable of offering a payout significant enough to hold such a contest. For Ball’s campaign, the backing comes from more traditional, non-grassroots donors. Their contributions go toward the prize, whereas the contest participants’ contributions go toward the campaign.
Ball’s campaign platform is centered on education, the economy, the environment and individual liberties.
“These issues are at the intersection of what I’m passionate about, what I know a lot about, and what’s important to the people of the 1st District…I feel I have a unique perspective,” Ball said.
Ball describes her position as one that does not fit into the traditional democratic or republican boxes. She said she does not plan to focus on mandates or large government programs, but does support the government helping its citizens make informed decisions.
She said she believes that the future of the economy is in helping small towns and rural communities to become centers of growth and vibrancy.
“Our small towns have been struggling,” she said. “That was the case even before the recession, and they’re struggling even more now.”
Ball started her campaign a year before the June primary to determine the democratic candidate to run against Republican incumbent Rob Wittman. The election will take place in November 2010.
“The first district is very much red, and has been red for a while, but with Obama and with Virginia turning blue overall, she has greater potential to win,” Westmoreland said.