Denise Murphy McGraw has been involved with local politics for years.
The longtime Democrat and 11-year member of the Niskayuna Town Board is now part of presidential hopeful Joseph R. Biden's national campaign. As leader of the effort's voter protection program, McGraw worked as a volunteer for Biden during the Nevada primary and will soon travel to Florida for the state's primary on March 17.
The push for Biden has become a family affair. McGraw's daughter Caroline B. McGraw hopes to become a delegate for the candidate. Currently a sophomore at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., the younger McGraw is listed on the Democratic Party's designating petition as a delegate for the New York presidential primary on April 28.
McGraw, a partner in the lobbying-political consulting firm of Hill, Gosdeck, McGraw & Nemeth, discussed her role in the campaign -- and why she has always backed Biden -- in a "question and answer" interview with The Daily Gazette.
Q: As leader of the "voter protection program," what are your duties?
A: I'm working with a team of lawyers all over the country and particularly in these caucuses. We want to make sure everyone's votes are counted, the math is done correctly, it's getting transmitted to the state party and to the state Board of Elections properly, so that was what I did in Nevada. I went out there, I was trained for a few days, I worked with all the lawyers, we learned how everything was going to work. We also did some scenarios to be prepared for just about everything. And then on the Saturday of caucus day in Nevada, I was there at a precinct that was very large,13 different polling places. It was a little chaotic at times ... it's an intimidating process, the caucus process.
Q: How much contact or interaction have you had with Biden?
A: When I was in New Hampshire, I got to spend a little time with him there. He knows that Caroline B. McGraw will appear on the slate of delegates for him in this district and that if she is successful in getting elected, she will probably be one of youngest delegates at the convention. He's very excited about that. He knows that she is a young lady he has met, he met her a few years ago.
Q: People have been talking about Biden's big move this week. Some said his campaign was over, it seems like a big recovery. Do you have any explanation as to how Biden has turned this around so quickly?
A: I think it's everything that you've heard. I saw it first-hand when I went to Nevada, the people who were walking in to vote for him, they were a diverse coalition. It was wide-ranging group of young people, people of color, women, it just really was a very interesting group -- LGBT community representatives. I think we're getting to states now that are more representative of what America looks like, and I think that's just working in his favor.
Q: Do you have any input for campaign strategy?
A: After I went to New Hampshire, I offered feedback, not knowing what was going to happen. I could not be more pleasantly surprised that the general counsel's office for the campaign contacted me immediately. The New York State Democratic Party connected me with them and they contacted me the day after I got home and I said, "I saw some problems and I would like to file them, report them to somewhere, someone." And the general counsel's office got to me immediately. They spent a long time on the phone with me. I wrote up some notes for them and I think we've seen a difference since then. I'm not taking the credit, but I'm just saying their willingness to listen to people who care throughout the country, I think, has been evident for the last few weeks.
Q: Is there a chance for promotion inside the organization, moving up from leader of voter protection to something even more formidable?
A: Funny you should ask. I've been asked to take on some fundraising tasks that would entail organizing some events, whether they're in New York or in other locations, and that was one of the things I offered immediately. I had a willingness to be involved in the fundraising operation, to help in any way I could, on the grassroots level or on a larger level to ensure the campaign has the funding it needs.
Q: You have been involved with groups that train women to run for office and run political campaigns. Have there been any qualms over supporting a candidate like Biden and not Elizabeth Warren, who earlier this week dropped out? Why was Biden your candidate?
A: Biden was my candidate because I have a personal relationship with him. I worked on College Students for Biden the first time he ran 32 years ago and now I'm looking at my daughter be a College Student for Biden all these years later. I've just known him and have had a personal relationship with him. And I see what he does for women. With that being said, I am sad to see Elizabeth Warren drop out. She has a very important voice in this party and she will continue to have an important voice in this party.
Q: I know it's hard to predict, but do you believe a woman will be considered for the vice president slot if Biden gets that far?
A: I would love it. I would love to see a woman in that position in my lifetime.
Q: How do you see the campaign moving forward?
A: I see the vice president having a continuation of this momentum, we like to say the "Joe-mentum." I think Michigan is a state that's going to be very good for him. He was one of the architects of the automobile bailout and really kept the auto industry in that state. Then we're going to go to Florida where (on Thursday) it was announced he has a 61-point lead.
Q: Will you be doing more traveling for the campaign?
A: Florida -- I am going to go to Florida. The primary is the 17th of March, St. Patrick's Day. I'm probably going to go Thursday or Friday and go out there for that.
Q: Some people say New York's primary could be very important in the primary race. Will there be a large push in New York for the Biden campaign?
A: Absolutely. We've been working in our individual districts to try to bring people together. In the Capital Region, we'll be working with those congressional districts. We'll probably be having a lot of activities for volunteers, whether it's to knock on doors, make phone calls, be involved. We're also hoping to have some sort of event for the vice president here -- of course, I would like to get the vice president here himself here, prior to primary day. You know how tenacious I am, I've been asking.