Students chauffeur campaign staffers around St. Louis

| Associate Editor

As students flocked to various news outlets’ stages trying to get on TV with clever political signage, six fraternity brothers turned a “Hillary for Prison” sign into an avenue for direct involvement in Donald Trump’s campaign.

The six students, all members of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, were contacted by one of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s staffers about volunteering after the staffer saw the sign in the house’s window.

Sophomores Eric Kibbey, left, and Dylan Brambora stand in front of a Suburban used in Donald J. Trump’s motorcade on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. The two were asked to volunteer after a Trump campaign staffer saw a conservative sign hanging in their fraternity house.Courtesy of Eric Kibbey

Sophomores Eric Kibbey, left, and Dylan Brambora stand in front of a Suburban used in Donald J. Trump’s motorcade on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. The two were asked to volunteer after a Trump campaign staffer saw a conservative sign hanging in their fraternity house.

While four of the students were assigned to “hot cars”—solo drivers moving VIPs and staff from hotels to campus—two sophomores Dylan Brambora and Eric Kibbey were selected to drive in Trump’s motorcade for the entirety of the day.

For Kibbey, driving for Trump necessitated a five-hour drive of its own as he had already gone home to Chicago for the weekend. Kibbey’s father, who was already driving back to St. Louis Sunday morning for work, offered to drive down Saturday night instead.

“It was kind of hard to believe that we would actually be driving in Trump’s motorcade,” Kibbey said. “But once we found out it was legit, I made my dad drive me down at like 9 p.m., so we got back at like two in the morning.”

As for the actual work, the two sophomores reported to the Sheraton Hotel in St. Louis at 11 a.m. on the day of the debate before being assigned to a brand new black Chevrolet Suburban for the day.

Once the motorcade picked up the nominee, the group came back to campus for a debate walkthrough before heading over to the Four Seasons Hotel for a pre-debate lunch. While neither Brambora nor Kibbey drove Trump himself, each carried other prominent campaign staffers around for the day. Kibbey, for example, drove Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway around for the day.

“All the drivers were supposed to be around their cars the whole time [at the Four Seasons] in case of emergency and we had to drive people out real quick,” Brambora said. “But we had two extra drivers, so two at a time we could go inside, use the bathroom, get something to eat.”

Because of the extra help, Brambora and Kibbey were able to take full advantage of the perks of working for a presidential nominee.

“Kibbey and I went at the same time,” Brambora said. “We went up to some restaurant on the eighth floor and had a pretty nice lunch and charged it to Trump’s tab.”

“When they brought out the receipt, we just wrote Trump at the bottom of it and they were like ‘you’re good to go,’” Kibbey added.

Both Kibbey and Brambora noted how unique the experience was and how grateful they were that they had been given the opportunity.

“It’s a great story but we also made some great connections with Trump’s staff,” Kibbey said. “They offered us the opportunity if we ever wanted to help out throughout the rest of the campaign and even the next debate in Las Vegas.”

Their semester workloads, however, are likely to prevent the pair from journeying out West.

The two fraternity brothers weren’t the only students participating in campaign motorcades this week. Jimmy Loomis, president of the College Democrats, was asked to drive in Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s motorcade Monday afternoon for a fundraiser appearance the senator was making.

“I got a call from the Clinton campaign on Friday afternoon asking if I would be interested in driving in Senator Kaine’s motorcade the following Monday,” Loomis said. “Of course I said yes because I don’t know when the next time I’ll be able to do that is.”

As for the perks of his experience, Loomis said the thrill of being able to drive outside the confines of the law was one of his highlights.

“The feeling when you just kind of blow through these lights and every single other car on the highway gets to pull over,” Loomis said. “It’s a pretty cool feeling that you don’t really get to do legally at least.”

Brambora also noted the high speeds of the motorcade, but focused on the police whizzing by at 120 miles per hour and not his own driving. As for the entire experience, Brambora still did not quite know what to make of it, but had no regrets.

“Originally, I thought it was a joke. I thought there was no way that this was possible. But then, even once I realized it wasn’t a joke, I didn’t think it would be as big of a deal as it was,” Brambora said. “But I wouldn’t have traded it, I wouldn’t have done anything differently.”

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