Secret Service, K-9’s and a VP candidate: How Spinnaker’s editor in chief wound up covering the Biden/Harris campaign

Heydi Ortiz, Editor in Chief

In my years of working with Spinnaker, I never imagined myself working alongside freelancers from the New York Times, Washington Post and other professionals in my field of work. What I also definitely did not expect was a call in the early hours of the day, which led to an amazing assignment to cover Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris on her journey to UNF to speak about early voting. 

I was going to be able to cover and take photos of someone so widely known, someone who could be the first female VP, and as a student journalist I was…terrified. 

As I sat in an airport lobby, looking like a naive young reporter with nothing but my trusty notebook, my phone and a few cute pens, I could not quite comprehend what I was about to do. Seeing Secret Service pull up in mysterious, black cars was intimidating to say the least. With some hesitation, it was time to walk out of the lobby and be with the other professional journalists. 

As I walked outside, I noticed the lack of masks being worn by professional journalists, police officers and Secret Service. That in itself was something I was very confused about. Where are the masks? Story? Yes.

 As the clock hit 12:30 p.m. it was time for the Secret Service to bring a K-9 out to search our equipment and belongings. This was not very nerve wracking for me– besides my notebook and phone, I had a few snacks in my bag, but the dog couldn’t care less. Still again, all in all, an interesting learning experience. 

Next, we were loaded onto the press pool bus where we waited for about two hours for Senator Harris’ plane to arrive. Those two hours confirmed what I already knew—journalism is often a lot of “hurry up and wait.” 

While sitting with my fellow journalists, I remember specifically needing to use the bathroom but as I got off the bus I was stopped by a Secret Service agent who  told me that, “Wheels were about to be down.” With that, I got back on the bus. I wasn’t about to miss Harris getting off the plane, so I waited. When her staff arrived we were given press passes and then directed to follow along as we were going to be able to capture photos of Harris, wind blowing her hair, waving at us as she was deboarding the plane and getting into her ride. 

From there, we boarded the bus again—no, I did not get to use the bathroom. We took off to an early voting site where we would be able to capture photos of the senator safely interacting with voters and encouraging them to vote early. 


The ride to the early voting site was like no ride I had ever taken before. Secret Service and police officers swarmed both Harris’ car and the press bus. Traffic was stopped by police officers on motorcycles. As we passed by, I could see the amazement and disappointment in the eyes of commuters. Some took pictures and some booed or held out signs in support of her opponents.

A motorcade escorts Senator Harris and press following. Photo by Heydi Ortiz.

At the early voting site people were getting out of their cars and rolling down their windows to say, “hi” to the senator. She took the time to speak to a little boy who was sticking his head out the window. The press pool, myself included, hurried alongside from a distance to capture pictures and videos of the interactions. 

Senator Harris greeting supporters at early voting location. Photo by Heydi Ortiz.

Like any young journalist, it was a bit intimidating being surrounded by people who have worked in the field for years and probably knew much more than I did. Many of them were stepping in front of me to capture picture perfect moments. I myself had to find a way to beat the crowd of journalists. We stop at nothing. 

We were there for about 10 minutes when Harris’ team escorted her back to the car. We passed by to see many people just staring in disbelief at the great American campaign tradition unfolding right in front of them. When we arrived at the Adam W. Herbert Center, protesters and supporters greeted the convoy by standing at the sides of the entrance. 

Once again, the press is loaded off the bus and escorted to the press area. There, I was able to record a short interview with a woman who was upset that officers weren’t wearing masks while checking incoming vehicles. Once again, masks were the issue and once again, I missed an opportunity to use the bathroom. 

My day on the campaign trail came to an end just as the pouring rain started to begin. Yes, I got drenched. Yes, I finally got to the bathroom. This experience was something that I would not trade for the world and I hope to cover more things like it.  

“My day on the campaign trail came to an end just as the pouring rain started to begin. Yes, I got drenched.” Photo by Heydi Ortiz.

P.S.: I got home to a sick dog; he’s doing much better now. 


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