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Lander Graduate Jumps Into Political Arena With Both Feet

August 16, 2010

Zeb Gantt, who graduated from Lander University in May with a B.S. in political science, wasted no time putting his degree to work.

The Greenwood resident is one of four paid staff members for upstate businessman and U.S. Third District Republican Congressional candidate Jeff Duncan.

"I'm pretty much his personal aide at this point," said Gantt, who has also worked for U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham.

Gantt and friend Grayson Kelly of Williamston, a 2009 political science graduate, interned together last year for Republican gubernatorial candidate Gresham Barrett. It was Barrett who recommended Gantt to Duncan.

If Duncan defeats Democratic opponent Jane Dyer in the November general election, as he did Richard Cash in the June 22 Republican Party runoff, Gantt could soon have a Washington address.

Asked how likely he thinks that is, Gantt said, "we feel good about our chances. We've got a lot of momentum right now."

Gantt has also been accepted at Penn State University, where he will begin pursuing a master's in political science next year.

Taking notes on voters' concerns, sending out e-mails on Duncan's behalf, soliciting campaign contributions and speaking for Duncan when the candidate's schedule won't allow him to speak for himself are some of the many jobs that Gantt has been assigned.

The Friday after the June 8 primary, in which Duncan vanquished opponents Rex Rice, Joe Grimaud, Mike Vasovski and Neal Collins, Gantt served as Duncan's driver, logging 600 miles in one day. The three weeks before the runoff were another intense period, with Gantt typically working 17-hour days.

It's a hectic lifestyle, but one which Gantt has embraced. He credited the faculty of the Political Science Department at Lander, especially professor emeritus Aron G. Tannenbaum, who retired in 2008, for getting him interested in politics.

Gantt described Tannenbaum, who taught him international relations, nuclear politics, Russian politics and the politics of terrorism, as "very engaging. He lit a fire under me," he said.

Although Duncan has been a state representative since 2003, he has no desire to become a career politician, according to Gantt. "He just felt compelled to do something about the situation in Washington," he said.

"People are really just fed up with the federal government and all the spending," he said. "That's pretty much what we hear."

Gantt is consumed nowadays with "getting Jeff's message out," but he knows there will be a day when he and Duncan go their separate ways. When that time comes, he said, he would like to work for "some federal agency that deals with diplomacy or foreign affairs."

His "dream job" would be to work for the State Department. "I just feel like I have a lot to offer the international community," he said.

He prefers "working behind the scenes" to being in the spotlight, and has no plans to ever run for office himself, but he would not, he said, "rule out the possibility."