WU Democrats, Republicans help campaigns
Washington University students have been helping out on the campaign trail as the Nov. 2 elections approach.
Election season has hit the University, as an open Senate seat, multiple seats in the House of Representatives and local and state offices are up for grabs. As a result of the possible turnover, student groups and individuals either have been or will actively campaign for issues and candidates.
According to senior Kat Berger, the president of the College Democrats, the group has started the semester by focusing on voter registration.
“Our first focus of the semester has been voter registration, because we think that the student voter turnout will be very important in the outcome,” Berger said.
While the Democrats’ campaigning has not started yet, the group has been polling its students to gauge their interests in what they want to campaign for. According to Berger, the Democrats will do phone banking for U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-St. Louis), the representative for most students at the University, on Monday. In addition to Carnahan, the College Democrats also have plans to volunteer for Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D), who is running for Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond’s (R-Mo.) open Senate seat against U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser (D-University City), who is running for state Senate in the 24th Senate District, which contains the University.
“It’s a really interesting race because it’s usually a Democratic district and she’s a great candidate, but the Republican (John Lamping) is picking up a lot of steam,” Berger said. “One of her main issues is college affordability, so we want to help her out.”
In addition to the Democratic campaigns, students have also gotten involved in local Republican campaigns.
Junior Philip Christofanelli spent full days of his summer working on various Republican campaigns. He served as social project coordinator for state Sen. Chuck Purgason’s (R-Caulfield) Senate primary campaign against Blunt. Christofanelli helped Purgason’s political consultant run the campaign.
Christofanelli also served as an advisor in Robyn Hamlin’s successful GOP primary campaign in Missouri’s 1st Congressional District. He also worked on the state auditor campaign of state Rep. Allen Icet (R-Wildwood), for whom he did door-to-door work.
Finally, Christofanelli helped the opposition to Proposition B, which would place restrictions on dog breeding mills. He helped get the message out about the proposition and worked on voter fraud security measures.
“My involvement has been curtailed since I started school,” Christofanelli said, “But if Robyn Hamlin needs help with anything, I can answer questions or train volunteers for her. I try to make it to her volunteer meetings.”
In addition to his roles on these campaigns, Christofanelli is also the president of the University chapter of Young Americans for Liberty. Among other things, the group supports non-interventionist foreign policy, the use of gold and silver as legal tender, small government and a constructionist understanding of the Constitution.
“We don’t support any party, but Republican candidates are typically the ones advocating the principles we support,” Christofanelli said. “We stick more to issue advocacy.”
While the group focuses more on issues and less on partisan politics, and while other members of the organization are not as active on campaigns as Christofanelli, there are still plans for possible future events during the election season.
“We will probably host candidates and have them meet the students,” Christofanelli said. “We try not to be too heavily involved in the elections, but we like presenting candidates to students and letting them know what their positions are.”
Berger is looking forward to an active campaign season. The organization plans to help Democrats outside Missouri, such as in the race for President Obama’s old Senate seat in Illinois.
“We are thinking of doing out-of-state races, since most people are not from Missouri and might want to get involved in out-of-state politics,” Berger said.
Berger has noticed a high level of enthusiasm throughout the organization, especially among underclassmen.
“The incoming freshmen and sophomores now are so much more politically experienced and motivated than the older classes were, because they had Obama’s campaign when they were still in high school,” Berger said. “They are really excited now because it’s the first time they can actually vote, so there’s a lot of enthusiasm in our group, especially from a lot of the freshmen.”