As both major political parties gear up for the presidential election, GW will undoubtedly be a political hotspot this fall.
But just because students are in the middle of D.C. during a highly charged election does not mean they will simply sit back and enjoy the show. Many GW students have been getting actively involved with both parties, showing that young people can make a difference in a big election.
“We have the ability to work on the Hill, the Kerry campaign or at any other organization because they are located in our backyards; students must take advantage of our distinct location,” said Laila Hasan, president of the GW College Democrats.
Hasan predicted that the campaign activities will pick up this fall, resulting in a greater demand for student volunteers to distribute campaign literature, place calls and go door to door.
While the CDs may be the largest group of Democratic students on campus, with more than 300 members, a student organization called Colonials for Kerry has also taken up the charge for the Massachusetts senator.
Christina Heckart, president of Colonials for Kerry, said while the group was founded last fall, it wasn’t until Kerry, along with former presidential hopeful Howard Dean, held a rally in Kogan Plaza that the group received more attention. Members of the organization stood behind Kerry as he received Dean’s endorsement in a speech broadcast on CNN. Kerry also delivered a national security policy address in GW’s Jack Morton Auditorium in March.
“Although we got off to a slow start, the March ’04 Kerry-Dean rally unified Kerry supporters on campus and made the Colonials for Kerry group widely known,” she said, adding that the group is planning a Kerry kick-off week this fall.
“Our main goals for September to November are voter registration and fundraising,” Heckart said.
Anyone interested in campaigning for the Democrats is encouraged to join Colonials for Kerry and help out with a number of jobs, which include helping to drive in the senator’s motorcade, she said. Heckart added that all members of the group would also receive information regarding upcoming Kerry events.
But if you’re hoping that President Bush will fight off Kerry’s presidential bid, don’t worry. There are plenty of on-campus opportunities to support Bush’s campaign for re-election.
GW Students for Bush was founded in May and helps anyone interested in getting involved with the Republican president’s campaign, said Kristine Esposo, a member of the group’s executive board.
“The whole point of GW Students for Bush is to focus on the campaign and to help get President Bush re-elected,” she said.
While the group has just formed, Esposo said members will be stepping up their activities once the fall semester begins. The group will campaign for the president, assist in the GW Votes voter registration drives and hold trips to Bush rallies and swing states, including Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Esposo, who is also a member of the GW College Republicans, said the two groups are closely related and that the CRs are also active in the Bush campaign.
“We will probably be sending a lot of volunteers to Virginia, because that’s where Bush has his campaign office,” she said, referring to future plans of the CRs.
Esposo said she believes Bush has done a good job reaching out to college students across the nation. In April, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and Terry McAuliffe, his Democratic counterpart, held a rally at GW to promote youth voting.
“When Chairman Ed Gillespie came to an event at the School of Media and Public Affairs a while back, you could tell that the students were excited for the Bush and the election,” she said.
Sharon Castillo, spokeswoman with the Bush campaign, said that so far, the President’s re-election effort has recruited more than 70,000 student volunteers.
“We want to make sure that students take part in the grassroots part of this campaign,” she said.
Alexandra Acker, youth outreach director with the Kerry campaign, said the presidential hopeful has also relied heavily on the support of college students throughout the nation.
“There are thousands of students, from Maine to Hawaii, working for the campaign,” she said.
Acker added, “Signs point to students being one of the key demographics in this election,” and said it was important for students to get involved in the presidential race.