College Democrats head to Virginia for final push in hotly contested election

Media Credit: Kiana Robertson | Senior Staff Photographer

Thirty-five members of the organization knocked on roughly 2,200 doors Saturday and Sunday in Fairfax, Va. and joined political groups from across the state to rally for Democratic nominee Ralph Northam.

The GW College Democrats hit the road last weekend for one final campaign push for Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate ahead of Tuesday’s highly-anticipated election.

Thirty-five members of the organization knocked on roughly 2,200 doors Saturday and Sunday in Fairfax, Va. They joined political groups from across the state to rally for Democratic nominee Ralph Northam, who is slightly ahead of his Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, according to recent polling. Leaders of College Dems said grassroots activism is a key part of electing candidates up and down the ballot, including candidates for smaller races – like those for the Virginia House of Delegates.

Jazmin Kay, the president of College Dems, said members of the organization had direct contact with voters ahead of the election, knocking on doors and canvassing across the city. The campaign for Karrie Delaney, a Democratic candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates based in Fairfax, covered the costs of the trip, Kay said.

She said including the weekend trip, the College Dems have sent 156 members to knock on 8,050 doors in canvassing trips over the last several months.

“While I think I’m optimistic for the outcome of this election, being able to have these opportunities to be able to talk to voters that our members of College Dems are going to experience this weekend and make those connections I think is one of the most valuable things you can do in progressive advocacy,” she said in an interview Friday.

The organization made two separate trips to Virginia Saturday and Sunday, taking the Metro and then driving to Delaney’s campaign headquarters. On the first day, the group knocked on doors and held a small meet-and-greet with Virginia’s two Democratic senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. They later attended a rally for Northam with his picks for lieutenant governor and attorney general. The group did more canvassing on Sunday, Kay said.

She said these trips are not only important to help elect candidates but to show college students that they can have a voice in the issues they value.

“Whether that is healthcare – Ralph Northam was a former doctor – or whether that is reproductive freedom – we were there with NARAL before – whether that is saying no to Trump’s destructive tax plan, Ralph Northam is really a beacon for a lot the things that are important to our members as well as the things that are most under attack right now,” Kay said.

Robert Dickson, the vice president of communications for the College Dems, said trip-goers also had the opportunity to directly impact Virginia House of Delegates elections, after Republicans won seats in 2015 by “razor-thin margins.” He said some districts that voted for Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election currently have Republican delegates, giving Democrats hope that the districts will turn blue.

“We are going to each door, knocking on each door, calling each person, making sure we can get as many people out to vote for all the candidates, not just the governor but every House delegate we can,” he said.

Dickson added that the organization will also have a phone banking event Tuesday before polls close.

Graham Steinberg, the College Dems’ campaign director, said doing on-the-ground volunteer work for state races is “important and amazing because you can really feel the impact your work has on the outcome.”

“Victory in this district could come down to less than 100 votes and we knocked well over 100 doors today and during previous trips to the district,” he said in an email. “The work we do could have a significant impact, and that is incredibly humbling and rewarding.”

Matthew Girardi, a sophomore who canvassed this weekend with the College Dems, said the Virginia race is an opportunity to make change and send a “signal” in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

“This entire effort and efforts like it are incredibly important, because as more people get out, as more people get informed, as more people get excited, that creates a snowball effect,” he said. “And as more people get interested, you’re going to have more people really caring about politics, voting, becoming more civically engaged here.”

Liz Konneker and Kiana Robertson contributed reporting.

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