College Democrats educate members on key races heading into midterm elections

Media Credit: Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

Graham Steinberg, the group’s campaign director who introduced and organized the town hall, said the event focused on the most important races in districts that could swing blue this fall.

The GW College Democrats are making sure their members know who to support in the upcoming midterm elections.

Members of the College Democrats’ campaign committee, a group of roughly 20 students focused on campaign-specific issues like town halls and canvassing, presented on upcoming gubernatorial and congressional races in 15 states at a town hall event Tuesday. This was the first of several events related to campaign issues they plan to host over the next several months in the leadup to the midterm elections.

Organization leaders said the student-led events will educate members – regardless of their level of political knowledge – on why members of the College Democrats prefer certain candidates so they can make more informed decisions when casting ballots in November.

“This is a good starting place to get an idea of the candidates and races that people should be looking at.”

Graham Steinberg, the group’s campaign director who introduced and organized the town hall, which about 40 students attended, said the event focused on the most important races in districts that could swing blue this fall as the party looks to recapture both houses of Congress.

“Throughout the year, the mission of the campaign committee and the campaign department was to educate people on these races,” Steinberg said. “This was obviously an off year, so even though last semester, we really focused on the Virginia elections. Coming into this semester we knew we had to get started early.”

The 90-minute presentation cycled through 19 districts across the country that campaign committee members personally chose and researched. After giving a summary of each candidate, each presenter from the committee, some of whom spoke about races in their hometowns, provided their recommendation for office based on political views, past experience and voting history.

“We come from such a diverse community in terms of geography, in terms of demographics so I think that we have voices here that can talk more about each of these races and educate people across the country on those races,” Steinberg said. “We decided the best way to do that is to give people the opportunity to talk about the races that are important to them.”

Democrats nationally have been optimistic about making significant gains this year given the intense opposition to President Donald Trump in many communities and unusually strong performances by Democrats in a string of local and state races.

Immediately following the 2016 presidential election, the College Democrats began a 100-page strategy guide on important seats for Democratic candidates in congressional elections, Steinberg said. The organization also hosted boot camp events on canvassing and phone banking to help members get revved up for the 2018 midterms.

This year’s town hall served as an introduction to races that members can follow on their own throughout the year, Steinberg said. He said there will be a series of events focusing on general party strategy and agenda setting, like an event March 29 about campaign finance reform.

“What I really hope from this is that people use this as a springboard to do their own research,” he said. “This is a good starting place to get an idea of the candidates and races that people should be looking at.”

Robert Dickson, the organization’s vice president of communications, said the events will serve as a means to get people involved in election campaigns heading into the midterm season.

“We have this resource of a really strong committee that knows all about these elections, and they’re able to distill it down to a greater group of people,” Dickson said.

The campaign committee has been planning the town hall since December to educate members on races they likely wouldn’t know much about. Members said they hope the town hall and other future events will provide students with a better sense of national trends for the Democratic Party and inspire them to canvass or phone bank.

“In College Democrats and beyond, I encourage people to have a conversation.”

Through events like the town hall, College Democrats President Jazmin Kay said she wants to improve political literacy for all students. Whether or not they are personally involved in politics, Kay said she wants to make students aware of all races and campaigns – not just popular ones – because every race makes a difference for the party.

“College Democrats need to be cognizant about how we can make sure that College Democrats are more inclusive for all members regardless of their political experience or political knowledge,” Kay said. “That’s where the idea of the town hall came in.”

Although the College Democrats do not have more town halls planned this semester, the group hopes to continue the meetings in the future to allow students to learn about races that extend past their district or state.

“Right now, it is not necessarily a solidified program. It is more of a general initiative that we have, but I definitely think that a program such as this is a model that can be replicated at many universities,” Kay said. “In College Democrats and beyond, I encourage people to have a conversation.”

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