Students create groups to rally behind 2020 presidential hopefuls

Media Credit: Maansi Srivastava | Photographer

Junior Caroline Fenyo, the founder of the "GW Students for Pete" Twitter page, said the group has already held two watch parties and will promote the candidate's platform points.

Celebrities, politicians and public figures are throwing their weight behind presidential candidates, and students want in too.

At least five students are forming student groups to host debate watch parties and participate in canvassing events for presidential candidates like Andrew Yang and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. Students spearheading the groups said the organizations will foster community among people with similar political interests and help spread candidates’ campaign messages.

Junior Caroline Fenyo created the Twitter page “GW Students for Pete” in August and applied for the group to become a student organization with the Center for Student Engagement in October. Fenyo said she supports Buttigieg because of the representation for LGBTQ individuals he will bring to office.

“As a queer person, I like the visibility of having someone who’s gay and running for president just for the future of LGBTQ kids that want to run for office,” she said.

Fenyo said nearly 100 students have signed up on the group’s email list. Members of the organization send out information about debate watch parties and campaign discussions for students who want to learn about Buttigieg’s “moderate” and “progressive” values, like his climate plan that advocates for a national insurance program for natural disasters.

She said Buttigieg can directly relate to younger supporters like college students because he is one of the only candidates whose young age of 37 years old ensures that policies he plans to put into place will personally affect him. Buttigieg has relied on his young age to draw in young voters since he announced his bid.

“His climate policy, it’s very comprehensive, but also if it doesn’t work, he’s going to have to come up with another one because he’s going to be alive in 30 or 40 years when we reach that point of no return,” she said.

Sophomore Adam Friedman said he founded “GW for Kamala,” an informal student group, last month to rally for the presidential hopeful. He said the group – a five-member executive board and about 30 interested participants – has started the student organization registration process with the CSE.

Friedman said many great Democratic candidates are running for president, but Harris’ policies – like her plan to increase affordable housing and wages for teachers – appear to be more feasible than some of her opponents’ plans.

He said Harris’ time serving in the U.S. Senate has taught the presidential hopeful how to tackle different initiatives, like ending gun violence.

“She’s doing incredible work on issues that we all care about, sexual violence prevention, gun violence prevention and being a real advocate for not only teachers, but also working class people across the board,” he said.

Friedman said the group will table in Kogan Plaza Friday to spread awareness about Harris’ policies, recruit members and register students to vote. He said the group will canvass for Harris, speak to the public about her campaign ideas and call potential voters.

“The reality is, not everyone has the bandwidth to volunteer for a campaign to do campus organizing,” he said. “We just want to make sure that people are educated and informed on the candidates and that people vote, first and foremost.”

Senior Haynes Young, the co-founder of The George Washington Yang Gang, which launched in September to support entrepreneur and candidate Andrew Yang, said the group is currently working with the CSE to become a recognized student organization. About 15 people have indicated they are interested in joining the group, Young said.

He said he supports Yang because of the candidate’s focus on topics like mental health and environmentalism and how companies “measure” success.

Young said the group will host a debate watch party later this month to discuss Yang’s policies and performance, like a focus on growing U.S. businesses. The group will work with Yang’s campaign to phone bank, he said.

“As a Yang supporter and someone that comes from very traditional political-like circles, I feel like an outcast,” he said.

Joey Rodriguez, the director of public relations for GW College Republicans, said the organization is partnering with the Republican National Committee to coordinate campaigns and canvassing events – like door-knocking in D.C., Virginia and Maryland – to advocate for a second term for President Donald Trump.

He said the group will also campaign for the candidate on social media leading up to the election.

“We are really excited about 2020,” Rodriguez said. “It’s presented a lot of opportunities for our young members to get involved with politics. You don’t have to support President Donald Trump to be a Republican or to be a right-leaning person, we just want everyone to get involved if they want to.”

Lizzie Mintz contributed reporting.

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