Political student organizations shift efforts after end of presidential race

Media Credit: File Photo by Lillian Bautista | Senior Photo Editor

Election-related groups on campus have pivoted to the U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia in January, which will determine the balance of power in the upper chamber of Congress.

Election Day may have passed, but the campaign season hasn’t concluded yet for GW’s political student organizations.

GW for Biden, Persist GW, GW College Republicans and GW College Democrats have spent months holding weekly campaign events like phone banks for their party’s candidates in preparation of the Nov. 3 presidential and congressional elections. Now, student leaders said they are shifting their focus to Georgia’s senate runoff races and engaging with members with new professional development events.

Senior Tyler Kusma – the president of GW for Biden, a chapter of now-President-elect Joe Biden’s national campaign branch, Students for Biden – said the organization hosted phone banks every Tuesday and Saturday afternoon since the beginning of the semester. He said leaders made a GroupMe for students to watch the results on their own but still emotionally support each other and relay new information.

Since Biden was declared the winner last Saturday, the organization’s primary goal has been completed, but the group will continue operations possibly until January, Kusma said. He said the Office of Student Life asked the group Wednesday when they would be inactivated as administrators were disabling all election-related student organizations’ Engage profiles.

Kusma said because of President Donald Trump’s hesitations to concede the race, GW for Biden will wait in case they need to call state legislatures to lobby that there was no mass voter fraud this election. Their Engage profile will be shut down once the race is conceded, he said.

“If something were to happen where, let’s say, in a certain state, legislatures start potentially taking action to subvert the will of the people, then we stand right to mobilize our supporters and to reach out to that state legislature and say that that’s not something they should do,” Kusma said.

Junior Patrick Burland, the director of public relations for College Republicans, said the organization engaged in Republican campaign efforts before Nov. 3 through text banking and hosting talks via Zoom with candidates like Young Kim, who won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for California’s 39th congressional district.

Burland said the organization’s “immediate” goal post-Nov. 3 is hosting multiple phone banks for U.S. Senate Georgia Republican candidates Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who will face Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in respective runoff elections on Jan. 5. He added that College Republicans will run professional workshops for students to furnish their resumes and apply to internships in Republican political offices.

“We want to make sure that our members have a good feel of where to go and how to go about applying so that they can maximize all the opportunities that they can if they are in D.C. or even at home,” Burland said.

He said despite most elections coming to an end, the “wider selection” of events the group will organize, like a Republican speaker series, may attract more students to join even if they have less interest with elections.

Trump’s victory in the 2016 election was a shock to College Republicans, which remained neutral during the campaign while dealing with some opposition to Trump in the group. 

“When you do policy events, like what we did last year with the Republicans in the American Conservation Coalition, we actually tend to bring in new people to the organization,” Burland said. “So I think that we’ll actually see an influx of members.”

Junior Louie Kahn, the president of College Democrats, said members made more than 15,000 calls while campaigning for presidential and congressional campaigns this year. He said the organization will also organize phone banks for the Georgia runoff elections and is connecting interested students with grassroots organizers in Georgia to canvas in person for the Democratic nominees.

He said College Democrats will hold an open Zoom conversation this week with members to discuss their next steps and lobbying efforts for the incoming Biden administration. He said he wants to collaborate with other progressive student organizations next semester like Sunrise GW to push for climate change action in public office.

“Because we want people to still be engaged, there’s still a lot on the line,” Kahn said. “And if we spent this many months fighting to elect Joe Biden, we want to make sure that we’re doing all we can to make sure that his agenda comes to fruition.”

Junior Jack King – the programming director for Persist GW, formerly GW for Warren – said the organization rebranded as a progressive advocacy group after Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., dropped out of the presidential race in March. He said the group will pursue virtual lobbying efforts for progressive issues like police reform and reproductive justice, which they’ll promote to students on Instagram.

King said during the transition period, the organization will host frequent informational discussion events about progressive policies possible under a Biden-Harris administration, like health care. He added that Persist GW’s director of advocacy will hold a Black Lives Matter action bank next month to lobby officials to enact social justice reform. 

“One thing we had discussed was looking at the difference in a public option versus Medicare for All versus a less expensive [Affordable Care Act] framework in the health care space and just figuring out or explaining where we stand on it and then how we think we can get the Biden-Harris administration the closest to our goals,” King said.

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