AU students organize support for Texas senate candidate Beto O’Rourke
Students size up O’Rourke’s chances against incumbent Ted Cruz
As the 2018 midterm elections approach, a growing group of AU students have come out in support of Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz for his U.S. Senate seat in Texas.
Native Texans Mia Simon and Mathieu Lavault have organized weekly phone banks on campus to support O’Rourke’s campaign. Simon worked on O’Rourke’s campaign this past summer and into the fall semester. For Simon, this race is more than just another midterm election because it symbolizes hope for the future of politics.
“There is just so much negativity and fear in today’s political rhetoric,” Simon said. “But Beto gives out a message of hope that is refreshing, genuine and real. We all need hope at this point and that is what Beto gives to so many people.”
Students at the phone banks are given a script ahead of time and are asked to sign into a system on their computer to collect the data. Simon leads the events every Wednesday and Lavault leads them every weekend.
The AU College Democrats are also contributing to the efforts with a confirmed phone bank event for O’Rourke in October. For Olan Trosky, director of communications for AU Dems, the Texas senate election has a lot riding on it, regardless of the outcome.
“It's been predicted across the board that Democrats will take the House. However, there is a lot more riding on [the] Dems’ ability to take back the Senate as well,” Trosky said. “Big figures like Beto make it seem very plausible, plus there's bipartisan hatred for Ted Cruz, so everyone's excited to see him go.”
Trosky believes this election will permanently change the state of Texas. She credits O’Rourke’s popularity at AU with the momentum he created in Texas, that has now shifted to the national stage.
“I think Beto's campaign is incredible,” Trosky said. “The emphasis on a people-powered campaign is exactly the type of energy I think will put him over the edge. I think the energy he's created on the ground has created a national persona AU kids gravitate towards.”
Likewise, junior Thomas Kenna said this election will be one to follow closely. Kenna is the communications director of AU College Republicans and editor-in-chief of The Conservative Conscience, a conservative publication at AU,
Kenna said the priority for Republicans in this election is to make sure they maintain their control of the Senate. To maintain their foothold in Texas and around the country, Kenna said, Cruz must beat O’Rourke in November.
He believes the popularity of a candidate like O’Rourke is not only indicative of the changing political environment in Texas specifically, but also in the country as a whole.
“The popularity of O'Rourke is a footnote in the larger story about the massive political realignment happening in our country right now,” Kenna said. “As Republicans attract more white, working-class voters in the Midwest, like in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, they’re hemorrhaging suburban voters across the country but especially in the Southwest, like in Texas and Arizona.”
However, Kenna said he does not believe that support for O’Rourke among progressives on campus is indicative of how he’s going to do in the election. He said many of the conservatives he interacts with on campus are “pleased” with the job Cruz has done in the Senate.
“I don’t think the population of American University is analogous to that of the state of Texas,” Kenna said. “Maybe it can be assumed that the support for Rep. O'Rourke at AU is indicative of Democratic youth enthusiasm in Texas. I am skeptical that there are enough young Democrats in Texas to significantly affect the election’s outcome.”
Lavault, the phone bank organizer, credits O’Rourke’s personality and what he represents as the reason why more and more students at AU have decided to support his candidacy. College students are drawn to O’Rourke’s youth and interesting background, he said.
“Beto is young, ambitious, and full of new ideas,” Lavault said. “He is not from the elite establishment that we think of when we say Congress. He represents a fresh face for both the country and for Texas.”