Democratic presidential candidate student groups are popping up at AU in anticipation of the upcoming primary elections.
“People want a place where they can be around other supporters and feel validated about their beliefs and support for a candidate, and just learn more about how they can help,” said Alex Russo, a junior and organizing director of AU Students for Warren.
Despite supporting different presidential candidates, the interests groups all have similar goals. Leaders from each organization noted that they have intentions to canvass, host phone banks, hold interest meetings and participate in other types of voter outreach on and off campus. Many are also planning social events like movie nights, while others attend off-campus protests and rallies together.
“We want to foster a positive environment,” said Alea Chedekel, a senior and founder of AU Students for Kamala. “Right now, in the United States, there is a lot of negativity around politics and around a lot of these issues. Our goal is to spread messages of positivity on this campus. We don’t want to tear anyone down.”
Many members of the interest groups are also members of AU College Democrats. Though AU College Democrats as an organization remains impartial in primary elections, they said they would support the interest groups with their efforts.
“We want all students to be engaged with the candidates and begin growing that energy to lead us into 2020,” AU Dems said a statement posted on the presidential primary clubs in September. “While we think the best way to get engaged right now is to focus on the Virginia elections, and other elections happening in 2019, we understand how important it is to help elect the right person as our Democratic presidential nominee.”
The interest groups are all at different phases in their development. Some, like AU Booker’s Crew have three members. Others, like Pete for American and AU for Warren, have dozens attend their interest meetings, according to the presidents of each group.
Many of the groups, like AU Students for Bernie and AU for Warren, came together when individuals reached out to the candidates’ campaigns to see how they could help. Campaign organizers then connected them and encouraged them to create campus interest groups.
“Being college students in DC in this moment, we thought it was almost our duty to come together and start working towards this shared goal that we have,” said Elliot Williams, a founding member of American University Students for Bernie.
Since all but one candidate’s interest group will likely dissolve after primary elections in the spring, the Center for Student Involvement does not plan on approving any of the organizations, said Calvin Haney, the associate director of CSI. This means that groups will not have the privileges that official clubs enjoy, like access to funding or booking rooms to host events.
Many group leaders agree that their organization would support whichever Democratic candidate gets the nomination. Until then, however, each group is hoping to gain the most support on campus.
“With a primary this big for the Democrats, it’s really important to highlight what specifically we like about different people,” said Rachel Boose, freshman and co-coordinator of voter contact for AU Students for Warren. “So rather than just voting for a candidate just because they’re a Democrat, we have an opportunity to vote for the Democrat that best aligns with what our vision for the country should be.”