With just more than a month until the midterm election, political student groups on campus have been developing strategies to mobilize students around specific candidates and emphasize the importance of voting.
After the August primaries, which saw Democrat Virg Bernero and Republican Rick Snyder emerge as their party’s gubernatorial candidate, groups like the University’s chapters of the College Republicans and College Democrats have been campaigning for their respective candidates and informing students about their policies and goals for the state.
In addition to these groups, students and Public Health and Medicine Prof. Victor Strecher created Wolverines for Rick Snyder last month. The group’s goal is to inform campus about Snyder’s incentives to change Michigan and defy partisan divergence.
Strecher, a personal friend of Snyder, said his primary role as adviser to the group is to increase voter turnout in favor of Snyder and help students within the group develop campaign strategies.
“(Snyder) is a very bright guy who’s also very warm,” Strecher said. “He’s very caring; he’s very passionate. And he wouldn’t be running for governor unless he felt Michigan has a chance at rebuilding itself and becoming an amazing state. “
Strecher said Snyder’s moderate viewpoints make him likeable to both Democrats and Republicans, and this is reflected by the diversity of the group.
“We are a bunch of people from very different political persuasions who all got together to say we’re tired of the status quo,” Strecher said. “We really are worried about Michigan and we’d love to make Michigan a place that we all want to stay and work in.”
The group hopes to work with neighboring universities, like Michigan State University, to continue to increase support for Snyder.
“I believe that the students who are involved in the campaign for Rick Snyder are interested in pulling people together more toward a common ground,” Strecher said.
Brendan Campbell, chair of College Democrats, said he believes that despite the fact that Snyder has received increased support from Democrats, Virg Bernero is the best candidate for representing student needs, largely because he strongly supports greater funding for Michigan’s schools.
“Virg Bernero has consistently demonstrated that he’s going to invest in education, both K-12 and higher education, and adequately fund education to the point that it needs to be funded,” Campbell said. “We think that students have been hit hard enough, and that it’s time students vote for a candidate who’s looking out for their best interests.”
LSA senior Joshua Arocho, the communications director for Wolverines for Rick Snyder, said that while Snyder has widespread appeal that transcends partisan lines, his election could also make strides for the Republican Party.
“We feel like we can make a pretty big impact on this traditionally liberal campus,” Arocho said.
Arocho added that the group aims to gain more members through an upcoming mass meeting. Group members are also trying to host a town hall-type event for Snyder to speak to students, as well as have him speak on the steps of the Michigan Union in the week leading up to the election.
Charles Bogren, chairman of College Republicans, said he believes Snyder has been receiving increased support because he is genuinely concerned about fixing the state, in addition to his strong business background.
“He’s a self-made man,” Bogren said. “He’s clearly an intelligent person who knows what he wants to do in the business world and wants to bring that over to the political side and fix the state of Michigan. I think that’s resonated really well with a lot of people in this state because this state has had a lot of problems in the past.”
Bogren said the support Snyder has received from Democrats shows his dedication to improving the state and uniting people together to reach this goal.
“I think a lot of the crossover votes show how passionate he is about fixing and re-inventing Michigan,” Bogren said. “He’s done a really good job at reaching out to all corners across the board.”
In addition to mobilizing students to vote for Snyder, Bogren said the most important way for College Republicans to garner support for Republican candidates is through grassroots efforts.
“We’re focusing mainly on the actual student body, just trying to get them out to the meetings, talking to them, wherever we can,” Bogren said. “We’re just kind of getting our message across and showing that there is an alternative to just the Dems on this campus.”
Bogren said College Republicans has been working to bring Republican candidates to speak on campus, including Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. They have also been campaigning from the Fix Michigan Center on State Street, making phone calls urging citizens to vote for Republicans.
Similarly, College Democrats has been working to “actively engage and encourage” students, according to Campbell.
“The most important thing that we’re doing on campus is mobilizing students in their residence halls, so that they talk with their neighbors and encourage their neighbors to register to vote and to vote democratic,” Campbell said.
Over the past few weeks, College Democrats has brought in candidates like U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer (D-Mich.), U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. They also invited Democratic candidate for Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson last Thursday to speak with students.
Campbell said the group hopes to bring in more candidates in the weeks to come, as well as continue to help Democrats campaign across the state, particularly in areas where a competitive race is anticipated.
They also plan to take a trip to Grand Rapids, Mich. during fall break to campaign for David LaGrand, Democratic candidate for state senate, and Patrick Miles, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.