Political groups come together on non-election year

Penn Dems and College Republicans hope to bring high-profile speakers to campus

· February 1, 2013, 12:13 am

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While they won’t be canvassing door-to-door or filling out electoral maps this year, Penn’s political groups are still recruiting and planning events in 2013.

Both Penn Democrats and College Republicans are hoping to use the off year to improve the relationship between the organizations by hosting cooperative events.

“The first thing I did after getting elected was sit down for a meeting with College Republicans,” College sophomore and Penn Dems President Matthew Kalmans said.

The two political groups have already planned several coordinated events. They are planning a bipartisan State of the Union watch party and attended a breakfast together with Gov. Jon Huntsman the day after he spoke on campus.

Both groups stressed that they are working to bring speakers to campus, since in the absence of an election, those are often their most high-profile events. Kalmans, for example, said that the two groups could consider co-hosting nonpartisan speakers or events that feature one speaker from each party.

“Since it’s not a presidential election year … I think we can talk about the issues more face-to-face,” College Republicans Political Director and College sophomore Anthony Cruz said. “We can have more personal interaction with them without partisan tensions flaring up.”

Both groups also hope to focus on issue-based advocacy in the absence of specific candidates to support. Penn Dems recently launched a lobbying branch of their organization, starting with a meeting on Inauguration Day with newly elected Rep. Matt Cartwright, a1986 Law School graduate. Kalmans said they hope to begin by focusing on immigration reform.

“Yes we’re Democrats, but first and foremost we’re college students,” Kalmans said. “And we think a lot of times the issues that are most important to our demographic are often left out of the conversation. And they’re often issues Democrats and Republicans can come together on.”

Cruz echoed a similar sentiment when explaining College Republicans’ plan to partner with the Lambda Alliance later this semester.

“We’re not mainstream Republicans like some people outside see us to be,” he said. “We’re a branch of the Republican Party, but we are also from the University of Pennsylvania and we have a large LGBT constituency. And that’s why we think it’s important to acknowledge that and support LGBT equality.”

Penn Political Coalition, an umbrella organization designed to represent and foster collaboration between Penn’s various political groups, is pleased to see groups working together to create new programming, even in a year when fewer students may be interested in politics.

“There’s less natural enthusiasm on campus,” Political Coalition Co-Chair and College junior Urja Mittal said. “Penn kids are smart enough to care. It’s just not as natural an attraction.”

Both Cruz and Kalmans pointed to gubernatorial elections later this year in nearby New Jersey and Virginia as an opportunity for students to get involved in another election. Kalmans is confident that students who got involved during the election cycle will stick around, since they weren’t “just there to make phone calls a lot of the time.”

PoCo also hopes that the two partisan groups channel their cooperative energy towards a dialogue with Penn’s smaller political groups, like those focused on issues such as the Middle East and abortion.

“We think we can foster something uniquely Penn about that,” PoCo Co-Chair and College junior Sam Gersten said, “a very civil discourse within our member groups.”

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