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Penn Dems Credit: Maanvi Singh

Following a historically poor performance by Democrats across the country and in Pennsylvania, College sophomores Isabel Friedman and Jake Shuster will take charge of the Penn Democrats, hoping to hold students’ interest in an election year without a glamorous national race.

Friedman and Shuster, elected Wednesday as president and vice president of the Penn Dems, respectively, discussed their plans for the group with The Daily Pennsylvanian. Daily Pennsylvanian: The Penn Democrats are coming off a pretty difficult election. What are your plans to keep the group moving forward?

Isabel Friedman: Even though the Democrats have lost a lot of ground … it hasn’t changed students’ commitment to progressive ideas and progressive causes … That’s what we need to tap into to keep our membership alive next year.

Jake Shuster: During the past two years, Democrats haven’t necessarily been as excited, as involved … because they kind of assumed that the Democrats in Congress would take care of them. And now that we no longer have strong majorities, it reinvigorates our party and makes us more excited and more motivated to work harder. I think we’ll probably be holding a lot more events partnering with other types of organizations, focusing on legislation … that students might care about.

IF: A good kick in the pants is sometimes helpful.

DP: Is reaching out on legislative issues something that previous boards have done, and how are you going to do it?

IF: In the beginning stages, we had an issue week, for example, when health care was the hot topic. We had a full week … looking at the health care bill from many different perspectives. We had professor panels. We had student discussions. And hopefully we’ll be able to do something again like that in the next semester. The bottom line is that we already have members that are involved in the causes they care about on campus though other clubs. So for example, I’ve worked with a member who is so passionate about the environment. He comes to Dems but he is also involved in Penn’s environmental group. That’s just a perfect partnership.

JS: Now that Penn Dems has a seat on UA Steering, we’re going to be able to reach out to these other different groups … to try and partner with them on other types of issues as we go forward … The seat just gives us more easy access to other types of groups.

DP: What challenges do you expect to face next year?

IF: Historically, in an off-election year, Penn Dems experiences a big blow to our membership … I think people are already aware that 2012 is going to be even more of a challenge … We can channel … some of that anxiety about 2012 into cultivating a base here … We also have the mayoral election, so hopefully we can excite some [students] about that … We will definitely support [Philadelphia Mayor Michael] Nutter in his re-election.

DP: How would you evaluate the performance of the outgoing Penn Dems board in the midterm elections?

IF: I think we did a fantastic job. We were led by Nate Miller … who worked as a field organizer on the Obama campaign … He organized the canvasses and phone banks every week. Our GOTV plan, especially on Election Day, just went flawlessly. We had staging locations. We had volunteers. He deserves tremendous credit for what he did, and he had a fantastic team of people working behind him as well.

JS: We were [also] able to go out and canvass in the suburbs in those key races. We had very good attendance at a few canvassing events out there.

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