Penn Democrats has not historically kept a close relationship with the Pennsylvania College Democrats, a statewide body with 45 chapters. But this weekend, the two groups came together to make Penn's predominantly liberal campus even bluer.
The convention, which included Democratic students from Penn State University, Temple University and Villanova University, spanned April 7-9.
“It was a really engaging weekend,” said Penn Dems President and College sophomore Rachel Pomerantz about the event, which bore the slogan “Be the Future.”
On Sunday, April 9, internal elections for the PACD executive board were held. No Penn students ran for positions.
“Penn is not as close with the state organization, because we don’t get any money from them,” Penn Dems Political Director and Wharton freshman Dylan Milligan explained. “We don’t get any money from them because we don’t follow their bylaws. Their bylaws stipulate that you can’t endorse a candidate in a Democratic primary — that you have to stay neutral.”
Penn Dems has not stayed neutral in recent elections.
The organization endorsed Hillary Clinton in February 2016 and, according to Milligan, will endorse a candidate for Philadelphia DA at some point next week.
These procedural differences inspired the club to host the convention.
“We wanted to host this convention to reassert the fact that we appreciate [PACD] and we like to get along,” Milligan said. “But we’re not involved enough to have people running for their executive board.”
Outside of the elections, the conference consisted of panels on topics such as managing a college Democrats chapter, jumpstarting political careers and tackling issues such as the economy, health care and LGBTQ rights.
About 150 students registered for the weekend event.
Student politics weren't the only focus at the convention, which featured a debate for the Democratic candidates running for Philadelphia District Attorney. The debate included five out of the seven candidates running for the nomination.
“[The] District Attorney is incredibly important for a lot of issues that Democrats, progressives and a lot of college students care about,” Pomerantz said. “Mass incarceration — that starts with how it’s prosecuted. Police brutality and community relations — that starts with how the DA’s office conducts itself with the police. It’s easy to forget about these things, cause it’s not sexy compared to a Senate race.”
Milligan said the debate swung his allegiance for the election; he had previously supported Lawrence Krasner but is now torn between John O'Neill and Joe Khan, a Penn Law School lecturer.
Despite the event ostensibly featuring like-minded students, Pomerantz and Milligan agreed that the convention still featured a productive diversity in opinion.
“The experience of a Penn Dem who is from the Philadelphia area or a big city is really different from a Democrat who goes to a rural college,” the Penn Democrats president added.
“It was really promising to hear the dialogue that went on,” she said.