In the aftermath of the 2018 midterm elections, Penn Democrats welcomed then-presidential hopeful Michael Avenatti to speak on campus. But following domestic violence allegations that led to Tuesday's announcement that he would not run in 2020, Penn Dems members expressed their relief at his premature withdrawal.
The 1996 College graduate, who had positioned himself as a prominent adversary of Donald Trump, announced his decision in a tweet on Dec. 4.
“I do not make this decision lightly — I make it out of respect for my family,” Avenatti wrote. “But for their concerns, I would run.”
Members of Penn Dems greeted the news, saying Avenatti's recent domestic abuse allegations, lack of progressivism, and controversial reputation turned them off to the lawyer. Just a month before, however, 47-year-old Avenatti visited the University of Pennsylvania on Nov. 9 for two different events hosted by the Philomathean Society, Penn Democrats, and the Government and Politics Association.
“No one who has done what he has been accused of doing has any role running for president,” said Penn Dems Communications Director and College senior Jack Weisman.
“As far as I know, there’s certainly no pro-Avenatti sentiment anywhere,” Weisman said, noting that the attorney has not garnered a lot of sympathy among Penn Dems members.
Avenatti’s announcement came amid a turbulent past couple weeks for the celebrity lawyer. Days after he spoke at Penn, Avenatti was arrested on felony domestic violence charges, which he has denied. Since, however, the District Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles announced it would not press felony charges. The city attorney is still reviewing the case for a possible misdemeanor charge.
Before the Dec. 4 announcement, Political Science professor Marc Meredith said even if Avenatti were proven innocent, the allegations would have still damaged his shot at the White House.
“I think that there’s going to be such a large Democratic primary field, the number of candidates is going to get big really quick, that even if he’s running he might become yesterday’s news really, really quickly,” Meredith said.
Penn Dems member and College freshman Jay Falk said she never thought Avenatti had a chance at winning the presidency, but she is glad Avenatti isn't running.
"Running for president isn’t about sinking to Trump’s level, trading nasty nicknames, or punditry," Falk said. "It’s about championing policy changes that will build roads, fix schools, and improve health care and more."
The attorney's lack of experience concerned some of the club's members, who preferred candidates with a background in government.
“I think it's best for the Democratic party if we have leaders not just with experience, but a proven progressive track record," College freshman and Penn Dems member Zach Reznikoff said. "So I’m glad he’s out.”
Prior to disqualifying himself, however, Avenatti told Politico on Sunday that he thought his “chances have only gone up."
Meredith disagreed with Avenatti’s assertion and said the Penn grad's chances were “essentially zero.”
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