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Credit: Linda Ting

In politics, endorsements can make or break a candidate’s chances at winning an election. Now, Penn Democrats are considering endorsing a wide variety of candidates for political office, including a candidate for the looming presidential primaries.

But despite a slew of Democrats declaring their candidacies for the 2020 presidential election in recent weeks, Penn Dems plan to wait to endorse a favored candidate until March 2020. The club wants to hear firsthand from visiting candidates and conduct extensive research into the potential Democratic nominees for president.

With less than 11 months until the Iowa caucuses, the primaries are starting to get crowded — 14 Democrats are currently vying for the nomination. Prominent figures such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) have declared, as well as lesser-known candidates such as South Bend, Ind. mayor Pete Buttigieg and author Marianne Williamson. Former Vice President and Penn Presidential Professor of Practice Joe Biden has still yet to announce whether he will run.

The group’s process for endorsing candidates can vary and there is no explicit endorsement policy. But board members said it generally involves the organization gathering as much information as possible before the executive board makes a final decision. 

“As a club, we try to meet as many candidates as possible, whether we host them at our deputy board meetings or we have them at speaker events,” President of Penn Dems and College sophomore Emma Carlson said.

Penn Dems will also endorse some candidates in the upcoming Philadelphia primary elections.

Penn Dems Communications Director and College freshman Tamara Wurman, who is also a DP photographer, said the Penn Dems executive board voted in late February to endorse Penn graduate Jamie Gauthier for a City Council seat. Gauthier graduated in 2004 with a master's in city and regional planning.

The endorsement process may differ for national elections, such as the 2020 presidential primaries.  

“For more high profile elections, such as the presidential primary or national Senate races, you can expect a more detailed explanation,” Wurman said.

The group has endorsed candidates in contentious presidential primaries in the past, such as Barack Obama in 2008’s race against Hillary Clinton. More recently, Penn Dems endorsed Clinton over Bernie Sanders back in February 2016, well before she secured the party’s nomination in July

Despite the group’s early endorsement in 2016, Penn Dems Political Director Owen Voutsinas-Klose said not to expect a presidential endorsement anytime soon.  

“We’re not going to endorse for President obviously this year,” Voutsinas-Klose said, as Pennsylvania's primary occurs on April 28, 2020. “That might be something that happens next year.”

Carlson said Penn Dems will likely make a decision “probably after Super Tuesday at least,” referring to the early March 2020 date when numerous states hold their primaries.

Although the group’s endorsement for president may come relatively late in 2020, efforts are already underway to bring presidential candidates to campus. 

Carlson noted that one presidential challenger, former U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), is scheduled to speak to Penn Dems in April.

Candidate visits to Penn may have possible political implications, Voutsinas-Klose said. As a political group at an Ivy League School located in a swing state, he said visits to Penn Dems should draw the attention of national candidates.

Those who take the time to visit campus will likely be seen more favorably by the club’s base, he added. 

“That’s who our members are going to respect,” Voutsinas-Klose said. 

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