Despite waning membership, Penn for Pete will continue supporting 2020's youngest presidential candidate, former Mayor of South Bend, Ind. Pete Buttigieg, as the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus approaches.
On Jan. 22, the group announced its new co-coordinators, Wharton sophomore Manoj Simha and first-year Engineering graduate student David Yastremsky. The group's previous leaders were College junior Sam Kaufmann and College junior Sarah Jones, who left Penn for Pete to join Penn for Warren on Jan. 14. Penn for Pete will focus their attention on expanding the group, as Yastremsky said it is now significantly smaller than other Democratic candidate groups on campus. Penn for Pete declined to provide a specific number of members. The Warren, Sanders, and Biden groups have hundreds of members via email listservs, but around 10, 45, and 20 very active members respectively, according to each group's leaders.
As the primary elections approach, Penn for Pete will continue phone banking, collecting signatures, and campaigning for Buttigieg across campus. Of the new leaders’ goals, Yastremsky said inclusivity is of utmost priority. He looks to Buttigieg's campaign staff for guidance, which he said is diverse. According to Pete for America, 40% of his staff identify as people of color, 52% identify as female, and 28% identify as LGBTQ.
“Manoj, the team, and I want everyone feeling welcome in our organization. We want our group to be reflective of Philly, and all voices to be heard, not just the loudest ones,” Yastremsky said.
Yastremsky said the group is looking to work with other left-leaning groups on campus to recruit new members, as well as to continue to participate in non-candidate specific political engagement, such as attending community events like last month's Philadelphia Women’s March.
Kaufmann, who departed Penn for Pete to support Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said he supports Buttigieg's policies. But Kaufmann said he does not believe the former mayor is an electable candidate for the 2020 election.
"Electability is my top issue, and I no longer believe that moderates are the most electable," Kaufmann said. "My hope is that if we nominate [Warren], then the party coalesces in order to mobilize to defeat Trump."
Outside of Penn, other local schools and grassroots organizations are working to secure Buttigieg’s nomination as well.
Nathan Osburn, a grassroots organizer of the Philadelphians for Pete Buttigieg group, works closely with college students in Philadelphia — especially Penn, Temple, and Drexel — to get signatures for Buttigieg's ballot.
“I think there’s a lot of interest from the college students that are interested in a new generation of leadership," Osburn said. "People are wanting to turn the page on what’s broken in Washington, and so they’re looking to someone who represents that next generation of leadership.”
Max Weiss, a Temple junior and the coordinator of Temple for Pete, echoed Osburn’s sentiments. He expects student support for Buttigieg to grow in Philadelphia as the Pennsylvania primaries grow closer.
“I think that, as the youngest candidate running on the Democratic side, it’s really an attractive thing to us as college students that we can finally look to a presidential candidate that’s within a couple of decades of our age,” Weiss said. “I think, more and more, we’re going to continue to see support across all campuses, nationwide, for Mayor Pete.”
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