With less than 100 days until the November election, Penn Democrats is ramping up its virtual student outreach efforts and engagement with local candidates.
Penn Dems hosted an online meet-and-greet featuring 10 candidates looking to flip the Pa. statehouse, who spoke to students about their current campaigns and how young people can best involve themselves in efforts related to the upcoming election. This year, Democrats need a net gain of four senate seats and nine state house seats to control both chambers of Congress.
The online event, hosted on Gatherly in partnership with Turn PA Blue, High School Democrats of Pennsylvania, and Haverford College Democrats, featured presentations from 1992 College graduate Anton Andrew, 2017 Master of Liberal Arts graduate Rep. Jennifer O'Mara (D-Delaware County), Gary Spillane, Nancy Guenst, Deb Ciamacca, Paul Friel, Rep. Wendy Ullman (D-Bucks County), Jonathan Kassa, 1990 Penn Law graduate and 1984 Wharton graduate Ann Marie Mitchell, Marlene Katz, and John Kane.
The event's thirty attendees heard brief presentations from each of the candidates, who come from a wide variety of career paths and backgrounds. The panel featured a lawyer, historian, professor, high school teacher, and businessman.
Rising College junior and Penn Dems Political Director Michael Nevett said the personalized nature of the event allowed for students to become familiar with each candidate's priorities, which he believes will allow students to better support them if they choose to do so.
“The fact that people now know the names and have had conversations with some of these candidates really allows students to be more engaged over the next three and a half months, Nevett said. "If you’re having phone banks for someone, it comes so much easier if it's someone that’s taken the time to have a conversation with you. It feels like they are really listening to you.”
Penn Dems Communications Director and rising College sophomore Emma Wennberg said the virtual event is reflective of the group's general emphasis on state politics, which Penn Dems is working to further promote in the fall semester.
“The Pennsylvania state legislature is not getting enough attention in our political conversation. All the things that we really care about, and that matter most, education, the environment, healthcare, there’s so much that happens in the Pennsylvania legislature,” Wennberg said. “If we want to win up and down the ballot, we have to also win in these areas, so this will definitely affect the national race as well.”
Gary Spillane, one of the event's featured candidates who is running to flip House District 144, said this year’s election will be different in many ways, both due to limitations that the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on in-person campaign events and the effects of recent civil unrest regarding anti-police brutality efforts across the nation.
“With a pandemic and civil unrest, we learn more about our leaders,” Spillane said. “We are working to unite our community, seeing the strength in waking up to our prejudices. “We have a tremendous opportunity to reshape our leadership and focus with these elections. They matter.”