Students push for Brown, Shaheen
With less than a month remaining before Election Day, polls continue to indicate a tight contest between incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Republican challenger Scott Brown, a former Massachusetts senator. A poll published by New England College late last week declared the race a statistical tie, with Shaheen at 47.1 percent and Brown at 46.6 percent.
Political activity on campus has heightened in anticipation of the Nov. 4 election, as both students and faculty prepare for a decision that will not only determine the federal representation of New Hampshire for the next six years, but may also decide the balance of the Senate for the remainder of President Barack Obama’s term.
If the Republican Party can win a net of six seats in the Senate during the midterm elections, the G.O.P. will likely gain control of Congress. New Hampshire, famous for its status as a swing state, may play a pivotal role in this contest.
“We are in a competitive state in a year when the Senate could flip,” government professor Kyle Dropp said. “All indications suggest that the race between Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown is going to be quite close. This matters for Dartmouth students because the party that’s in control of the Senate matters for policy, matters for who the president can appoint and matters for which judges get appointed.”
Both College Democrats and College Republicans have aggressively campaigned for their respective candidates on campus and beyond.
College Republicans president Michelle Knesbach ’17 said the group is organizing phone banking for all highly contested races in the state this election term, as well as block walking and trying to bring candidates to campus.
College Republicans aims to host Brown during Homecoming weekend for a tailgate event, but details remain undetermined, Knesbach said.
“I think the most important way to influence kids’ opinions on campus is to actually bring candidates in so they can actually understand the arguments,” she said. “A lot of kids grew up in either really conservative or really liberal areas and haven’t had as much exposure to candidates with different beliefs when they were going to high school and in their home communities.”
Spencer Blair ’17, president of College Democrats, said his organization employs 50 volunteers to participate in phone banking, canvassing and a Commit to Vote program conducted in partnership with College Republicans.
“We’re getting approximately 250 students to commit to vote each week,” he said. “It’s not committing to vote for a Democrat, it’s really not a binding commitment at all, it’s just getting contact information for students willing to vote this year so we can remind them on Election Day.”
College Democrats and College Republicans partnered for a voter registration drive in September and plan to host another this month, Blair said.
Blair said that College Democrats are also in the process of assigning members to advocate for the Shaheen campaign in each campus residence hall, affinity house and Greek house.
“Ultimately, our goal is to make sure that on Nov. 4, not a single student at Dartmouth is unaware that there’s an election, is unaware that they’re allowed to vote here and is unaware as to how they can vote,” he said.
Colin Reed, the campaign manager for the Brown campaign, said Dartmouth students should consider the state of student debt in the U.S. when making their decision to vote.
“It’s Scott Brown’s view that the best way to attack this is not to make loans more affordable but to actually lower the cost of college,” he said. “There’s a number of things he thinks might be important for a step forward in terms of student loans such as increasing transparency for administrator and faculty pay and encouraging innovation to save money for students. I think the important thing, in contrast with Senator Shaheen, is that Scott Brown is focused on actually lowering the cost of the product, not making it easier to go into debt.”
The Shaheen campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
New Hampshire election law allows college students to decide whether to register to vote in their home state or as a New Hampshire resident.Blair said students should consider choosing to vote in New Hampshire to maximize the impact of their vote.
“As Dartmouth students, we live here nine months out of the year, which is more than we live anywhere else,” he said. “By attending Dartmouth, spending our time in Hanover, we’re channeling quite a bit of money into the state’s economy, we’re subject to its laws, we’re doing research in the state that benefits the state, we’re doing community service in the area that benefits the state, we’re most affected by the laws here and we’re most engaged in the community and civic society here.
“If you’re from Florida or Ohio and you want to vote there, that makes a lot of sense. But if you’re from New York or California or Texas, there’s a very strong argument to vote here. New Hampshire’s more of a swing state, and you’re most affected by what’s going on here while you’re here.”
Blair is a member of The Dartmouth opinion staff.