Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), gestures to supporters during the kickoff to the start of his campaign for Senate in Malden, Mass.
As soon as Scott Brown announced that he wouldn’t run, Brandeis University junior Joshua Nass lost confidence in a Republican special election victory.
Without Brown, the Massachusetts race is an uphill battle for any Republican candidate looking to assume newly sworn-in Secretary of State John Kerry’s Senate seat, Nass said.
“Scott Brown not only brought name recognition, he also brought appeal,” said Nass, president of the Brandeis Libertarian Conservative Union. “He would’ve helped rebrand the party’s image which is so horribly battered. Until that’s rectified we’re not going to win.”
Across the political spectrum, Massachusetts college students are mobilizing for the special senatorial election to replace Kerry.
As Sen. William Cowan serves ad interim, at least two Democratic candidates are preparing to compete in the April 30 primary: Rep. Ed Markey and Rep. Stephen Lynch.
No Republicans have entered the race, which culminates on June 25.
While these circumstances are different from the 2010 special senatorial election — there Scott Brown beat Martha Coakley to assume late Ted Kennedy’s seat — a low youth voter turnout is expected once again.
“Usually it’s the youth that don’t actually show up to vote in elections beyond the presidential,” Northeastern University third-year student Robert Cohen, 21, said. “If we can get youth turnout at a level close to what we saw in November, though, it’ll be able to sway the actual election.”
Fifteen percent of 18- to 29-year-olds voted in the 2010 special election. By contrast, 24% participated in the midterm, according to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).
It’s a disparity presidents of Massachusetts Democratic and Republican college clubs hope to reduce in this race.
With increased youth voter registration from college voter drives before last November’s presidential election — when 49% of youth voted — continued representation of this voice relies heavily on absentee ballots.
Because the special election occurs after spring semester, many students registered in Massachusetts won’t be in the state to vote. They will need a mail-in ballot to select a candidate.
Similar to voter registration events, members of Massachusetts Democratic and Republican college clubs will sign up students for absentee ballots starting this month, said junior Simon Thompson, 21, Harvard Democrats president.
“With the youth voters becoming more partisan, I think there’ll be a considerable voter turn out,” said sophomore Robert Lucido, 20, Amherst College Republicans president. “You can count on the fact that the youth vote will have an impact.”
Most will be able to vote at the polls for the primary April 30 as most colleges have final exams around this time. This hectic time of the year could dissuade students from participating, but local college organizers said they’re determined reduce those problems.
Tufts University non-partisan club Tufts Votes, for example, has volunteers who will drive students to the polls.
“Participation is more than half the battle,” Harvard College junior Cody Dean, 21, said. “The stakes are not any lower in this race than they were in November.”
Increased participation among college students could favor the Democrats, who won the youth vote in the 2010 special election but lost the race, according to CIRCLE.
Some students said they’re circumspect about how involved youth voters will be in this special election — especially because the candidates thus far are relatively unknown, said senior Bronwen Raff, 21, president of Tufts Democrats.
“As much as I hope people will get involved, I don’t see the student voice as predominant as it was in the Warren/Brown race,” Raff said. “Everyone was so fired up. I don’t think there’s the time frame for that.”
Democratic students — who often dominate political discourse at Massachusetts’ colleges — are split in their support for Markey and Lynch.
Some said Markey’s support of same-sex marriage, health care and the environment would appeal to liberal student voters — particularly in contrast to Lynch’s vote against Affordable Care Act and for pro-life legislation. Others prefer Lynch as they said Markey is distanced from young constituents because he originates from an older generation of Democrats.
Most agree that Markey will win the primary — particularly if it’s just against Lynch — though neither energizes young voters like Elizabeth Warren, Cohen said.
Republican Richard Tisei participates in a debate.
But if Rep. Richard Tisei (R-Mass.) enters the race, he could mount a youth-centered campaign to help him win, Spencer said. An openly gay representative, Tisei would attract the socially liberally, fiscally conservative students alienated by the Republican platform, Nass said.
“The Republican Party understands that we need to embrace young people,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology sophomore Caroline Shinkle, 20, said. “It would be an excellent example for the rest of the country that even from a state that’s perceived as so liberal can elect someone from the opposite party.”
Though the candidacies and issues of this election remain in limbo, politically active college students are immersed in campus outreach — trying to engage their peers in race in which they historically don’t participate.
“Now that we know this seat won’t swing a voting majority, I hope it’ll be a chance to have an honest conversation about the way politics are working in Washington,” said senior Bennet Gillogly, Tufts Republicans president. “I feel confident that the people who are passionate about politics in this state, and aren’t just voters by party, will come out for this special election.”
Powered by Facebook Comments