As the signs come down and the stickers are peeled off, election season is drawing to a close. With local representatives’ and governor’s races decided, political organizations at the University of Georgia plan on winding down before preparing for the 2020 elections.
UGA College Republicans and Young Democrats of UGA worked endlessly this past semester, campaigning and while canvassing for local and state candidates. However, the implications of the elections differed for each party.
In the midterm elections, Republicans secured critical local and statewide offices in Georgia. For Ethan Pender, chairman of the College Republicans, these results indicate a significant win — especially in state House Districts 117 and 119, previously held by Democrats.
“[Representatives-elect] Marcus Wiedower and Houston Gaines are people I consider good friends of mine,” Pender said. “They’re good people, and they deserve to be in the state House, so it was very good to know that we were helping with that, and we got them them elected.”
Nationally, Democrats won a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, but locally, several Democratic districts returned to Republican control. While disappointed with the local and state results, Jack Henry Decker, communications director of Young Democrats, said he’s hopeful for the 2020 elections and inspired by the progress made in traditionally Republican states.
“In terms of local politics, I think we’re disappointed, but nationally and looking forward, we are definitely excited and hopeful for the future,” Decker said. “Most of those candidates have stated they’re not done with politics, and we will still be behind them and working for them.”
Maintaining the energy
Regardless of the election results, both organizations noticed unprecedented levels of member involvement over the past semester. Between knocking on doors and making phone calls, this election inspired many students to actively participate in politics for the first time. Looking ahead, they hope to maintain their high levels of member involvement.
With approximately 300 members in the Young Democrats group on GroupMe, Decker said their key focus is engaging members on social media while emphasizing the importance of maintaining momentum for success in the next election.
“There’s no days off in politics. We got to make sure people understand this is still happening,” Decker said. “I think it’s good for everyone to take a bit of a mental break, just process what’s going on in your life and not give yourself over to politics so much that you’re unhappy, but I think we’re definitely going to harp next year on sticking through.”
Pender said UGA College Republicans, which is the largest chapter in the country, saw a spike in membership after the election. Energized by the success of their efforts, Pender hopes the results inspire members to return and work harder for the next election cycle.
“It’s a matter of tapping into that energy and that success and making sure we can get the same energy and the same competition going in favor of our party for the next election cycle,” Pender said. “I’m hoping that now we’ve won the election, people are going to say, ‘Time to come back, and let’s celebrate being Republicans because that’s what it’s all about.”
Over the past semester, both organizations still continued to hold weekly meetings throughout the campaign season, inviting candidates and other speakers to their meetings. Over the next semester, they foresee a shift away from electoral activities.
However, this break won’t last long. With politicians preparing to announce their candidacies for 2020 in the next year and political organizations bracing for the next presidential election, both College Republicans and Young Democrats are looking forward in projecting their efforts toward the 2020 elections in the next year.
Although Young Democrats hasn’t established any concrete plans for future campaigning, Decker said they plan on preparing for the primaries in 2019.
“Obviously there is a little bit of a lull because campaigning isn’t happening yet, but that’s definitely on the back of our minds,” Decker said. “In terms of specific action, that will come later next semester, next school year, but in terms of looking forward and what’s next, I think most of the club is already there.”
Confident in the results of next year’s primaries for the party’s incumbents, Pender said College Republicans will shift its focus toward the 2020 elections in fall 2019.
“For 2020, there will be a lot going on since we’ll have the president on the ballot again, as well as Sen. [David] Perdue, along with all of Congress and state House races,” Pender said. “I assume David Perdue and Donald Trump being nominated, but the Democrats are going to have a lot going on in spring 2019.”
Pender said College Republicans’ purpose involves facilitating opportunities for students interested in politics while spreading and promoting the Republican message on campus.
“We’re getting people involved in party leadership and showing them what it means to volunteer,” Pender said. “And we’re working to train the best and the brightest minds in Republican leadership for preparation for future service to the party, to their community and to the state.”
For Young Democrats, Decker said the organization provides a place for students to stay politically informed and engage in discussions. While members across the club differ in levels of political engagement, they emphasize the importance of political involvement for college students.
“We want people to understand what’s happening in the world around them, and we want to work to make things better,” Decker said. “That’s why we love getting people involved with campaigns, but that’s also why we enjoy doing service in the community.”