Gubernatorial hopefuls meet College Democrats

Connecticut gubernatorial candidates took the opportunity to campaign Saturday on Yale’s campus at the first College Democrats of Connecticut fall convention.

The candidates and other state political leaders gave advice on how to run an effective campaign and called to action the more than 80 Connecticut college students and New Haven community members who attended the conference.

Ben Stango ’11, president of the College Democrats of Connecticut and of Yale College Democrats, said the purpose of the convention was to mobilize young Connecticut Democrats and bring them together as a unified force before the 2010 elections. The event’s keynote speakers included Connecticut gubernatorial candidates Sen. Gary LeBeau and Mayor of Stamford, Conn., Dan Malloy, as well as potential gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont SOM ’80, State Representative Matthew Lesser and New Haven congressional representative Rosa DeLauro.

DeLauro kicked off the convention by urging attendees to continue the momentum of the 2008 presidential election in the face of the economic and environmental challenges that lie ahead. Those challenges, she said, included the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the country’s high unemployment rate and global warming.

“I am not asking you for anything that I haven’t done,” DeLauro said, stressing the importance of campaigning on the ground for issues through phonebanking and door-to-door canvassing.

Lesser, the youngest serving representative in the State General Assembly, followed her speech and advised the college students present to mobilize for the 2010 elections. The convention’s final three speakers gave speeches about issues specific to Connecticut, such as job growth.

Lamont, who ran for the Senate in 2006, said his political campaign would not have progressed without help from young people. He said he is considering running for governor because Connecticut is not meeting the challenges posed by the recession appropriately. “Connecticut, we have to get our mojo back,” he said.

LeBeau said the current economy is the reason why he is running for governor. He listed four of the measures he has advocated as state senator to improve Connecticut’s situation, including major investments for stem cell research. When it was Malloy’s turn to speak, he took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and, ignoring the podium, said his experience as Stamford’s mayor qualified him to be governor.

After the speeches, students went into breakout sessions where they learned about, among other things, how to start their own College Democrats chapters and how to organize an issue-based grassroots campaign.

At the end of the convention, as the attendees talked among themselves while eating pizza and drinking soda, 10 students interviewed said the event was a valuable experience. Beau Wittmer ’13, one of the Yale freshmen who helped organize the event, said he was pleased with the speakers and appreciated the workshops.

“It was nice to hear [the politicians] talk about how to get involved,” he said. “I think engaging in politics, whatever your persuasion, is a duty to your country.”

Corinne Duffy, a junior from Wesleyan and president of the Wesleyan Democrats, said the convention was an opportunity to network with other chapters and mobilize with fellow college students, adding that campaigning on individual campuses can be isolating.

“We will continue to be trained, educated, united and focused on our goals,” Stango said of young Connecticut Democrats. “There is nothing more powerful than students working together.”

Students from Connecticut College, Fairfield University, Quinnipiac University, Central Connecticut State University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Hartford, the University of New Haven, Wesleyan University, the University of Bridgeport and Yale University attended the convention.

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