In preparation for November’s general election, the Yale College Democrats began mobilizing this weekend for U.S. Senate Democratic nominee and current U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy.
During a registration drive organized by the Dems, a crowd of over 85 Yale students holding hand-painted signs welcomed Murphy as he arrived at Phelps Gate just after 3 p.m. on Saturday.
The Dems, who are also working on President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign this fall, plan to hold a series of voter registration drives on and off campus, as well as statewide canvassing trips and phone-banking operations.
Murphy, who will face former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment Linda McMahon in November’s elections, said he was “fired up” by the turnout at the registration drive, “especially at such a busy time for incoming and returning students.” Yale students’ efforts, Murphy added, can “hugely” impact the outcome of what he called “a do-or-die election” for Connecticut students.
“You guys are going to make the difference,” Murphy told the students at the registration drive.
During the Democratic nominee’s roughly 10-minute stump speech, he said that if McMahon wins the U.S. Senate seat, students will lose access to some of their education resources, including Pell grants and affordable student loans. Murphy said fighting against tuition increases has been one of his priorities as a congressman and, if elected to the Senate, he intends to continue his effort to reduce student-loan debt and make college education affordable.
“I spent my life fighting for education,” the 39-year-old Democratic candidate said. “I’m going to be one of the youngest U.S. senators and one of the few who’s still paying back his student loans.”
In addition to his education policy, the Dems support Murphy’s stance on women’s rights and his collaboration with labor unions, said Nicole Hobbs ’14, elections coordinator for the organization.
“Chris has been such a progressive voice down in Washington,” she said. “Linda’s policies, instead, aren’t going to help Yale students or New Haven residents.”
In the fewer than 60 days remaining before the elections, the Dems plan to organize several rounds of door-to-door canvassing in New Haven and across the state.
The first of such operations was held Sunday afternoon, when teams of students spread out across the Elm City in support of Murphy and Obama.
While Hobbs said most Dems canvasses will take place in the third congressional district — which includes New Haven, Branford and Milford — the group will also send members to Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Himes’s and Murphy’s districts. Democratic supporters on campus are also planning day trips to Massachusetts and New Hampshire, as well as a long stay in Pennsylvania over fall break.
In addition, the Dems will organize phone-banking events once a week, starting this Thursday. The group will also work with other Democratic student organizations, Hobbs said, as well as Chris Murphy’s headquarters in New Haven.
While the Dems believe Murphy can win the Senate seat, Dems spokesman Eric Stern ’15 said, they expect the race to be especially tight due “to the money that McMahon has poured into her campaign.”
“Unlike McMahon, Murphy is running a grassroots campaign, talking and engaging with voters in Connecticut,” Stern said. “So it is more important than ever that Yale students go to the polls.”
McMahon’s bid comes just two years after she put more than $50 million of her own money into a failed Senate race gainst Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73.
Last week, he said, the Dems registered 150 new freshmen, during their first registration drive of the year. This weekend, Stern added, 101 Yale students registered to vote in Connecticut, even though the drive was cut short by an hour because of a National Weather Service tornado warning for New Haven County.
“Not even the threat of a tornado can keep Yale student from showing up to support Chris Murphy,” Stern said. “If Linda McMahon wanted to have an event on campus, she’d probably be able to draw at most a dozen students — and half of those would be protesters!”
Murphy and McMahon are vying for the seat of retiring Senator Joseph Lieberman ’64 Law ’67.