With midterm elections seven weeks away, politically inclined Yalies are rallying their classmates to vote in what could be the closest gubernatorial race in the country. Democratic incumbent Gov. Dannel Malloy will square off against Republican challenger Tom Foley, who lost to Malloy by a slim 6,404 votes in the 2010 elections. Recent statewide polls show mixed rankings of the two candidates: A Quinnipiac poll released last week found Foley leading Malloy by six percentage points, but a YouGov survey from early September showed Malloy slightly in the lead. Given the closeness of the race, both the Yale College Democrats and the Yale College Republicans are urging students to register to vote in Connecticut.
“Even though we might only be here for four years, the really big economic issues in Connecticut do impact us,” said Yale College Republicans President Andrea Barragan ’16. “I think it is important that students go out there and vote because in this race, our votes really can have an impact on the future prosperity of Connecticut.”
The Yale College Republicans had their first meeting of the year on Wednesday night to plan their strategy for the weeks leading up to the election. Barragan said the group aims to build a coalition of Foley supporters at Yale and help out in the campaign by canvassing and running phone banks.
Meanwhile, the Yale College Democrats are well underway with their campaign supporting Malloy. The group canvassed in New Haven over the weekend and has registered over 200 Yale students to vote in CT, said Yale College Democrats President Rebecca Ellison ’15.
Still, most students unaffiliated with either political organization on campus seem apathetic about the upcoming elections in Connecticut. Of 30 eligible student voters at Yale, only 10 said they have registered to vote in CT, and the majority of them were unaware of who the two gubernatorial candidates are.
Most of the students who chose to register in their home state — 17 of the 30 surveyed — said they made this decision strategically.
“I’m going to vote Democratic, and that’s probably going to count more in my home state,” said Ohio native Lucy Hattemer ’17. She said that she voted in the mayoral elections in New Haven last year, but afterwards switched her voter registration back.
But even though Connecticut is typically considered a blue state in presidential elections, those familiar with the state’s gubernatorial candidates emphasized that this race is not a foregone conclusion.
“The notion of a blue state is true with certain races, but I think this one will come right down to the wire,” said Gary Rose, chairman of the department of government and politics at Sacred Heart University. “I would hope to see that Yale students and students everywhere would think their vote really does matter in this particular race.”
Democrats on campus emphasized Malloy’s policy achievements over the last two years as critical issues for students to consider in the election.
During his tenure, Malloy has raised the minimum wage to $10.10, eliminated the death penalty and instituted expansive education reforms, said Yale College Democrat member Tyler Blackmon ’16, an opinion columnist for the News.
“If Malloy loses, it’s a huge blow to the progressive movement in the country. That means students should care,” Blackmon said.
But Republicans like Barragan emphasized that even though Foley is fiscally conservative, he is actually socially liberal. She said that the main issue students should really think about in this election is which candidate is best-equipped to create more jobs and boost Connecticut’s economy.
The Quinnipiac poll supported Barragan’s conclusion, showing that 40 percent of likely voters think the economy and jobs are the most important issues in the election, followed by taxes and government spending.
These issues are particularly important for students because who are getting ready to enter the job market, said Foley spokesperson Chris Cooper.
The unemployment rate in Connecticut is 6.6 percent, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data.