As election season approaches, the Yale College Democrats are working to help their party win back key government positions.

The Dems held a fundraiser from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Temple Grill that featured Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, State Senator Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven and State Rep. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown. Proceeds from the drive will cover transportation costs for members of the Dems who will travel to Virginia and New Jersey over fall break to campaign for Democratic candidates for governor and state legislature positions in those states. Dems President Josh Hochman ’18 declined to say how much money his organization raised on Sunday.

Speaking at the event on Sunday, DeLauro emphasized the need for young people to organize and actively push for change.

“We need your energy. We need your values,” DeLauro said. “Be involved not because of the political process but because of the fundamental view of how you believe the United States should be run and the kinds of opportunities you want people in this country to be able to have.”

DeLauro said promoting progressive economic policies should be at the heart of the Democratic platform. Reflecting on Democrats’ disappointing performances over the last few years, she said the party must “connect with the working folks — not just urban, not just rural, but all together” in order to win elections.

She also reminded the room of the value of empathy.

“You are blessed to be where you are in school, but there are young people like yourselves, who are just as qualified, just as competent, and just as bright, whose families were saying to them every day with tears in their eyes, ‘We can’t send you to school,’” she said.

In their speeches, Lesser and Winfield, both state legislators, focused more on the challenges Democrats face in Connecticut.

Citing the dwindling number of Democratic seats in the State Capitol over the last eight years, Lesser said the ability of Democrats to push for progressive policies has diminished because party members focus solely on winning the presidency. Since 2009, the Democratic share of the Connecticut State Senate has dropped from 67 percent to 50 percent, while the Democratic share of the State House has dropped from 75 percent to 52 percent.

“To counter growing right-wing populism … we must stay strong at the local level,” he said.

Democrats in Connecticut do not have a coherent message and “deserved” to lose seats in the state legislature, Winfield said. He emphasized the importance of developing such a message, adding that while resistance is well and good, pushing forward with clear policies is even better.

The Dems hold similar fundraisers every year, Hochman said. After the campaigns in Virginia and New Jersey have been decided, Hochman added, the Dems will focus more on advocacy issues. In addition, 45 Dems will work as remote campaign interns for Democratic races across the country this year through the national Dem Fellow Program, according to Hochman.

This is not the only way in which the Dems get students involved in policy change. Milan Vivanco ’21, a first-year Dem, is working on climate change research with the help of the organization.

“I really want to make an effort to pursue Democratic policies and make some impact,” he said.

Malcolm Tang | jiawei.tang@yale.edu