Students mobilize for primary

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GRAPIHC BY CHARLES COLEMAN

Tuesday, March 3, members of the College of William and Mary community will cast ballots in the 2020 Virginia Democratic Primary. The primary — one of 14 contests taking place throughout the country this Super Tuesday — will determine the allocation of Virginia’s 99 pledged delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wis. this July.  

College students, faculty and staff in Williamsburg vote during an uncertain phase of the Democratic primary. Following initial contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, numerous candidates possess somewhat viable paths towards the nomination.  

 As of March 2, the New York Times’ Democratic delegate count shows Vermont  Sen. Bernie Sanders narrowly leading the pledged delegate count with 56 delegates. He is followed by former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who dropped out of the race Sun. March 1. Biden and Buttigieg both claimed 48 delegates and 26 delegates respectively. A candidate must receive 1,991 delegates to be nominated on the first count in Milwaukee. 

Given the closeness of early contests, Virginia has emerged as a competitive battleground state in the Democratic primary. Recent polls indicate a close race between Sanders, Biden and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with a narrow margin separating the three contenders on the cusp of Super Tuesday.  

 In preparing students for the primary, the College’s chapter of NextGen America, a national progressive group, hosted a mock primary Tuesday, Feb. 25. During the informal straw poll, prospective voters cast ‘ballots’ with Skittles, placing one candy in their preferred candidate’s designated jar. 

After a two-hour voting period with the participation of several dozen students, the final results surprised NextGen volunteers Annaliese Estes ’21 and Maddi Nicol ’21. 

Estes said that Sanders handily swept the straw poll, winning 38 out of 68 Skittles cast — approximately 55 percent of the vote. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren won second place, earning 17 votes, followed by Buttigieg with 6, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who dropped out of the race Mon. March 2, with 4, Bloomberg with 2 and Biden with 1. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and philanthropist Tom Steyer, who has also since dropped out from the race, failed to earn any votes in the straw poll. 

 Estes said she was most surprised by Biden’s underperformance. 

 “We were a bit shocked by that,” Estes said. “My personal idea going into it was that when younger votes are choosing between Democrats who are a bit more establishment and older, Biden was usually their first choice … I was surprised that Bloomberg had more.”  


 Beyond the mock primary, NextGen plans to conduct get-out-the-vote operations Tuesday, encouraging students to vote in the Democratic primary regardless of their individual candidate preferences. Nicol said that NextGen intends to support whoever becomes the Democratic Party’s nominee following the primaries and mentioned that the organization seeks to maximize student awareness about candidates’ platforms on several issues — especially gun safety, the environment, healthcare and student loan forgiveness — in the run-up to November’s general election. 

 While NextGen organizers sought to promote political awareness in the weeks preceding the primary, some students at the College have volunteered as on-campus affiliates of national Democratic campaigns, distributing promotional materials and garnering support among members of the Williamsburg community. Among these students is Hayley Scheir ’22, who has worked with Warren’s presidential campaign on campus this semester. 

 Scheir said she will vote for Warren in Tuesday’s primary because of her well-developed plans and progressive policy proposals. 

“I think Elizabeth Warren is the best candidate because she seems to have the most thorough plans for everything, all the policies she wants,” Scheir said. “Also, I would love to see a woman in the White House.”

 “I think Elizabeth Warren is the best candidate because she seems to have the most thorough plans for everything, all the policies she wants,” Scheir said. “Also, I would love to see a woman in the White House.” 

 When asked who her second choice was, Scheir said that Sanders would be her preferred alternative. Sam Cooksey ’22, a Sanders supporter, similarly stated that he would be willing to support Warren as his second choice — potentially indicating some grassroots-level support at the College for both progressive candidates.

“What she and Bernie Sanders have in common is that they understand the extent to which corporate greed affects our politics,” Cooksey said. “They’re the only two candidates in this race who I’ve heard talk about politics not as though it’s broken, but as though it’s working perfectly for the 1 percent and for the donor class.”

Lauren Reffay ’20, intended to vote for Klobuchar before she withdrew March 2. She now plans to vote for Biden despite some misgivings.

“I think Amy’s the best because Bernie and Elizabeth Warren are too far to the left, they’re too liberal, they’re too radical, they’re too extreme … they alienate a lot of people, especially voters in the middle,” Reffay said. “And then on the other hand, you have Biden and Bloomberg, who are just old white guys, they’re not progressive enough and they don’t rile up the base at all.”

For College students voting for more centrist candidates like Biden, demeanor on the campaign trail and commitment to ending partisanship appeared as common themes in their decision-making process. Brennan Merone ’22, a Biden voter, referenced the former vice president’s years of working with legislators and foreign leaders as an invaluable asset of his presidential bid.

“It comes down to having the necessary experience and know-how and integrity for the job, and Joe Biden’s obviously proven that he’s been able to get things done and be a world leader on the world stage, which is something Donald Trump’s not done well,” Merone said.

“It comes down to having the necessary experience and know-how and integrity for the job, and Joe Biden’s obviously proven that he’s been able to get things done and be a world leader on the world stage, which is something Donald Trump’s not done well,” Merone said.

Editor’s Note: Digital Media Editor Claire Hogan ’22 provided partial reporting for this article. For more detailed interviews with campus supporters of several Democratic presidential candidates, see additional content online at flathatnews.com.