Seven Harvard students entered the gritty world of Massachusetts state politics Saturday by getting elected as either delegates or alternate delegates to the State Democratic Convention at the local party caucuses.
In Cambridge Ward 6, which includes Adams, Dunster, Mather, and Leverett Houses as well as the Union Dorms, two students were elected as full delegates and two as alternates. Annabella C. Pitkin '90 of Adams House and Jeffrey J. Bussgang '91 of Leverett House were elected as delegates to the June 1 and 2 State Democratic Convention in Springfield.
Pitkin ran as a member of the slate supporting Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Murphy's gubernatorial campaign, while Bussgang ran as a member of a non-committed slate entitled "Jobs for Justice"--a coalition of state employees, teachers and unions that has targeted "progressive" issues such as education, social programs and abortion.
Also in Ward 6, Neil A. Cooper '91 and Jarrett T. Barrios '90-'91 were chosen as alternate delegates. Cooper, who conceived the idea of encouraging Harvard students to run as delegates to the convention, was elected as a non-committed delegate unconnected to any slate. Barrios was elected as part of Evelyn Murphy's slate.
In Ward 8, which contains Eliot, Kirkland, Quincy, Winthrop, and Lowell Houses and the Yard Dorms, two Harvard students, Joel D. Kaplan '91 of Eliot House and Terri E. Gerstein '90 of Quincy House were elected as alternate delegates for Evelyn Murphy.
In addition, one Harvard student, Brian R. Powilatis '91 of Leverett House, was elected as an alternate delegate in his home town of Holbrook, Mass. as a non-committed delegate, according to Cooper, who is also the chair of the College Democrats of Massachusetts.
No Harvard students ran as delegates in Cambridge Ward 7, which includes Cabot, Currier and North Houses.
On the Republican side, David R. Ackerly '91, vice-president of the HarvardRepublican Club, said that Harvard had "noRepublicans on the delegate slate, but numerousRepublicans did go to various caucuses around thestate." Ackerly was unable to give any specificestimate about the number of Harvard Republicansinvolved.
Cooper said that about "150 studentsparticipated state-wide" in local Democraticcaucuses with "a total of fifteen people elected[as delegates or alternate delegates]."
The Democratic student effort to run candidatesand participate in local caucuses was the first ofits kind in recent memory, participants said.
"It sends a strong message that students areinterested and active in state and localpolitics," said James M. Harmon '93 a participantat the Ward 8 Democratic caucus, adding "we are aforce to be reckoned with."
With the exception of Cambridge Wards 6 and 8,committed Democratic Party activists havediscouraged students from running as delegates,students said. Cooper said state-wideparticipation was low for this reason; Harmonadded that in Ward 7 (the Quad), "students werediscouraged from participating."
Students spent time wooing local Democraticleaders and preparing speeches to appeal to partyactivists before the caucuses.
"I overcame a lot of skepticism by talking topeople before the caucuses," said Bussgang, whoadded the caucus gave him the chance to apply "thetools that I've picked up here over the past threeyears.