A record number of Republican students cast their votes last night to elect the new leadership of the Harvard Republican Club (HRC) at the end of what was an unusually competitive campaign.
Matthew P. Downer, a sophomore with no previous experience on the HRC executive board, won the presidential election over Lauren K. Truesdell ’06 and James P. M. Paquette ’06 after a close race that led to a run-off ballot between Truesdell and Downer.
Zachary B. Singer ’06, who campaigned jointly with Truesdell, was elected vice president of the club over Anne M. Lewis ’07.
During the two-hour election, the candidates took turns giving four-minute speeches and then answered questions from club members.
“We have to focus on the ideas that bring us together to make an inclusive and dynamic club,” Downer told the audience in his speech.
The 339 “dues paid members” who qualified to vote in this election marked a 250 percent increase from the previous year, according to outgoing President Mark T. Silvestri ’05. A total of 203 students, including absentee voters, was the “highest ever” turnout for the club, according to Justin R. Chapa ’05, a member of the election commission.
“It’s the highest competition we’ve had in years,...They’re all popular and have broad support,” Silvestri said.
The campaign became especially heated with the use of websites set up by the candidates.
Truesdell’s website included a section titled “Candidate Comparisons,” a table juxtaposing the experiences of the different candidates. The table labeled Downer as “Seeking Too Much Too Soon,” alleging his lack of experience with the HRC, and Paquette as “Missing in Action,” alleging his many absences at HRC meetings and events.
“Lauren has ideas for the club and wants these ideas badly, and it seems like she’s lost sight of what the election’s really is about,” Paquette said.
When she was accused of negative campaigning in a question session following her speech, Truesdell—who is currently the club’s secretary and spokeswoman—defended her campaign, saying the website consisted of “just facts.”
“I don’t think it’s a negative campaign, it’s a factual campaign,” Truesdell said. “They’re facts I’ve laid out for the voters for them to make an informed decision.”
Downer, who was the only candidate without a website, said he mainly campaigned door-to-door, talking to the registered members of the club. “Nothing replaces face-to-face interaction,” he said.
Downer said in his campaign that as president, he would “reach out to freshmen in a different way to build a vibrant community for Republicans,” recruiting and creating a freshmen caucus.
He said he will make the HRC “user-friendly” in order to retain the membership, revitalizing the committee structure to get members more involved.
And he said he looks forward to his term as president.
“We’re going to have a great year, and I’m excited about it,” Downer said.