Students Volunteer For GOP Hopefuls

With the Republican primaries still in a dead heat, the Harvard Republican Club has shied away from making an endorsement and has instead maintained a liason structure that helps members contribute to various Republican campaigns.

“We don’t endorse anyone in the primaries, but we are willing to provide our members the opportunity to work with candidates of their choice,” said Derek J. Bekebrede ’13, HRC president.

The HRC adopted a system of liaisons in the fall to organize students interested in becoming involved in each of the candidate’s campaigns. The system—modeled after the HRC’s work in the 2008 primary season—allows students to lead and organize political campaign work for several candidates.

“Members have engaged in activities ranging from phone-banking to door-to-door campaign [in order to] get out the vote and amass support for their respective candidate,” said HRC Romney liaison Aditi Ghai ’14, who has worked in both the New Hampshire and Boston offices while volunteering for Romney’s campaign.

In addition to directing outreach and student activism, the HRC has brought the Ron Paul campaign to speak on campus and organized trips to New Hampshire for students involved in the Romney campaign.

“Volunteering on political campaigns has been fantastic,” said Rajiv Tarigopula ’14, who is HRC Vice President for Speakers and Political Discourse and also a Crimson editorial editor. “From my first experience working with the McCain 2008 campaign in high school, getting involved in the more hands-on elements of democracy has been incredibly fulfilling.”

While many of the HRC’s liaison groups have successfully campaigned in the Northeast, others have had a difficult time getting involved, particularly in Massachusetts.

“It’s been a rough primary, where a lot of campaigns are focusing resources on the next primary,” Santorum liaison Matthew R. Menendez ’14 said. “For example, the Rick Santorum campaign was quite focused on South Carolina, so there hasn’t been that much here.”

Lack of local partisan activity for some liaison groups has caused them to shift their focus to fostering dialogue on campus and participating in issue-based campaigning, such as the March for Life event in Washington, D.C.

Along with the presidential primaries, the HRC is following U.S Senator Scott Brown’s reelection bid.

“There might be fewer conservatives up here,” Bekebrede said, “but Republicans found good candidates and a good way to challenge the liberal majority.”

Members of the group said that conservative’s status as a minority on campus give them opportunities for activism.

“It opens more opportunities,” Menendez said. “It may a little more difficult doing all the work, but it’s not difficult to find work—the opposite of what you see in some of the more liberal causes, where you see a proliferation of groups fighting for the exact same cause.”

Later in February the HRC will attend the Conservative Political Action Conference to meet the presidential candidates.

“There’s more of us than you think,” Menendez said. “It’s really exciting now, but there’s always work to do.”

—Staff writer David Song can be reached at davidsong@college.harvard.edu.

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