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Harvard students reacted with both joy and disappointment to a string of Democratic victories in New Jersey and Virginia after elections on Tuesday.
In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy ’79 defeated Republican Kim Guadagno in the state's gubernatorial election. Democrats also won the Virginia governor’s race and, as of Thursday, have flipped 15 State House seats in elections that have been called, giving them a potential path to a narrow majority in 2018.
Students supporting Democratic candidates expressed “excitement” and relief at the election outcomes. Sharon Yang '18, President of the Harvard College Democrats, hoped that Democratic victories on Tuesday represented a larger “grassroots” effort across the country.
“There’s a lot of energy among Democrats and progressives, and I’m really hopeful that the energy will be carried forward… [and] that we’re building a movement that’s outlasting any reactionary ties to Donald Trump alone,” Yang said.
Devontae A. Freeland ’19, a member of the Harvard Democrats member, adding that he saw an increase in student involvement in the elections this year.
“I was really excited by the level of energy we saw from people on the campus — not just people who were active and regular members of the Dems, but people who really hadn't come before but were excited about doing something to make a difference,” Freeland said.
Democrats on campus volunteered in multiple campaigns across the country. Yang, an inactive Crimson editor, estimated her organization made 10,000 calls to prospective voters during phone banks.
“It was a pretty large landslide victory, which was really good to see,” phone bank volunteer Alexander S. Koenig ’21 said, “Turning one big seat is something that Democrats are relatively good at, but turning down-ballot elections and local elections is often harder.”
Republican students expressed a variety of views on what contributed to Democratic victories Tuesday.
Kent K. Haeffner ’18, President of the Harvard Republican Club, said he believes these losses partly stemmed from the failure of a Republican-majority Congress to act on recent legislative initiatives, including tax reform and healthcare.
“It’s a little difficult for Republicans to be excited about things, considering that Republican voters turned out very reliably in 2016 to elect a Republican Congress and a Republican President, and yet they’re seeing very little of what they want,” Haeffner said.
Undergraduate Council Vice President Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18, a Republican Club member who organized with Florida Senator Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, attributed Republican losses to rhetoric from President Donald Trump’s campaign and his departure from traditional conservative ideology.
“These election results show that we can't rely on this kind of vitriolic derision that the President used. We have to be able to point to concrete steps that we're taking,” Khansarinia said.
“For me and for many of us, for a long time we have understood that Trump is poisonous to the brand 0f the conservative movement, because he’s not a Republican conservative,” Khansarinia added. “So when you hand over your party to someone who doesn't have the ideology or beliefs or the values that you do, this is bound to happen.”
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