Students gear up for the upcoming presidential election

Democrats and Republicans are registering people to vote and are canvassing around campus.

Students around campus, like Thomas Caffrey (above), show their political involvement by sporting merchandise. | ANNA STARBENZ FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

Although their Facebook feeds may reveal otherwise, the Temple College Republicans and Temple Democrats have a lot in common.

From last semester’s Bernie Sanders rally to the Democratic National Convention held at the Wells Fargo Center from July 25 to 28, to move-in week voter registration drives, students from both Republican and Democratic parties have been preparing for the 2016 presidential election for several months.

Austin Severns, a junior supply chain management major and chairman of the Temple Republicans, said the group has been “pretty dormant” this summer. However, he does not want the group’s inactivity to be misconstrued as apathy.

“We didn’t have the privilege of the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia,” he said.

Severns called Philadelphia a “guaranteed loss” in the presidential race and said the Temple Republicans are using this election season as an opportunity to focus primarily on Sen. Pat Toomey’s Pennsylvania reelection campaign.

“We don’t take it as an advantage,” said Thomas Caffrey, a junior strategic communications and political science major and president of the Temple Democrats on Philadelphia’s record as a “blue city.” “It’s more like inspiration.”

“It’s a blue city, but it has to help itself be a blue city,” Conor Freeley, sophomore political science major and events coordinator of the Temple Democrats, said. “A lot of people who would lean that way are not registered to vote or don’t know how to register to vote.”

Although Freeley said one of the Democrats’ biggest goals in Philadelphia is “getting people out to vote” by helping them register, Severns said it is more difficult to get students to register as Republicans.

Severns said the Temple Republicans are focusing their attention on getting as many local politicians as possible to speak on campus this semester. He said Jim Pio, a candidate for the state House of Representatives, will visit on Sept. 15.

The Temple Democrats have a similar strategy for generating interest this semester.

“We’re trying to get as many candidates, elected officials [and] people who work within the political world onto our campus to come and speak to us to get people excited for the election,” Caffrey said. Because it’s a presidential election, “people are paying attention, but there are other elections going on up and down the ballot from state representative to United States senator to the president.”

“We want to make students aware, but also get students involved,” Caffrey added.

Neither the Temple Democrats nor the Temple College Republicans have formally endorsed Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, respectively, but Caffrey and Severns both said their groups support their parties’ respective nominees.

“We are obligated to support [Trump] per the constitution of the Pennsylvania Federation of College Republicans,” Severns said, “but we’re not making any statement either way. If their campaign asks for help we will help, or give people that opportunity if they want to do it.”

The endorsement mostly focuses on offering members the opportunity to volunteer with the campaign.

“Our purpose as an organization is to support the Republican Party,” Severns said. “It’s just the assumed position.”

Caffrey added that although the Temple Democrats have not formally endorsed Clinton, the group informally supports her. He said the group was split almost evenly between Bernie Sanders and Clinton supporters during the primary elections, but now the group’s main focus is getting Democrats elected.

Caffrey said the Temple Democrats will attend an upcoming kick-off party at the new Hillary Clinton field office located at 1514 Cecil B. Moore Ave.

In addition to registering new voters and inviting political players to speak on campus, both political groups use strategies like canvassing, making phone calls, hosting on-campus debates and even hosting debate watch parties during the presidential primary debates last semester.

“Colleges are traditionally very politically active places and candidates know that,” Freeley said, “but sometimes they can be politically active more in theory than in practice.”

“We’re trying to take people who have their hearts in the right place and want to be politically active, or are politically active on social media, and bring them to the ballot and have them check the box they want to, whether that be Democratic or Republican,” he added.

Through meetings, events and volunteer efforts, political groups on campus aim to provide an outlet for students with an interest in politics as well as encourage other students to get involved.

Although Severns said his political views may be outnumbered on campus, he enjoys the chance to meet new people.

“If you go from sharing a NowThis video to being a voter, the next step is being a campaign volunteer,” Freeley said. “We’re just trying to be the bridge there.”

Erin Moran can be reached at

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