The Ohio University College Republicans and Democrats, OUCR and OUCD, are two of the campus's biggest student political organizations and are both planning ahead to increase political participation, both within their groups and among the student population.
Kailey Gentner (R) and Meah McCallister (D), the presidents of both organizations, plan on making changes to their respective groups while also expanding into new activities. Traditionally, both groups hold a strong and civil relationship with one another while also keeping a strong presence within their own political parties on campus and in the community.
The “Pizza and Politics” event is an annual event that both presidents are planning on bringing back, but both expressed interest in bringing up the possibility of a debate.
“I’m really hoping they'd be interested in doing a debate this year,” McCallister said. “I think it's fun to watch the presidential debates on a national level and then have the opportunity to see us.”
Gentner said she believes it is always beneficial to sit down with people from the other side of the aisle and maybe compromise on some of your beliefs while also having an active debate on important issues.
There was not a debate between the two organizations last year because both groups wanted to avoid it being too contentious because of the midterm elections.
Both organizations experienced great turnout at the Ohio University Student Involvement Fair and received interest from about 100 students each.
Like most student organizations, the political groups are expecting to see a small fraction of the students who expressed interest to actually remain with the group.
“One of our biggest goals this semester is recruiting members and retaining them through the year,” Gentner said. “This is not an election year and we won’t have a lot of fun campaign stuff to do.”
McCallister said they usually get that level of interest at the involvement fair but they generally see a drop in members after the first few meetings.
Some of Gentner’s plans for the OUCRs this year try and include visits from politicians, such as State Representatives Bill Johnson and Jay Edwards, U.S. Representative Steve Stivers and other politicians whose campaigns they help support.
She said she is also interested in opening up group meetings to discussion and analysis of legislation passed at all levels of government to prompt debate and conversation within the group.
Along with those plans, the OUCRs are planning their annual trip to the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, in February, finding philanthropic ways to give back to the community and are participating in parades throughout the year in support of local candidates like Edwards.
The OUCDs and McCallister have a similar approach to their year, but have the added dynamic of having candidates on November’s general election ballot for the city of Athens.
No Republican candidates filed to run against incumbent Athens Mayor Steve Patterson (D), but he is being challenged by Damon Krane, an independent candidate. Republicans are also absent from the city council races.
McCallister said they don’t endorse candidates before the primary, but they generally endorse the Democratic candidate. They are planning on inviting politicians like Patterson and members of the Athens County Democratic Party to speak at their meetings.
“We have a great working relationship with Mayor Patterson and we have also reached out to city council candidate Beth Clodfelter to meet with us,” McCallister said.
The OUCDs also want to try and use the time afforded to the group to reach out to the community more and get people involved in local activism. One way she wants to expand their community involvement is reaching out to My Sister’s Place, an Athens-based charity, to raise money for it.
The OUCDs are also looking to update the ways in which they encourage OU students to register to vote. The group is looking into methods of registering students online and other ways of making registering to vote easier.
“The way you go about it is super important. We try to find the most appealing way to get people’s attention without breaking laws,” McCallister said. “We sometimes stand at the top of Baker and bring dogs to attract people’s attention.”
Neither group is particularly focused on the 2020 presidential election but they do expect to have many internal conversations about the candidates and ways they can contribute to the campaigns over the next year.