In recent weeks, mayoral candidate Dan Drew and Mayor Sebastian Giuliano have been doing their best to spread local electoral fervor throughout greater Middletown. Now, however, their student supporters are doing their best to bring that fervor to campus. On October 6, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) will sponsor a student-moderated debate between the two candidates, co-sponsored by the Center for Community Partnerships, Psi Upsilon Fraternity, Wesleying, The Middletown Eye, and The Safe and Friendly Neighborhood.
“As far as I know, we’ve never done this before,” said WSA President Mike Pernick ’10. “It definitely hasn’t happened in recent history.”
The debate will give students a unique opportunity to observe both candidates’ political agendas and goals for the future of the Middletown community.
“Wesleyan could easily change the outcome of the election,” Pernick said. “The last mayoral election was determined by two-hundred votes.”
The Wesleyan Democrats (WesDems) endorsed the Democrat Drew, and the College Republicans (CollegeReps) are considering endorsing the incumbent Republican Giuliano. Bradley Spahn ’11, a member of WesDems, worked closely with Dan Drew and began generating on-campus support for the democratic challenger during Orientation week.
“WesDems is backing Drew’s campaign,” Spahn said. “In two days, we’ve signed up over 100 new freshman to vote in Conn. We’re generating a lot of excitement for Drew’s campaign.”
According to Spahn, the efforts of WesDems led to increased voter turnout in the last two elections, from the 200s up to the 800s.
“This election is in Wesleyan’s district, and we can vote,” Spahn said. “Students are eager to come out and change the political landscape of our community. We will see a lot more students voting.”
In an effort to garner student support, Mayor Giuliano is visiting campus to speak with the WesReps this Sunday; the event will be open to the entire community.
CollegeReps President Alexander Levin ’12 and Vice-President Reed Sarney ’12 have attended several campaign meetings with Giuliano and other members of the City Council. Both are planning to support Giuliano in November. As a group, the CollegeReps are waiting to decide whether to officially support Giuliano as a student group until after his visit this weekend.
“We’ve talked about strategy, their plans, our plans,” Levin said. “Our first meeting was Sunday night, which is why we haven’t mobilized yet.”
If Giuliano is endorsed by the CollegeReps, Levin hopes to support the candidate by canvassing, phone banking, working in his campaign office, and appearing on local television shows with the Giuliano team. Levin, along with the WesDems, also plans to help with voter registration.
WesDems President Corinne Duffy ’11 also has big plans for student involvement in the election. The group began phone-banking this week, and, for the past three weekends, WesDems have organized canvassing in Middletown.
“We tell people about Dan’s policies and that we need new leadership in Middletown,” Duffy said. “We’re also pursuing intense voter registration on campus—canvassing dorms, sitting at tables in Usdan. We need to get Wesleyan students to turn out.”
Since the winner of this mayoral race will hold the position for two years, Spahn emphasized that many students will be here through Drew or Giuliano’s term of office.
“This is why it’s really important that we have our voice in Middletown,” Spahn said. “I think students are realizing that we live here and that what happens in the community matters, and we should have our say. If Wesleyan had been voting in the numbers they are now, we would still have a Democrat in the Mayor’s office in Middletown.”
Both the WesDems and the CollegeReps hope that next Tuesday’s debate will generate student interest in the election.
“I’m very glad that Wesleyan is engaging with the local community in the mayoral race,” Pernick said. “The outcome of the election will determine what the environment is like over the next two years.”