AU Republicans, Democrats differ in campaign strategy
Augustana Democrats have campaigned for races up and down the ballot this election season while Augustana Republicans, divided by presidential candidate Donald Trump, have shifted much of their focus away from the presidential election.
Faced with campaigning in a predominantly Republican state, Augustana Democrats endorsed the campaigns of South Dakota House Representative Paula Hawks for U.S. House of Representatives, former Yankton School Board member Jay Williams for U.S. Senate and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton early in the election.
“We’ve done general support activities for both the federal and state elections, like inviting Chelsea Clinton to speak for Hillary Clinton and hosting Paula Hawks,” said Tori Remington, vice president of Augustana Democrats.
On the other hand, though Augustana Republicans endorsed the campaigns of South Dakota Senator John Thune and South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem, the group did not endorse Donald Trump.
“Since this is a hard election for Republicans, not all of us are on the same page,” said Cara Beck, Augustana Republican chairwoman. “There are many group members who are huge Trump supporters and others who don’t want to be affiliated with Donald Trump, and rightfully so. There are good reasons on both sides.”
Instead, Beck said, they’ve decided to avoid endorsing or denouncing Trump.
“We want to be encompassing to all people who have different opinions on Donald Trump, so we’ve decided just to not talk about it and to not, as a group, campaign for him.”
During fall break, several Augustana Democrats ventured to Des Moines, Iowa to canvass, which entails going door to door, reminding people to vote and handing out literature on the candidates and ballot initiatives.
For sophomore Augustana Democrats member Bailey Nelson, the canvassing helped, but the political territory was suffering from campaign exhaustion.
“I thought it was helpful,” she said. “Especially with absentee ballots, because voting isn’t the simplest thing to do. But in a place like Iowa, they have been having people call them and people come to their door a year before their caucus, so it was definitely not their first time hearing all of this.”
To show they do not wish to alienate members supporting Trump, the Augustana Republicans hosted Niel Tapio, the director of the South Dakota for Trump campaign, last month and allowed members to wave Trump campaign posters during the Vikings Day Parade.
As a whole, the Augustana Republicans also decided to focus on the campaigns of Jack Kolbeck, who is running for the state Senate, and Mark Mickelson and Sue Peterson, who are both running for the state House of Representatives.
“Cities and state legislatures are the foundations of democracy,” Beck said. “So it’s more important to focus on our district representatives, because they are the ones that we are actually in contact with.”
Junior Brock Morgan, a member of Augustana Republicans, said if he had more time he would campaign for Trump, because he “really hopes Trump pulls out and wins.”
Senior Dustin Dvorak, also a member of Augustana Republicans, said he’s disenchanted by the election and is ready for it to be over.
“It’s unfortunate that this presidential election isn’t one where we can all stand behind our candidate and rally for them, but one where we have to choose the lesser of two evils.”