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College Democrats discuss Arizona as 'battleground' state during winter meeting

Leadership of the College Democrats of America emphasized voter registration and grassroots campaigning

Mayor Kate Gallego

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego greets student organizers before speaking at the College Democrats of America's national conference on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, outside Neeb Hall on the Tempe campus.

The message this weekend was about empowering eligible voters through grassroots campaigning and voter registration at the College Democrats of America's winter meeting, hosted this year at ASU. 

Students from chapters of CDA across the country came to Tempe to hear speakers from Arizona's government, ranging from city mayors to a U.S. Representative. 

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs spoke to the students about Arizona's importance in upcoming local and federal elections as a "battleground" state. 

Speakers such as Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said that Democrats feel they are making progress in the state due to the efforts of the college groups.

"Because of a lot of the work of the Young Dems and College Dems, we are changing the state," Gallego said. "Thank you to ASU for turning out the vote." 

In Arizona, the Democrats have closed the gap on the Republican margin of victory, with the 2012 Republican nominee for president receiving a 10.1% margin of victory over the Democratic nominee compared to 3.5% in 2016. This suggests that Arizona may be a state that could be flipped in the next election. 

Emma Galligan, a member of the Young Democrats at ASU and a sophomore studying political science and justice studies, said she was very encouraged by this weekend's events. 

"I feel really energized in 2020," Galligan said. "You get surrounded by people who have the same goal as you from all across the country ... and it sort (of) reenergizes you — to canvass, phone bank, text bank, whatever it takes."

Another theme from speakers this weekend was combating apathy among young voters. 

State Sen. Tony Navarrete (D-Phoenix) said that speaking to community leaders was key in getting people involved. 

"I'm a big believer that we support and invest in leaders from those communities, because they live with their community, they suffer with their community," Navarrete said. 

Many of the speakers made a point of encouraging voter registration as well. Navarrete said that registering voters is key to winning elections. 

"I knew we had to register voters to vote," Navarrete said. "When I first ran, we registered 200 people to vote. In the next election, we registered over 800."

Hobbs also talked about the importance of voter registration, and conversely used examples to suggest Republicans are looking to suppress the vote, referencing Stacey Abrams and the Georgia gubernatorial race as an example.

"The Republican candidate used his position of power as the secretary of state to suppress voters," Hobbs said. "Were it not for that, Stacy Abrams would have won." 

Hobbs then referenced voting laws proposed by Republicans that would reduce the pool of eligible young voters in the state.

"They don't want you to vote," Hobbs said.

Several of the speakers at the events mentioned immigration and Arizona's legislative history on this topic as something that drove them to be serious about politics. 

State Rep. Athena Salman (D-Tempe) referenced the 2010 legislation Senate Bill 1070 as a motivating factor.

"Growing up in the state of Arizona, it’s not the friendliest state to grow up in for an immigrant," Salman said. 

Salman went on to comment on the pessimism of some voters in the prospects of a woman being able to win the presidency. 

"It is a basic level of sexism to say that we shouldn’t vote for a female representative because a girl can’t win the presidency," Salman said.

Galligan said that ASU hosting the CDA meeting this weekend emphasized the state's importance in the 2020 election. 

"Arizona is a battleground state," Galligan said. "The fact that College Democrats of America chose Arizona for the 2020 winter convention really says how crucial Arizona is in the grand scheme of this election."

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