State senate candidate Kristin Alfheim explains her platform. Photo by Adam Fleischer.
LU Dems, Lawrence’s chapter of the College Democrats of Wisconsin, has been working throughout Fall term to meet with candidates and organizers, educate Lawrence students about voting and boost civic engagement in the Appleton community. They aim to help Democratic candidates win seats in Wisconsin in the midterm elections on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
The midterm elections will determine the winners of several important seats. Incumbent Governor Tony Evers (D-Wis.) will face Republican challenger Tim Michels, while Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes (D-Wis.) is attempting to defeat incumbent U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
The LU Dems are also supporting Sara Rodriguez for lieutenant governor, Aaron Richardson for state treasurer, Lee Snodgrass for re-election to the State Assembly and Appleton Alderperson Kristin Alfheim for State Senate. They also hope to aid Wisconsin’s Attorney General Josh Kaul (D-Wis.) and Secretary of State Doug LaFollette (D-Wis.) in their reelection campaigns.
Furthermore, the LU Dems encourage voters to support the advisory referendums on the decriminalization of marijuana and the right to clean water.
The LU Dems’ main strategies for voter education are phone banking and canvassing. Most of their events are organized through the Democratic Party of Outagamie County.
Every Wednesday, they host a two-hour phone banking session, where students call Appleton residents and talk to them about voter registration, current candidates and important issues on this year’s ballot. The LU Dems’ outreach coordinator, sophomore Sam Brewer, frequently leads small groups of students on canvassing trips around Appleton neighborhoods to talk with potential voters.
The LU Dems also held tabling events outside Andrew Commons on Tuesday, Oct. 25 and Wednesday, Oct. 26, where they handed out voter registration info, campaign brochures and political swag.
Junior Tucker Hall-Klingensmith, the president of LU Dems, stated that he wants to turn political activism into an extracurricular activity for Lawrence students. He said that organizing the events has been a new experience because the COVID-19 pandemic limited the LU Dems’ ability to work with campaigns and political organizations during the 2020 elections.
Hall-Klingensmith encouraged Lawrence students to register to vote in the Appleton district rather than their home districts because the races for statewide elected offices are very competitive.
“We might not be at the center of media coverage about flipping political offices, but the margins in the 2018 and 2020 elections in this state were so narrow that it’s incredibly important that we support Democratic candidates here,” said Hall-Klingensmith. “This is a situation where literally every vote counts.”
He also thinks it’s important for Lawrence students to have their voices heard in Wisconsin elections, regardless of whether they are originally from Wisconsin.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve been here for one term or thirteen; you are a resident of Appleton and you live in the community. You drink the water, you breathe the air, you interact with people who live off campus,” said Hall-Klingensmith.
Sophomore Spencer Brown, who serves as the LU Dems’ social chair, comes from a predominantly Democratic district in Dallas, Tex. They have registered to vote in Wisconsin because they feel that their vote will be more influential in a swing district.
LU Dems member Louisa Olsen, a sophomore, praised the LU Dems for making it easy for students to get involved in the democratic process and said that she enjoys working with a group of supportive, helpful people who care about the same issues.
She pointed out that Democratic victories in the midterm elections are essential to ensure that Democrats do not lose ground, especially considering the Democrats’ fragile majority in the U.S. Senate.
“I would love to say we’re voting to make things better, but at this point, it’s also about making sure things don’t get worse,” said Olsen.
For the past several weeks, the LU Dems have also invited candidates to speak at their weekly meetings, allowing students to ask questions and hear the candidates explain their policies in their own words.
Alfheim spoke with the LU Dems on Wednesday, Oct. 12 about her plan to win the open State Senate seat. While she acknowledged that the district generally leans towards Republican candidates, she said that the position’s vacancy and the overturning of Roe v. Wade has opened the door for a Democratic victory.
Alfheim said that her campaign focuses on issues that benefit constituents of all political affiliations, such as safe drinking water, clean air and high-quality public education. She hopes to foster bipartisan cooperation and urged Republican legislators to vote for rational solutions rather than blindly following party lines.
“The best thing I can do is begin with a civilized conversation, talk about what we have in common and start creating those relationships, because one person flipping a seat in Madison is not going to change the world,” said Alfheim.
On Wednesday, Oct. 5, LU Dems met with Snodgrass, who spoke about the policies she wants to implement if she is reelected. She said that her campaign aims to fight regressive policies and support society’s collective well-being.
“I will never understand why someone would not want to make sure their neighbor is doing okay. The focus on self and one’s own well-being exclusively is so limiting,” said Snodgrass. “A rising tide lifts all boats. Investing in the community as a whole has positive implications for everyone.”
While she admitted that the extent of her influence will depend upon the results of statewide elections, her main goals include overturning the 1849 ban on abortions in Wisconsin, passing the Equality Act and expanding solutions for affordable housing and childcare. She also plans to expand her pollinator and voter education bills.
She stated that she values cross-generational leadership and wants to see more young people run for office in the future.
“Students and young people are the most significant voting bloc, and with good reason,” said Snodgrass. “I am voting on bills that will impact young people long after I am gone. It is so important to organize around candidates who will not only listen but implement the ideas of the next generation, since they are the ones who will be carrying out these ideas.”