Harvard students from across the country pitched in to campaign in Georgia ahead of Tuesday's contentious Senate runoff elections.
Energized by the stakes of the runoff, many of those students — who largely skew Democratic — became involved since November, phone and text banking for candidates and increasing volunteer recruitment.
If challengers T. Jonathan “Jon” Ossoff and Raphael G. Warnock defeat incumbent Senators David A. Perdue Jr. (R-Ga.) and Kelly L. Loeffler (R-Ga.), Democrats will clinch control of the Senate. Polls indicate close contests in both races.
Menat N. Bahnasy ’22, the former president of the Harvard College Democrats, said the club organized multiple phone and text bank sessions for Harvard students to encourage students to get involved even if they are not based in Georgia.
Bahnasy also said she works as a fellow on the Democratic Party's campaigns in the state, handling volunteer recruitment, alongside other Harvard students.
“I actually don’t think any of us are from Georgia,” Bahnasy said. “That speaks a lot to how excited people are and how important this runoff is for a lot of people.”
For other Harvard students, the races hit closer to home.
Amen H. Gashaw ’24, an Atlanta resident who works for the coordinated Democratic campaign, said Georgia residents can keenly feel the effects of efforts to turn out the vote in the state.
“Every single advertisement on every video or every ad break on television is a campaign related one,” Gashaw said. “We’re definitely seeing campaigns really ramp up their programming and their efforts.”
The races are the most expensive in Senate history, according to OpenSecrets.
Jessica M. Moore ’21, a resident of Henry County, Ga. and another volunteer for the Democratic coordinated campaign, questioned the efficacy of the influx of advertisements, though. In her interactions with voters, Moore said most people have made up their minds on whom they will support, and there are few people left to persuade.
Moore also said working for the campaigns has helped her connect with her home in a new way.
“I feel closer to my county now, and I feel like I understand the people in my county a lot more after this experience,” Moore said. “And it’s just interesting to see what people’s values are, the things that they’re worried about.”
Though Gashaw has a clear preference for the election outcome, she is hopeful for the country’s future regardless of Tuesday's results.
“Overall, I do think that while there might be some tension and there certainly is a lot of urgency, I think there’s optimism on both sides,” Gashaw said. “I’m hoping that regardless of the results, we’ll be able to move into this next season and learn to work together.”
—Staff writer Alexandra N. Wilson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @alex_wilson2023.