While college students might not be their primary demographic, Republican candidates seeking Secretary of State John Kerry’s former senate seat might impress them anyway.
A number of Boston University students said party affiliations do not matter when they are choosing who to vote. And with all three Republican hopefuls saying they support the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, students said they were impressed by the candidates’ social leanings.
“I’m generally not a single-issue voter, so I think that being pro-choice and wanting to repeal DOMA are good positions to move forward on,” said College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education senior Caitlin McGuire. “But I would have to look at the other candidates and see what their positions were on different issues, foreign policy, how they feel about different social issues before I would make a choice.”
Republican candidates Gabriel Gomez and Michael Sullivan said they agreed with their party’s pro-life platform, but Dan Winslow said he supported a right to choose.
“I’m pro-choice, … but for me it’s a very personal decision, and for that reason consistent with my view of a limited role of government,” Winslow said during the debate Wednesday. “The decision to have that procedure is a question for a person’s conscience, her faith and her family, and those are three areas into which the government has no business being.”
CAS senior Kerry Aszklar said the special election candidates might represent a shift in Republican attitudes as a whole.
“I definitely think that this demonstrates that the party has changed their stance on a lot of issues to maintain their power, or play through equal footing as a party within the U.S.,” she said. “I think that this demonstrates that the tide within the American population is shifting more toward liberal attitudes. Their adjusting their stance reflects a changing attitude toward social issues.”
Polls show Democrat Ed Markey as the front-runner for the election, but on the GOP side Sullivan has pulled ahead by a significant margin, according to a poll by Real Clear Politics.
“I think it’s a big step,” said Suzanne Gallanter, a Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences sophomore. “It’s great that their views can change over time depending on how things are going. Hopefully there can be more room for change.”
And while students such as Gallanter said they were impressed that Massachusetts Republicans were straying from their socially conservative party platforms, not all think it will swing the entire election.
“I’m pretty surprised [that all three candidates support the repeal of DOMA] but at the same time not, because this is Massachusetts,” said Douglas Johnson, a graduate student in the Metropolitan College. “Massachusetts Republicans are usually more liberal than those in other states.”
Aszklar said while she was impressed with the attitude of the Republican candidates, she needs more than support of same-sex marriage and women’s rights.
“Because I am a university undergraduate student, I would also be looking for a candidate who can focus more on a younger crowd,” she said. “So making tuition for universities not sky-high is something that should be addressed by the candidate I would vote for.”
Gabrielle Newton, Elyssa Sternberg, Morley Quatroche and Sam Dutra contributed to the reporting of this article.
CORRECTION: In the original version of the story, Caitlin McGuire was quoted as saying she was a single-issue voted. She said she is “not a single issue voter.” The story has been updated to reflect these changes.