Although a recent WBUR poll has shown Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley leading the polls against her Republican opponent Charlie Baker, Democratic candidate Juliette Kayyem won the plurality of votes in a student straw poll at Smith College in Northampton.
The two-day College Democrats of Massachusetts convention took place between April 5 and 6 and hosted more than 150 students from Massachusetts universities and colleges. Kayyem received 39.5 percent of the students’ votes, according to a press release on April 6.
“Juliette has been traveling throughout the Commonwealth talking about bold innovative ideas to continue pushing Massachusetts forward,” said Matthew Patton, Kayyem’s communications director, in a Friday email. “From investing in clean tech through a GreenBank to reforming the criminal justice system to providing education for every child from birth to career. These ideas combined with the strongest grassroots movement in this race are driving the campaign.”
Recent reports have indicated that Kayyem is not the leading candidate among all Massachusetts voting demographics. WBUR reported Wednesday that Coakley is currently ahead of Baker by 29 points. In the poll, conducted by the Western New England University Polling Institute, 54 percent of participating voters indicated they would vote for Coakley, while 25 percent said they were leaning toward Baker.
Steve Grossman directly trailed Kayyem in votes, receiving 21.7 percent, and Don Berwick came in third with 20.9 percent. Joe Avellone received no votes, leaving him in last place behind the write-in ballots.
“This College Democrats straw poll indicates the diverse feelings of our constituency about the emerging Democratic field,” said CDM President Will Poff-Webster in the press release. “This convention represents an opportunity for college students to ask candidates about the issues we care about.”
Throughout her campaign, Kayyem has prioritized cultivating education, developing the economy, protecting the environment and improving healthcare. She has advocated for the rights of women, referring to them on her website as “the cornerstone of our Commonwealth.”
The results of this straw poll come as no surprise to Boston University College Democrats Communications Director Alexandra Blankman, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, who said she believed Kayyem is making an effort to connect with students.
“I have seen her speak recently, and it seems that she is making a concerted effort to appeal to younger voters,” she said. “Her effort is largely reflected in her conduct and attitude and less in her policies. She is looking to be the fresh face in a campaign of many veterans. Combine this with her experience on the national level, and it makes perfect sense why many college age students voted for her at the CDM convention.”
Several students in the Boston area said their idea of an ideal candidate might not be the same as those of working adults or other voting populations.
“I’m looking for a governor who has an optimistic view of the future and shows qualities of strong leadership that will help Massachusetts achieve its goals,” said Charlotte Miller, a sophomore in BU’s College of General Studies. “I’m looking for an ambitious, strong, optimistic leader.”
Kayla Imperatore, a health science student in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University, said Kayyem’s attention to certain issues has stood out to many students.
“I’m interested in a candidate who is a good leader, someone who can relate to a diverse group of people and be open-minded to the fact that there are other groups besides the general population,” she said. “That person should focus on healthcare and spending, but also on making sure that the minorities are given equal attention.”
Hope Kashatus, an international relations student in BU’s College of Arts and Sciences, said the importance of incorporating the younger generation into the campaign as each candidate discusses the issues at hand.
“The candidates should work on communication and activation of the youth vote,” she said “I would vote for a candidate who advocates for improving education and creating greater lines of communication for its constituencies.”