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BU students find valuable experiences on Democratic, Republican gubernatorial campaign trails

With the wide array of clubs and activities available to students at Boston University, it’s rare to find a student who’s not involved in some kind of extracurricular. But when it comes to political involvement, the younger generation has notoriously fallen short in comparison to the older crowds. In the 2010 Massachusetts midterm elections, the voter turnout rate for those aged 18 to 29 was only 25.5 percent, while the voter turnout rate for those aged 30 and above was 59.1 percent, more than double that of younger voters, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

Yet some students at Boston University not only went out to vote, but also worked on the campaign trails. From making phone calls to organizing campaign events, these students became an instrumental part of the campaign process and hope their actions will inspire others to play an active role in the political sphere.


BU sophomore Riley Driscoll identifies with Coakley’s fight for her beliefs 

Riley Driscoll, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, became an intern for Democratic candidate Martha Coakley’s campaign for governor because Coakley reminded her of her family — of Driscoll’s grandfather, to be exact — who served as the

Riley Driscoll (left), a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, collects signatures for the Martha Coakley campaign for governor with volunteer Jessica Richards. PHOTO COURTESY OF RILEY DRISCOLL
Riley Driscoll (left), a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, collects signatures for the Martha Coakley campaign for governor with volunteer Jessica Richards. PHOTO COURTESY OF RILEY DRISCOLL

governor of Arkansas after former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

“One time, he [my grandfather] took me on a drive through Arkansas, and he gave me this really inspiring, off-the-cuff speech about why he got involved in politics,” she said.

When deciding whether or not to get involved in Coakley’s campaign, she realized that she saw several similarities between what her grandfather stood for and the kind of campaign Coakley was running.

“I knew she was in politics for deeper reasons,” Driscoll said. “I wanted someone who is going to stick to their convictions and fight for what I believe in.”

Driscoll started working for the Coakley campaign in January, when there were only 18 interns and less than 50 people involved in the campaign overall. Because of the small staff, she got to try out a little of everything, from making phone calls to organizing community leaders in the Allston-Brighton area.

“I got a lot of responsibility at first, which was stressful but also amazing,” she said. “Having that trust put in me and letting me talk to a bunch of different people. It was a lot of fun, and it definitely helped me grow.”

Originally from California, Driscoll said it was interesting to see the different divisions in the Massachusetts Democratic Party compared to the Golden State. People often see the Commonwealth as very Democratic, she said, even though the majority of Massachusetts’ governors over the past 20 years have been Republican.

“People always think Massachusetts is going to be liberal, but nope,” she said.

Before current Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, the last Democratic governor was Michael Dukakis, who served from 1983 to 1991. Driscoll said many of the ideals Coakley developed during her time as attorney general resonated with her and encouraged her to join the campaign.

“The things that Martha’s done as attorney general…are representative of me and what I wanted living here for my college experience,” she said. “She’s representing so many people — the working class, women, mental health rights — and that’s someone I want to be my governor while I’m here.”

Although the transitory and apathetic nature of college students tends to keep them away from the polls, Driscoll said both Coakley and Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker have elements in their platform that are applicable to students, such as plans about college affordability and job market growth.

“A lot of my friends aren’t registered to vote,” she said. “People don’t realize the effect that local politics can have on us [as students]…Everyone gets their voice heard and everyone benefits much more [on a local level] than on a national level.”

Driscoll said she has plans to go to law school after BU, but is looking to stay involved with politics as well.

“There are a lot of exciting things happening,” she said, citing the upcoming 2016 presidential election. “With Martha’s history and what she’s bringing to the table, it’s an exciting time to be involved.”


BU senior Elena Hernandez sees Baker as best for Massachusetts

Elena Hernandez, a senior in CAS, comes from a family of journalists. Her parents both used to work at a local news station in her New Jersey hometown, and current events and politics have always been “front and center” in her life.

Elena Hernandez, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been working on Charlie Baker's campaign for governor of Massachusetts. PHOTO COURTESY OF ELENA HERNANDEZ
Elena Hernandez, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been working on Charlie Baker’s campaign for governor of Massachusetts. PHOTO COURTESY OF ELENA HERNANDEZ

“I’m used to hearing it at the dinner table,” she said.

So perhaps it’s not a surprise that Hernandez ended up majoring in political science and interning for Baker’s campaign for governor. Hernandez said she identifies herself as a Republican, but a moderate one.

“Massachusetts is a blue state, but the majority of governors have been Republican,” she said. “So there’s definitely a part of the electorate that wants a two-party system, that don’t just want Democratic control over everything.”

Drawn in by the momentum surrounding this year’s gubernatorial election, Hernandez said Baker emerged as the candidate best able to solve problems concerning the people of Massachusetts, such as job creation.

“Things like that [job market growth], Charlie Baker can really improve upon and really grow,” she said. “These are issues that really matter to residents in Massachusetts, things that they want to see really turn around. This election can change a lot in Massachusetts.”

Like Driscoll, Hernandez had a hand in many tasks involved with running a campaign, including volunteer outreach, finance and event organization.

“Working on a campaign, you definitely get a very general mix of experiences,” she said. “You get thrown into whatever they need you in the most, and that’s part of the fun of it… It’s always different whenever you show up.”

One of the highlights of working on the Baker campaign, Hernandez said, was participating in a “stand out event” at the final debate before the election on Oct. 28 at the WCVB-TV studios in Needham.

“Everyone was holding signs, trying to get cars driving by to honk,” she said. “There was a whole group of people there. I knew most people there, and I knew they had all dedicated the time to the campaign. It was really great to see such a big outcome.”

In her time at BU, Hernandez said she has really become more involved in the Massachusetts political scene and, like Driscoll, noted her excitement at the possibility of becoming involved in the 2016 presidential race.

“People are really interested and care a lot in Massachusetts,” she said.

Although Hernandez has long had a vested interest in politics, she recommended the experience of working on a campaign to all students, regardless of major.

“Working on a campaign is one of the most fun things a college student can do,” she said. “You learn so much about the issues and meet a bunch of really awesome people along the way. You get to be part of a thing you really believe in.”

And ultimately, she said, the young people involved in the political scene now will be the ones to set the tone for the political landscape of the future.

“Our generation is really going to change the Republican Party,” Hernandez said. “A lot of young people should get more involved.”

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