By Wyatt Porter, Staff Writer
As the nation moves into a heated election season, UMF’s College Republicans start the year with strong forward momentum.
The UMF College Republicans are starting the year with a large number of members, a healthy budget, and a lot of energy helping them to relay their message.
“One person doesn’t stand out more than another,” said Treasurer of the UMF College Republicans Tyler Washburn, who has previously served as state committee man for Sagadahoc County and president of the College Republicans at The University of Maine at Orono (UMO). He expressed excitement for the group’s direction due to its strong leadership.
Washburn said the President of College Republicans, junior Traci Norwood can be credited with much of the momentum. “Traci has done a phenomenal job as president,” said Washburn.
This is a seemingly strange occurrence because UMF is a mostly liberal college. “Young people are less likely to have a firm party ID, but I think liberal students outnumber conservative students here and Democrats outnumber Republicans, by a good margin in both cases,” said Political Science professor Dr. Jim Melcher in an email interview.
For Washburn, the reason behind the high number of members is no mystery. “When you leave school with a mountain of debt, you want to have a job, and for the last four years we have seen record levels of unemployment,” he stated. The current president’s job performance, in Washburn’s opinion, is drawing students to the opposing party.
For other students the reason behind higher enrollment numbers in the College Republicans is less political. “I feel like the UMF campus has a relatively progressive air about it, and so for Republicans on campus, there is a natural inclination to really stick together, and for them, it’s not as easy,” said Robert Robillard, political science major and president of UMF’s College Democrats. “I think that has pushed them to be more energized. On the Democratic side, there is an assumption that this is the way a lot of students feel.”
Robilliards view was reinforced by Dr. Melcher. “The College Republicans also benefit from the strength of past members…” Dr. Melcher added. He mentioned such Members as State Representative Lance Harvell.
Along with smaller membership numbers results a smaller budget. The College Democrats were appropriated $465 this semester by the student senate’s budget committee. The College Republicans were appropriated $2011.50. The funds come from the $65 student activity fee that all students pay as part of their tuition.
“They presented the budget in its entirety to the annual budget committee, and [the committee] decided that the amount was appropriate,” said Officer of Club Affairs and former member of the senate’s Financial Affairs Committee, John Ochira.
The higher budget is not unusual. “The budgeting process that the student senate has is really driven by the energy coming from the club and the arguments that they can make,” said Robilliard, who formerly sat on the budgeting committee.
Despite lower enrollment and monetary numbers, Robilliard has a positive outlook on the club for this semester. “The College Democrats this year will do a lot more fundraising,” said Robilliard. “We really do focus on our own fundraising events, and it drives us to be more active on campus.”
Despite the differences of the two parties, the representatives from both groups stressed the importance of getting involved in politics. “It’s important for students to be involved because college, for a lot of people, is really the first experience to be highly involved with campaigns and the issues,” said Robilliard, “It’s part of finding a voice, and part of finding what you believe in.”
“We need to be involved citizens who need to work for what they believe in,” said Washburn. “Sometimes it’s not easy; Trust me first hand, it’s not easy, but right now the stakes are too high for us to not be involved.”