Racers for Bernie find a niche in the student body

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Story by Taylor InmanStaff writer

There is a long-running stereotype that the millennial generation does not care about politics, that they are not informed or care to be informed, but there is a change this year that has even affected the political student groups at Murray State.

Allison Prokop, president of Murray State’s College Democrats, said she finds it hard to get students interested.

“People aren’t politically minded. It wasn’t until I was president that I became interested in it myself,” Prokop said. “It’s hard to get them to engage because they don’t care.”

But there are students who have decided to take it upon themselves to support the presidential candidate of their choice. Racers for Bernie is a student organization that openly supports Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and operates in the same way the College Democrats and the College Republicans do.

“The party is split right now,” Prokop said. “We have a lot of people who like Bernie Sanders and a lot of people who like Hillary Clinton.”

Racers for Bernie founder Brandon Simpson said they were looking for a way to support Sanders that allowed people who normally were affiliated with other parties to join and help spread the word about his campaign.

Racers for Bernie has five officers and a Facebook group of 156 members that they look to for volunteers to aid in campaigning, Simpson said. 

“We’re going to start canvassing in Murray soon,” Simpson said. “We’re going to go door-to-door and ask them who they’re voting for and if they need a ride to the polls.”

Simpson said if Sanders doesn’t get the nomination, many of the young voters who support him would feel discouraged.

“A lot of newcomers probably wouldn’t vote. They’ve never been involved with the process before and they are disenchanted with it,” Simpson said. “They’ve felt like their vote wouldn’t count. This is the first time they feel like their vote would count.”

There have been student-run political organizations on campus for years, though in the past few years they have been small in numbers.

Savannah Futrell, president of the College Republicans, said the group gains new members when the presidential election comes around. She credits social media and recruiting at Summer Orientation for the group gaining members.

“We got 30 names added at Summer Orientation,” Futrell said. “I think social media has really helped us, too. We keep our Facebook and Twitter updated on the regular.”

The College Republicans have about 30 standing members and about 70 people on their email list, including both professors and students. The group meets twice a month and holds booths in the Curris Center to get information to students about the candidates running and the voting process.

Prokop said that it’s easier for the Republican Party to get interest in Murray. 

“The south is pretty red,” Prokop said. “They have an easier time making their presence known.”

The College Democrats have ten standing members and 45 people on their email list. The group meets once a week and, like the College Republicans, hold booths in the Curris Center to help educate students on the candidates and voting.

The College Democrats aren’t registered as a student organization. The Campus Student Involvement office said that the paperwork had been started, but the organization had never finished the official process.

Both groups get support from the Calloway County Democrats and Republicans, respectively. The College Democrats get their support from the Calloway County Democrats when they hold their annual Democratic Banquet on April 21. The College Republicans also work with local and state politicians. Futrell considers her group to be a recruiting tool.

“We are a recruiting tool for the Republican Party and for politically-involved students on campus,” Futrell said.

Futrell said that while she wants people to join her party, she understands not everyone holds the same values.

“The most important thing from our officers is to stay informed and educated,” Futrell said. “We want everyone to be as informed as possible, even if they don’t support the Republican candidate.”

Both Prokop and Futrell said whoever gets their party’s nomination will have the party’s best interest at heart, and they are ready to support their campaign.

“Come August we will be out there setting up booths,” Futrell said. “Ready to support whoever gets the nomination.”

All groups are gearing up next semester and will be making their presence known as Election Day draws nearer, and Racers for Bernie will be preparing for the Kentucky Democratic primary on May 17.