University Democrats elects 2019 executive board, third-year College student Jackson Samples to serve as president

Priorities for upcoming year include increased advocacy and outreach efforts on Grounds and in Richmond

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Mary Alice Kukoski (Left), a third-year College student and president emeritus of the University Democrats, and Jackson Samples, a third-year College student and recently-elected president of the organization. 

Courtesy Joseph Dennie | Cavalier Daily

Third-year College student Jackson Samples, who was elected Nov. 28 as the University Democrats president for 2019, hopes to better prioritize issues such as a living wage at the University and surrounding community and ending Immigration and Customs Enforcement notification in the area.  

Samples —  an economics and Political and Social Thought double major from Fairfax, Va. — previously served as the campaign chair for University Democrats. He ran uncontested for the position of president. 

The term for the new executive board is effective immediately. Officers have assumed their new positions and are currently working with the University Democrats’ general membership to determine important policy issues to tackle in the new year.

“Some of these might include achieving a living wage for University and contracted workers, ending the barbaric ICE notification policy here in the region, or seriously expanding the City's affordable housing,” Samples said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. 

“Overall, UDems will be taking a progressive turn, which I hope will allow our organization to expand and fortify our political presence here on Grounds,” he added. 

Currently, the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail chooses to notify ICE officials when an undocumented individual is released from the prison, although it is only legally required to notify the federal agency when one is admitted to the facility. Members of the board have debated abandoning the policy in recent months, but the body has yet to reach a consensus on the matter.

In addition to Samples, the 2019 executive board includes second-year College student Kiera Goddu as vice president, third-year College student Virginia Chambers as campaign chair, third-year College student Matt Frank as social chair, third-year College student Ayesha Gill as outreach chair, third-year College student Joseph Dennie as development chair, first-year College student Hunter Hess as Secretary, second-year College student Andrew Price as treasurer and second-year College student Kathryn Williams as Communications Chair. 

Samples explained the 2019 executive board’s plans for University Democrats in the upcoming year — including increased advocacy efforts around Grounds and in Richmond. 

“This Spring, we plan on 1) having an engaging speaker series at our biweekly meetings and 2) getting involved in on-the-ground issue advocacy here at UVA, in the Charlottesville community, and the Commonwealth as a whole,” Samples wrote. “This could include lobbying for legislation and the Equal Rights Amendment at the General Assembly, packing local board meetings, and joining or organizing protests and rallies, among other things.”

Samples also praised get-out-the-vote and campaigning efforts by the University Democrats during this year’s midterm elections — which saw Republican Denver Riggleman defeat Democrat Leslie Cockburn in the Fifth District, while Democrat Tim Kaine defeated Republican Corey Stewart as one of Virginia’s representatives in the U.S. Senate. 

However, Samples said members of the University Democrats “easily broke records in the number of voter registrations, doors knocked, and phone calls we made.”

In the lead up to the midterm elections, members of the University Democrats prioritized their canvassing efforts within the City of Charlottesville, especially the student population. The organization also worked with the College Republicans and Student Council joined forces to host a voter registration drive earlier in the year, which resulted in the registration of 2,500 students to vote.

“We were able to host many successful events with Senator Tim Kaine, Chris Long, and the amazing Olivia Wilde, who joined us on Election Day in getting out the vote,” Samples added. “With all of these voter outreach efforts and events, turnout hit record numbers at all the precincts at which University students vote.”

In the City of Charlottesville, 10,650 individuals voted in the congressional elections in 2014 — 2,404 of whom voted Republican, while 7,657 voted Democratic. In this year’s elections, about 17,850 voted in the congressional elections in the City — 2,694 of whom were Republican, while 15,103 were Democratic.

In the Fifth District as a whole, 204,945 people turned out to vote in the Congressional elections in 2014 — 124, 735 of whom were Republican, while 73,482 were Democratic. This year, about 307,541 voters turned out in the district — 164, 795 of whom were Republican, while 142,211 were Democratic.

Given the increase in Democratic turnout, Samples emphasized the relative success of the Cockburn campaign — as he said the Fifth District is gerrymandered against Democrats — and relayed his optimism for the 2020 elections. 

“With her progressive platform and fantastic field team, Ms. Cockburn only lost by 6.6 percentage points,” he said. “She came this close in a district where a neo-confederate won by 7,000 votes. So while the outcome was of course disappointing, we did everything we could given the odds.”

In an email to The Cavalier Daily, Mary Alice Kukoski, former University Democrats president and a third-year College student, highlighted important accomplishments for the organization within the past year.

“In April we hosted the largest Virginia Young Democrats (VAYD) convention in history, welcoming over two hundred young Democrats from across the Commonwealth for a weekend of professional development, speaker series, and networking opportunities,” Kukoski said. “This fall, we registered hundreds of students to vote, increased student voter turnout, and helped Tim Kaine win re-election.” 

Kukoski outlined her hopes for the incoming executive board and emphasized her confidence in the new leadership. 

“Moving forward, I hope that University Democrats will continue on the same positive trajectory, engaging with voters, advocating for Democratic issues, and increasing civic engagement on Grounds,” she said. “There are so many bright leaders in the new leadership of the University Democrats — I have great faith in what they will accomplish over the course of the next year.” 

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