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U.Va. students campaign for Virginia gubernatorial candidates

Students involved in Jennifer Carroll Foy’s and Kirk Cox’s bid for Governor plan campaign events, canvass and phonebank

Students across Grounds are working with gubernatorial campaigns in order to spread the nominees’ messages to their peers. Two student groups, Hoos for Jennifer Carroll Foy and Hoos for Kirk Cox, are organizing to get other University students involved. 

Governor Ralph Northam cannot run for reelection this election cycle as Virginia laws stipulate single non-consecutive terms for the governor in the Commonwealth, meaning Virginia will elect a new governor on Nov. 2. Currently, 12 candidates are in the race, setting the stage for a busy campaign season. 

In the Democratic primary there are five candidates. Former governor Terry McAuliffe is seeking a second term, and current Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, State Senator Jennifer McClellan, House of Delegates representative Lee Carter and House of Delegates representative Jennifer Carroll Foy are seeking primary nomination for what would be their first terms. Voting in the Democratic primary is set to take place June 8.

Seven candidates are seeking the Republican nomination — State Senator Amanda Chase, House of Delegates representative Kirk Cox, businessman Glenn Youngkin, author Peter Doran, former Roanoke Sheriff Octavia L. Johnson, entrepreneur Pete Snyder and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs Sergio de la Peña. The Virginian Republican party will be holding a drive-thru convention on May 8 at 37 polling places across the state.

University students are no stranger to political campaigns. Last fall, College Republicans and University Democrats held events for candidates Nick Freitas and Cameron Webb, respectively, ahead of the November VA-05 Congressional election. 

This time around, there are two student-run campaign efforts — Hoos for Jennifer Carroll Foy and Hoos for Kirk Cox. Hoos for JCF launched in late March while Hoos for Cox started at the beginning of the semester. The Black Student Alliance and Second Year Council also sponsored a webinar event with McClellan.

First-year College student Audrey Cruey, an organizing fellow for Jennifer Carroll Foy, has never worked for a gubernatorial campaign before but has experience organizing for small office elections in her hometown of Madison, Va.  After attending a Team JCF Volunteer Summit in January, Cruey was offered and accepted an organizing fellow position with JCF’s campaign.Organizing fellows are high school and college students around Virginia who organize in their own communities and on social media to campaign for JCF — Cruey helped bring her message to the University with other students who form Hoos for Jennifer Carroll Foy.  

Cruey was attracted to Foy’s campaign because of Foy’s story. 

“She campaigned for her seat in the House of Delegates in 2018 while she was pregnant with twins, which was amazing, and flipped a district from red to blue,” Cruey said. “JCF brings kind of a breath of fresh air, I want to say. She's a progressive that can win.” 

If elected, Foy will be the nation’s first Black woman governor — as would McClellan — which Cruey says is important for representation in government. Foy is also focusing her campaign on “getting people back on their feet” after COVID-19 and bringing more jobs to Virginia, fighting for criminal justice reform and supporting immigrants — more on her priorities can be found on her website

As an organizing fellow, Cruey has been working hard to get University students excited about Foy’s campaign. She has been recruiting students from University Democrats and the Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter to join Hoos for JCF. 

Additionally, Hoos for JCF is planning Days of Action on Saturdays, where members will meet up — masked and socially distanced — to participate in door-knocking, canvassing and mass texting events. 

Second-year College student Aly Buckner and first-year College student Lydia Craig are spreading Cox’s campaign across Grounds with Hoos for Kirk Cox. Buckner is president of Hoos for Kirk Cox and Craig is the vice president — both are also heavily involved in the University’s College Republicans chapter. 

Buckner and Craig became involved with Cox’s campaign through College Republicans. According to Craig, she was attracted to Cox’s campaign because of his down-to-earth demeanor. 

“I know he is a very down to earth, genuine person,” Craig said. “He's been in the General Assembly for 30 years, but he wasn't just in the General Assembly — he was a public high school teacher.”

Buckner echoed Craig’s sentiments — Cox shows that he cares about everyone and will make policies in order to benefit all Virginians, Buckner said. Cox’s main platform points focus on bringing more jobs to Virginians, defending second-amendment rights and strengthening law enforcement policies — more information on his platform can be found on his website.

“I think it's easy for politicians to say like, ‘Oh I really care,’ and like, ‘I'm not just a politician,’” Buckner said. “It's one thing to say those things and an entirely different thing to show those things… he [shows] he cares about students, and he's going to make policies that will help everyone.” 

Cox, Buckner said, has worked hard to bring students into his campaign as well as making an effort to speak personally to them. Cox spoke to University students in the fall and has strong support among College Republican chapters across the Commonwealth. Buckner says that college students are an often forgotten demographic but an important one, which Cox realizes.  

“For his other main competitors, I haven't really seen the same kind of turnout for college students ... but I haven't really seen that [response] for anyone else,” Craig said. 

Currently, Buckner, Craig and the rest of Hoos for Kirk Cox are holding phone banks and text banks to recruit delegates for Cox’s campaign. Because the Republican party is holding a convention on May 8 rather than a primary, only delegates are eligible to vote for the nominee. 

“Right now we're just really trying to make sure that the convention goes smoothly, and then hopefully [after] the success of that convention we'll start to move on to actually campaigning for the November election,” Craig said.

Polling from Christopher Newport University shows that Chase leads the Republican primary with 17 percent, followed by Cox with 10 percent, though 55 percent of Republican voters surveyed are undecided. McAuliffe is favored to win the Democratic primary with 47 percent. JCF has 4 percent of the vote, and 49 percent of Democratic voters are undecided. 

The Republican Convention will take place May 8 at 37 satellite locations across the Commonwealth — delegates will vote using a ranked-choice system, and the candidate with the majority of votes will receive the nomination. Only registered delegates are able to vote in the convention. The Democratic Primary will take place on June 8 across the Commonwealth. Anyone can vote in the primary, regardless of party affiliation, and the candidate who wins the plurality of votes will receive the nomination.

You can reach Hoos for Kirk Cox on Twitter  and Instagram @HoosforKirkCox and Hoos for JCF on Twitter @Hoos4J.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated that College Republicans campaigned for Bob Good last fall. The article has been updated to reflect that College Republicans campaigned for Nick Freitas.