The contentious U.S. Senate race between incumbent Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and N.C. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, will be the focus of student activism efforts by the University’s Young Democrats and College Republicans.
“We know Thom Tillis is a go-getter and this will be a defining election for North Carolina,” said Kathryn Walker, president of College Republicans.
Wilson Parker, president of Young Democrats, said the group plans to canvass in neighborhoods throughout Chapel Hill and Durham for Hagan’s campaign.
Higher education policy should be a priority in this election, Parker said.
“The number one thing the state invested in historically was higher education,” he said. “These investments have been under attack under Speaker Tillis’ budgets.”
Young Democrats will also be helping with voter registration, encouraging students to vote in November.
Since 2011, there has been an on-campus voting site at Rams Head Dining Hall — but this fall, that polling place will move off campus, to North Carolina Hillel on Cameron Avenue. The Orange County Board of Elections made the decision in April, citing a need to make the site more accessible for handicapped voters, though some members expressed concerned that students would be discouraged from voting.
The Libertarian-leaning group on campus is planning a different type of student engagement in coming months. Alex Johnson, president of UNC Young Americans for Liberty, said her organization disengages from the political process and instead hosts forums for students to discuss the fundamental principles of liberty.
“I’m hopeful that my involvement will open the doors to students’ minds and grant them the opportunity to actually learn what liberty and freedom truly mean,” she said.
In North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race, a Libertarian candidate is playing an increasingly prominent role — pizza delivery man and Durham resident Sean Haugh.
Jason Melehani, former executive director of the Libertarian Party of North Carolina, said Libertarians play a key role in advocating against further increases in the size and scope of the government.
Melehani also emphasized the significance of student activism and voting.
“Government affects our lives and our children’s lives — and that means we should all care,” he said.