UNC students and community members gathered in the Pit on Wednesday, eager to hear from senatorial candidate Cheri Beasley at a campaign event hosted by the UNC Young Democrats.
The event, organized by President Diane Ong, was one of many campaign events that the UNC Young Democrats Club hopes to host for senatorial candidates in North Carolina prior to the 2022 Senate race.
Wednesday's event functioned as a town hall meeting, with a Q&A portion and a meet-and-greet with Beasley.
Beasley previously served as a judge of the North Carolina Supreme Court and was appointed chief justice in 2019, becoming the first African-American woman to serve in the role.
“It is wonderful to be here and to hear from young people and hear what their concerns and desires are,” Beasley said following the event. "These students truly understand the power of being engaged and truly understand the impact of their vote.”
Several students, including second-year law student Zachary Boyce, were given the opportunity to ask Beasley a question.
Boyce — who is running for Chapel Hill mayor — asked Beasley about her stance on prison reform and marijuana reform.
“I was interested in coming here today because I am passionate myself about expanding the electoral population of the Chapel Hill community,” Boyce said. “I think that to engage with students to increase participation in state and local politics is an intergenerational effort.”
Senior political science major Joe Vick was interested in Beasley's approach to climate change and voting rights. Vick said he appreciated the chance to meet her in person and hear her support for North Carolina.
“My family has lived in North Carolina for a long time, so it was important to me that she had that sense of being genuine and really caring about the state,” Vick said.
Following the Q&A session, students lined up to talk to Beasley one-on-one, take selfies and shake her hand.
Ong said she had hoped for a large turnout and was excited about hosting the event in the Pit, where students unaffiliated with Young Democrats could still be exposed to the event.
She felt the event — like other campaign events — was an important way for candidates to connect tangibly with their constituents, especially after the disconnect of virtual life through the pandemic.
“I think having these in-person events is really important for candidates to really hear from students,” Ong said. “I also think it engages students and kind of shows them that, ‘Oh, I am a whole voting bloc that these people need to win these elections, so what I think is actually very important.’”
Ong said she is excited to plan future campaign events for other candidates so that UNC students and community members can get involved in local and statewide politics.
“This is sort of that first step in the big push to empower more voters and students alike to get out there and vote in 2022,” she said.
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