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Undergrads take action in state political campaigns

Students pride themselves on getting involved off College Hill, and during the midterm campaign season last year, they did just that, lending support to state candidates and getting a real-world introduction to the political process.

"People are intrigued and will listen to you because you're young and bright-eyed. Catch them off-guard, and they'll listen," said Libby Kimzey, campaign manager for state Rep. Teresa Tanzi, D-Narragansett, Wakefield and Peace Dale. Kimzey, who took a leave from the University and moved in with Tanzi to assist her campaign, did not provide a graduation year.

Both the Brown Republicans and the Brown Democrats have been active volunteers for their respective candidates, said Terrence George '13, president of the Brown Republicans.

"Politicians know we are a somewhat reliable source for volunteers," he said, so "we are treated with respect."

Because students help candidates during their campaigns, they know politicians will consider their views when formulating policy, said Katerina Wright '11, president of the Brown Democrats. Rhode Island's small size means state government is highly accessible to students, she said.

Tanzi said her campaign shows the potential for student impact. Tanzi, a resumed undergraduate student from Wakefield, took a leave from the University in 2008 to start a family and later successfully ran for the state House of Representatives.

"Without a doubt, students were the backbone of this campaign," she said, adding that while she had plenty of offers from paid consultants seeking to provide campaign advice, her campaign needed volunteers.

Anna Quinn '13 helped Tanzi's campaign garner absentee votes from Brown students. Quinn said her campaign experience showed her that "anyone can be involved." Political participation gave her "a sense of ownership in my representative on a state level," she said.

Aaron Regunberg '12 worked as an East Side field organizer for Providence Mayor Angel Taveras during his campaign. "We knocked on every door on the East Side three to four times," Regunberg said. After the election, Regunberg was named a member of Taveras's transition team for issues related to education.

"With the right legislature," students can "absolutely" have clout when it comes to the political process, Tanzi said. "If they're willing to put in the time and the energy and are willing to testify, the sky is the limit."


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