College Democrats Preparing for the Blue Wave
by Ridgley Knapp, Director of Communications – College Democrats of America, @CollegeDemsIL

The College Democrats of Illinois has had an incredibly strong and effective summer. With dozens of chapters across the state – from Evanston to Edwardsville – we have hundreds of members working on or volunteering for campaigns up and down the ballot, all while making ends meet: working the late shift, working the early shift, working part-time to make ends meet while we fight to make the change that our communities deserve.

On August 3rd and 4th, our chapter at the University of Chicago hosted the College Democrats of America’s 2018 National Summer Convention, welcoming college students from across the country – representing almost 100 chapters and 25+ states. Speakers like Jason Kander, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and DeRay Mckesson addressed the crowd (in the lecture hall typically reserved for Intro to Chemistry) between workshops on campaign finance and field. Two members of our Executive Board – Victoria Koffsky and Ridgley Knapp, both of UChicago – were elected to positions on the College Democrats National Executive Board, as Vice President and Director of Communications, respectively. Mike Smith of Palatine, a senior at the University of Alabama, was also elected to the Board as National Political Director.

Our President and Communications Director, Billy Stripiek and Andrew Jacobs, of Illinois State University, have been fighting to flip McLean blue this November. Both were instrumental in the emergence of Nikita Richards’ campaign for County Clerk, serving as Campaign Manager and Communications Director for over a year, getting her campaign off the ground, and pushing to extend voting rights to the Bloomington-Normal community.

Janelle Gaska (North Park University ’21) and Zack Nunn (SIUE ’19) have both spent the summer working for UFCW Local 881 – College Democrats know that unions are the backbone of the rights of working people, and we stand with them.

Kevin Oyakawa and Reese Richardson (both North Central College ’19) have both spent the summer fighting to turn DuPage County blue, to keep the gains that Sec. Clinton made in 2016. Kevin has been managing Sadia Covert’s campaign for DuPage County Board, and Reese has been volunteering on various campaigns as he applies to grad school (we are students, after all). Artur Genser (UChicago ’21) has been working for Laura Ellman’s race for State Senate.

College Democrats are also running for office in unprecedented numbers. DePaul students Bushra Amiwala and Hadiya Afzal became two of the youngest female Muslim candidates to run in Illinois history, for Cook County Commissioner and DuPage County Board. University of Illinois student Ben Chapman was nominated by the Champaign County Democratic Party to run for a Champaign County Board seat, and Kyle Killacky of Joliet Junior College is mounting a bid for Will County Board.

When we say up and down the ballot, College Democrats mean the entire ballot. From County Board and County Clerk, to state legislature and Congress, and, yes, even statewide office, College Democrats have spent the summer working to make our communities a better place – because, in the end, that’s what matters.