Student campaign work continues amid coronavirus crisis

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Photo Credit: Laura Gonima | Daily Texan Staff

Students continue to work for political campaigns through phone banking and text message marketing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Groups such as the College Republicans at Texas and University Democrats have been active in campaigns ranging from the Travis County’s district attorney race to the Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary. The groups have used Zoom call parties to work together while phone banking and connecting with other chapters across the country. 

Taylor Frontera, a member of College Republicans at Texas, said she helped make phone bank calls for races around the United States instead of knocking on doors as other chapter members promote candidates on social media. 

“With the current situation and how COVID-19 is obviously spread in person, we're having to figure out a way to supplement that direct voter outreach,” said Frontera, a German and international relations and global studies senior. “Really what we're seeing a lot of campaigns doing at the moment is putting a lot more time and investment into social media outreach.”

University Democrats President Alex Meed said he volunteered by sending texts for the Wisconsin primary earlier this week. In addition, Meed has been volunteering for candidate José Garza’s campaign for Travis County district attorney and is organizing a Friday phone bank with fellow University Democrats members. 

Meed said in addition to switching from knocking on doors to making phone calls, the topics they discuss have also been adjusted.

“Campaigns are sort of acknowledging that this is a weird time, and instead of just talking about the candidate ... they're just asking how people are doing and things of that nature because it's a weird time, and to just ignore how weird it is can feel a little strange for the volunteer or the voter,” Meed said.

In Travis County’s district attorney race, candidates Garza and incumbent Margaret Moore have also taken breaks from their traditional campaigning to check in with members of the community and readjust strategies. 

Jovita Pardo, the senior consultant of Moore’s campaign, said Moore has been primarily focused on her role as district attorney and has held webinars to discuss the effects of COVID-19.

“Right now, we're not really too focused on the campaign side of trying to get votes, especially with the election having been moved to July,” Pardo said. “We’re more focused on making sure that we as a community get through this and just check in on some of our older folks who are more high risk in this situation.”

Garza said he has also shifted his focus to checking on community members for the time being. This includes weekly online events, where he has addressed how COVID-19 affects students, people experiencing homelessness and those who do not feel safe at home due to domestic violence.

“We continue to talk to voters about the issues that matter to them,” Garza said. “But we have taken a moment to recognize that the last couple of weeks have been really incredibly difficult for everyone and that all of us have a responsibility right now ... to check in on our neighbors and on the most vulnerable amongst our community, not just because it's the right thing to do but it's the best thing to do to keep us all safe.”