UT students canvas in Austin neighborhoods to rally support for Beto O’Rourke

Pili Saravia, News Reporter

UT student volunteers used the Sept. 16 and 17 weekend to canvas for gubernatorial candidate Beto O’ Rourke in neighborhoods around Mueller Park, Blanton Elementary School, Dove Springs and more.  

Students went door-to-door to explain Beto’s campaign points on issues pertaining to this November’s upcoming election. Plan II, government and business sophomore Brian Pena said this is his fourth year canvassing for politicians because he thinks it is effective due to the togetherness and intimacy it brings. 

You hear so much from these candidates,” Pena said. “You see their ads, but in the end, when you see someone at your door working with the campaign, I really do think it means a lot. Especially when they find out that you’re not getting paid a dime and you’re just here out of the goodness of your heart. I think it really does make a difference for a lot of people.”

Pena is treasurer of University Democrats, which focuses on different forms of activism like block-walking or directly working with candidates. 

Pena said the club aims to expand support for O’Rourke in hopes that in office, he will act as a sedative on past bills Gov. Greg Abbott signed such as limiting immigration and rights for workers and transgender people.

“These are age-old racist tactics that the governor is trying to implement now,” Pena said. “Those are the biggest things that I really hope, if Beto gets elected, (he) will really change Texas in a better direction.” 

Psychology sophomore Alina Khawaja said she uses canvasing to speak up about Gov. Abbott’s laws opposing gun control, such as the Permitless Carry Law. Khawaja said the issue of gun control is of great concern for students, calling it a “huge issue with school shootings.”

“It’s incredibly unsafe, and it’s causing the death of so many people,” Khawaja said. “It’s infuriating because there’s something we can do about it so easily, yet nothing is done.”

Many potential voters are receptive, Pena said, giving the walkers a boost of confidence in their cause. They used an app called miniVAN to track the voting histories of specific neighborhoods to incite a more personal conversation, Pena said.

Jacob Zamarripa, theater and dance freshman, wears a “BETO” shirt around campus to raise awareness and showcase his support for the candidate, who he said he has been supporting since 2018. After watching him lose the senate race, Zamarripa said he has continued supporting Beto due to his views on LGBTQ+ rights, women’s reproductive rights and gun control. 

“Abbott has completely taken abortion and turned it into a political view, where it needs to be a humane point of view,” Zamarripa said. “He no longer has an exception for rape or incest. I hope that Beto will give women the right to choose freedom for their own bodies.”

Pena and Zamarripa both said they predict O’Rourke will be elected.

When you go and you block walk, that is the most connected you can possibly get to a voter, at their home talking to them,” Pena said. “There’s no replicable experience to that.”