5C students, alumni participate in midterm election beyond voting

Kaila Finn SC ’20 helped support Chris Murphy’s campaign for Senate. (Courtesy of Kaila Finn)

During her leave of absence this semester, Kaila Finn SC ’20 wrote campaign publications and did communications work for 22-year-old Will Haskell’s campaign for Connecticut State Senate. Her hard work paid off Nov. 6.

Haskell won his election with 53.3 percent of the vote against a Republican incumbent who has held the seat for 10 years.

“I was really hooked on staying involved because it felt like a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” she wrote in a message to TSL. “This campaign literally started in a dorm room.”

Finn is just one of the many students from the Claremont Colleges who worked on a campaign this midterm season. Several Claremont Colleges alumni also ran for public office.

Nevada Lee SC ’22 drove home to Nevada every weekend in October to canvass eight hours a day for her mother, Susie Lee, who won a seat in the House in Nevada’s third congressional district.

Lee also worked on her mother’s campaign all summer.

“[W]hen I was doing it, it was 110 degrees and so that was always really difficult. … But, when you do knock on someone’s house and they are so enthusiastic and really excited, it helps bring up the energy and that’s always something that is really rewarding that I love,” she said.

She also mentioned that many Scripps students were involved in phone banking operations she directed on campus and that she was enthusiastic about the results in Nevada overall.

“[Nevada had] the only flipped Senate seat from red to blue [along] with Jacky Rosen and then our two contested, really in-the-middle seats, both went blue, and our governorship was the first time it went blue in about twenty years,” she said. “It was a good night for Democrats in Nevada.”

“[W]hen I was doing it, it was 110 degrees and so that was always really difficult. … But, when you do knock on someone’s house and they are so enthusiastic and really excited, it helps bring up the energy and that’s always something that is really rewarding that I love.”

Nevada Lee SC ’22

Closer to home, the city of Claremont had three of its five city council positions up for grabs. Of the six candidates running, three are Claremont Colleges alumni — Michael Cerase PZ ’14, Jennifer Stark PZ ’98, and Zachary Courser CM ’99 who is currently a government professor at Claremont McKenna College.

Although the results will not be finalized until Nov. 16, Stark is leading with Jed Leano close behind. The battle for the third seat will come down to Ed Reece and Courser. As of Nov. 12, Reece was leading Courser with 44 votes.

While there were no 5C students in Courser’s campaign this year, several students took charge in his previous run for Claremont City Council.

“Last time I had more student involvement,” Courser said. “In fact, my campaign manager was a CMC student.”

Courser said his time at CMC significantly shaped his interests and inspired his current role.

“In one way or another I’m devoted to public policy or service and encourage that in all of my students, and am always very proud and gratified to see students go on and work in all areas of public policy and service,” he said.

Stark, whose father was the president of CMC for almost 30 years and whose mother was the director of the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum for five years, has deep ties to the 5Cs.

She said she was inspired by her “bewilderment” over the 2016 election, and felt she had a real obligation to run for public office.

“I want to be a part of making my immediate world and the world around me be a place I’m proud of,” she said.

Stark also attributes a lot of her current motivation to her time at the 5Cs and the people here.

“I feel like actually being around incredible young people who care about the world and who are going to go out into the world and make a difference is exceptionally inspiring,” she said. “It is super motivating in that I want to be someone who they could look up to.”

Other notable candidates and graduates were involved but couldn’t be reached for comment before press time.

Kevin De Leon PZ ’03 lost his California senate run against incumbent Dianne Feinstein. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell PZ ’92 ousted incumbent Carlos Curbelo in Florida’s 26th congressional district. Steven Charles Gonzalez PZ ’85 won his bid for re-election to the Washington state Supreme Court.

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Jensen Steady

Jensen Steady CM '22 is from Santa Barbara, California, and is currently interested in studying government and economics. He is a news writer for TSL.

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