Tamir Kalifa / The New York Times

Campaign signs are displayed at Drake University before the Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 14, 2020.

January 28, 2020

Cornell Student Groups Ramp Up Efforts to Support Democratic Candidates as Primaries Approach

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Correction appended.

With just a week before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus is set to start collecting votes, campus groups have kicked efforts to nominate their Democratic presidential candidate of choice into high gear.

As stakes for the 2020 nominating contest rise, Students for Warren at Cornell, Cornell Students for Bernie, Cornell for Biden and Cornell Yang Gang have continued to canvass for their candidates on Cornell’s campus, as well as in Ithaca.

Students for Warren at Cornell, which has about a dozen core members and 30 to 40 periphery members, has been active since August. While the group is not officially part of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) campaign, it is recognized as a chapter of the national Students for Warren movement.

The group’s activities have consisted of weekly phone banks and door knocking in downtown Ithaca to collect enough signatures to get Warren’s delegates on the primary ballot.

Co-leader Amanda Cronin ’21, who is also a Sun news editor, was selected to be a delegate for New York’s 23rd congressional district to represent Warren on the ballot. This means that anyone voting in the 23rd district will be voting for Cronin and the five other delegates. In July, each candidate’s slate of delegates will attend the Democratic National Convention to nominate one for president.

Zeke Uriel ’20, the group’s other co-leader, told The Sun that Warren is a popular candidate on campus, particularly with the Cornell Democrats.

“I’ve been to [the group’s] debate watch parties in the fall, and they’ll do straw polls after, and I think Warren’s come out on top in every one,” Uriel said.

Uriel said he has also seen support for Warren in Ithaca as well.

“When we were going around knocking on doors, people were super happy talking to us even if they weren’t going to vote for Warren, and of course many of them were, which was nice to see,” Uriel said.

While former Vice President Joe Biden currently leads in most national polls, the moderate candidate’s supporters have not seen the same level of excitement for their candidate.

“A lot of oxygen in the room is taken by the more progressive candidates,” said Cornell for Biden president David Bromberg ’23. The Cornell for Biden group, which has around four to five core members, has hosted phone banking and tabling events in the past.

While Bromberg believes there are plenty of Biden supporters on campus, he thinks it will be harder to connect with them.

“We’re not the loud activists,” Bromberg said. “We like experience, we like change, but we like to work toward the middle, and that’s just not where a lot of the Cornell campus falls. It’s a relatively liberal campus.”

On the other hand, Cornell Students for Bernie leaders Leanna Zilles ’21 and George Defendini ’22 believe liberal colleges and universities like Cornell are the ideal places to rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who they believe has an “overwhelming amount” of support on college campuses.

“Like the Obama campaign in 2008, I feel like Bernie’s election will be carried by young people,” Defendini told the Sun. “Warren has a lot of similar appeal but I feel like Bernie is far and away the young people’s candidate.”

Unlike the other groups, the Students for Bernie organizations are affiliated with the broader national campaign. The Cornell chapter, which has around 40 members, spent this past weekend door knocking in New Hampshire, targeting undecided voters in advance of the Feb. 11 primary.

Last semester, the group held various events such as canvassing in Ithaca, ice cream socials at the Dairy Bar and a teach-in on the Green New Deal, a sweeping plan Sanders has adopted to address climate change.

Cornell Yang Gang leader Josh Zheng also believes his candidate is popular on Cornell’s campus — particularly because of his so-called “freedom dividend,” which aims to eradicate poverty through a monthly $1,000 income, as well as his status as “an outsider and a unifier.”

The group, which is made up of three core members and around 30 more casual members, have been tabling on campus to collect ballot signatures and trying to provide students with more information about Yang’s platform.

While all eyes will be on the early primary elections in Iowa and New Hampshire, each group plans to continue their local efforts up until the New York primary on April 28.

Correction: An earlier version of this article inaccurately described the primary delegate procedure. 

An earlier version also misnamed Students for Warren at Cornell.