Tuesday night, Delegate Rob Bell, who represents residents of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, and Rockingham counties in the delegate seat once held by Thomas Jefferson, met with the College Republicans at UVa and discussed a broad array of topics. Bell is a graduate of both the University of Virginia and UVa Law, making him a “Double Hoo.” He has held his delegate seat since 2002 and ran for the Republican nomination for Attorney General at this year’s convention. Having lost that race to Senator Mark Obenshain, Bell is running unopposed for reelection to the House of Delegates this year.
Bell encouraged those in attendance to get involved in the political arena. “We need Virginia’s smartest students to be in politics,” he said. “If you look at what’s happened in Washington you’ll see what happens when people who don’t see things all the way through get to the top in Government.” He also stressed the importance of this year’s Governor’s race, emphasizing that no political office impacts our day-to-day lives at UVa more than the Governor.
After taking questions from students, Delegate Bell asked us a few questions. “What can we do better?” he asked, in regards to the campaign efforts which College Republicans (CR’s) have been such a significant part of. The CR’s Chairman, Liz Minneman, mentioned the advantage University Democrats have in regards to mobilizing volunteers due to the proximity of their campaign office, located on the Corner. In contrast, the nearest campaign office for Republicans is nearly a fifteen minute drive. “Democrats can make calls between classes while our volunteers would have to commit to a few hours,” Ms. Minneman explained. While progress in this area has been made, as College Republicans now have a weekly phone bank on Grounds, it still does not match the convenience of a having a full-time campaign office within walking distance of central Grounds.
College Republicans in attendance noted the ineffectiveness of current GOP campaign strategies. For example, local campaign offices fail to fully utilize the skills of their volunteers. Intelligent College Republican volunteers are put on phone or door scripts and are not given much opportunity to use their talents in ways that are more stimulating, fulfilling, or effective. Campaign “Interns” are typically given no more responsibility than regular volunteers, but are expected to devote more time. In contrast, Democratic campaigns dispense “titles upon titles” to their top volunteers. Bell promised College Republicans that he would put them to meaningful work for this year’s entire ticket.
Republicans also lag behind on personal voter contact. Democrats have revamped their volunteer efforts to focus on personal contact rather than just scripts and numbers. “In Loudoun County, Democrats met with voters three to four times before asking them who they were voting for,” Bell reflected. Democrats have even have an application that enables them to connect Democratic supporters with undecided voters whom the supporters know. Bell acknowledged that “cold calling is a limited resource going forward” and that the Republican campaigns need to do a better job at making personal contacts. Delegate Bell knows a lot about making personal contacts; he writes thousands of handwritten personal letters to his constituents. Following his talk, the consensus was that Democrats utilize more effective strategies than Republicans and that Republicans must and will adapt to new technologies and outreach tactics. Republicans have been making progress, but there is still much more work to be done. This is where the legions of talented and perspacacious College Republican leaders who regularly help conservative candidates can be a great asset to the Grand Old Party.
Peter A. Finocchio, Staff Writer