By Ittai Sopher
Pay attention to your classmates; one of them could be representing your district in Congress.
A 1992 graduate from Pitzer and a 1996 CGU graduate, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s won her Florida congressional race against Republican incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who represents the most Democratic district in the country, based on the 2016 Presidential Election results.
Having lost her father to gun violence while studying at CGU, Mucarsel-Powell ran against Curbelo’s sensibilities regarding gun control, with a platform that included banning military style weapons and passing legislation to bar domestic abusers from purchasing weapons.
“This just can not be our new normal,” Mucarsel-Powell told MSNBC, when news broke about the 12 people killed by a gunman in Thousand Oaks, California on Wednesday. “It was a top issue in my race not because it affected me personally, but because of the families affected down in South Dade, in my district.”
The first Ecuadorian-American in the House, Mucarsel-Powell, will join the record 42 Latinos that will serve in Congress next year.
Jennifer Stark, a 1998 Pitzer graduate and a Pomona physical education teacher made local headlines coming in first place in a six-way race for the three open seats on the Claremont City Council. Born and raised in Claremont with former CMC President Jack L. Stark as a father, Stark emphasized her experience in local organizations and groups during her campaign.
“Like everybody who is running, I love Claremont,” Stark told the Claremont Courier in October. “Unlike everybody who is running I have a very big and broad picture of what this town is, in terms of having spent so many aspects of my life benefitting from the town.”
Although two other candidates with Claremont affiliations, CMC Government professor Zachary Courser and 2014 Pitzer graduate Michael Ceraso did not earn seats on the council, the winning candidate, Jed Leano, featured three current Claremont College students in leadership roles in his campaign.
“I initially met Jed, because he volunteered his time as an immigration attorney to our legal clinics,” Emily Lavine ’19 a leader of College Community Action Network, in which students work to aid local immigrant communities, said. “He was just a really nice guy who put in way more effort than what was necessary or that we asked for in volunteering for these events.”
This experience motivated Lavine to become deputy campaign manager of operations for Leano, where Lavine oversaw campaign strategy, such as canvassing routes and promoting earned endorsements on social media. As a city-council member, Lavine believes Leano will help introduce new policies on the city council to aid the, approximately 50 students in the Claremont Unified School District, as well as 200 adults, who have insecure housing and are effectively homeless, according to Lavine.
“Jed’s campaign is largely about finding solutions to problems that we may not know exist yet,” Lavine said. “(He is) really being innovative, looking to the future and really keeping our minds open to find the best solution for our community.”
Other Claremont Colleges affiliated races in the midterms featured losses from Claremont Colleges graduates, but nonetheless garnered national attention for championing progressive causes. These candidates included Kevin De Leon PZ ’03, whose campaign for senate featured new forms of online advertising, in which actors depicted a scenario in which De Leon’s mother is detained by immigration authorities, showing the dark implications of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. De Leon lost against longtime incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) by a margin of 8.8 percent, in a race where Feinstein spent 13 times as much money on her campaign as De Leon did on his.
Another candidate, Kara Eastman PZ ’93 gained traction in a part of Nebraska that favored Trump in the 2016 presidential election with a congressional campaign that emphasized Medicare-for-all, a policy that has yet to be endorsed by many Democrats. Eastman lost her race against Republican incumbent Rep. Don Bacon by a margin of 3.4 percent.
The campaigns of Mucarsel-Powell, Stark, Leano, De Leon and Eastman, show the emergence of the Claremont Colleges onto a local and national platform. Even though the student body hovers above 5,000, the impact and involvement of the students here will surely extend far beyond that number.