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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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Democratic nominees address voting as election nears


Passionate democrats and young voters filled the room to address voting, including Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. | Malachi Key/The Cougar.

Last Thursday, multiple local democratic nominees, including Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, political strategist Sri Kulkarni and youth activist Olivia Julianna, gathered in Student Center South’s Houston Room to address a crowd of young voters.

With multiple key elections looming just over the horizon, Harris County Democrats seem determined to reach young voters in an election with a potentially unprecedentednout.

The night started off with Houston mayoral candidate Chris Hollins, who greeted the crowd with a booming call of “What’s up Democrats?” that echoed through the room. 

Hollins did not mince words with his remarks, emphasizing to the crowd that the Republican party was doing everything in its power to ensure minorities did not have a seat at the table. 

“We’re not taking this anymore,” Hollins said. “We’ve got to take our country and our state back and that’s why we’re fighting.”

 “Oh, and we’ve got to legalize marijuana, y’all,” Hollins said before he left the stage.

Student Government Association president Josh Martin took the stage next. He spoke to students on both sides while making sure to note that voter registration is important regardless of which party one belongs to. 

“I don’t see getting students out to the polls as a partisan issue,” Martin said. “No matter where you come from, no matter what your background is, this is important. I’m not gonna tell you who to vote for, but you need to get out and register.”

Martin concluded by speaking briefly on several upcoming events hosted by the SGA, including a candidate forum that would allow students to meet with several candidates on the ballot in November.

After a brief exchange of “Whose House? Coogs’ House!” Martin introduced the third speaker of the night, youth activist Olivia Julianna.

Olivia, the director of politics and outreach at Gen Z for Change, made headlines last July after raising more than $2 million for abortion funds off an insult directed at her online by U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz.

Olivia uses Gen Z for change to empower young activists. She spoke to the crowd in a witty yet determined tone, eliciting laughs from the crowd with a series of jokes about how old their representatives are.

Olivia then grew more serious, noting that she sees the out-of-touch nature of Texas representatives as a large part of why key fundamental human rights legislation was being targeted. 

“I don’t know about you but I don’t want to go back,” she said. “I don’t want to go back to how it was when women were second-class citizens with no control of their bodies.” 

After encouraging the crowd that it would be Gen Z who won the upcoming elections, Olivia stepped away and Kulkarni, the chief strategist for the 2 million Texans campaign, took the stage.

Kulkarni opened with a personal story about how he used to be more apathetic about politics. He said that what changed everything for him was watching the Charlottesville rally from his post overseas and feeling like he could no longer stand on the sidelines.

“If you have a friend who says Republicans and Democrats are the same, ask them to go to a hospital and see what’s happening to women’s rights in this state,” Kulkarni said.

His newfound desire for change drove him to run for Congress and eventually to create a campaign dedicated to registering Texans via what he terms “relational organizing”. 

“When you volunteer for a campaign, has anybody ever asked you who you know that you could talk to,” Kulkarni said.

Kulkarni quoted several statistics about voter turnout to the crowd, then walked the audience through registering an account on an app created by his campaign that allows users to create a network of contacts that might be willing to vote.

He closed by stating that if each person added six contacts, Texas democrats would win in a landslide. 

While the next guest was meant to be Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, there was a notable lull in the proceedings and one organizer noted that she appeared to have been stuck in traffic. Kulkarni spoke to the crowd further before leaving them to talk amongst themselves.

When Hidalgo arrived, all conversations ceased and the audience turned to where she entered. Hidalgo took time to smile and shake hands with people at each table before she took the stage.

Once on stage, she grinned at the audience and apologized for being late, before launching into a story about not being able to get a campaign office when she started running because the landlord was afraid to support her against the incumbent. 

“They’re scared about the future of a 31-year-old who’s already county executive of the third largest county in this country,” Hidalgo said.

She closed the event by introducing several other local candidates and opening up the stage for the chance to speak more with them, but not before leaving the crowd with a word of encouragement.

“You are the future but you are also the present,” Hidalgo said. “Don’t let anybody ask you if you understand what you are doing.”

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