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Campaigns inspire Blugolds to pursue careers in politics

| Judy Berthiaume

While the 2016 presidential campaigns — among the most divisive in U.S. history — have turned many voters off of the political process, the unusual election season has left two Blugolds more determined than ever to make their careers in politics.

Mitchel Orlovsky, a junior history major and political science minor, is the president of the College Republicans.

Jake McGuire, a sophomore political science and organizational communication major, is head of UW-Eau Claire’s College Democrats.

Jake and Mitchel, both of whom have been active in 2016 races at the local, state and national levels, say their experiences leading their respective student organizations and interacting with the political campaigns has given them a taste of what it might be like to pursue careers within the political arena.

And both like what they see.

“I’ve always been planning on a career in politics, so if anything, this experience has only enhanced that desire,” says Jake, from Tomahawk. “I hope to work on campaigns in some capacity, but I’m not entirely sure yet. My end goal, as of right now, is to work at a political consulting firm.”

Mitchel came to UW-Eau Claire with aspirations of someday being a politician, though he initially was eyeing a career in politics at the local level. He’d hoped to someday be the mayor of a city, a position where he could make an immediate and significant impact on a community.

Thanks to the experiences he’s had as a Blugold, Mitchel has decided to think even bigger; he’s now considering someday running for a seat in the U.S. Congress.

“We will see what happens, but I definitely would love to work on a campaign for someone running for office or even run for a position myself,” Mitchel says of his future. “Ultimately, I just want to be involved in politics.”

It was the 2008 presidential election, when Barack Obama defeated John McCain, that first sparked Jake’s interest in politics.

“But I didn’t become active in it until after Scott Walker was elected as governor in 2010,” Jake says. “I have been active in each election by volunteering and campaigning for Democrats ever since.”

He joined the College Democrats the fall semester of his freshman year, and he was elected president or the student organization this fall.

A Racine native, Mitchel says he’s been interested in politics since elementary school, where he remembers debating the 2004 George W. Bush vs. John Kerry election with his friends.

His passion for politics stuck, so when Mitchel arrived on campus it didn’t take him long to connect with the College Republicans student organization. A member for three years, he’s held leadership positions the last two.

Members of both the College Democrats and College Republicans student organizations have highly engaged in 2016 campaigns, sharing their candidates’ messages and encouraging people on and off campus to vote.

“This year we have hosted debate watch parties, knocked on doors, made phone calls, tabled for a Get Out to Vote Rally, and we’ve helped register voters with Student Senate,” Mitchel says of the organization’s campaign-related activities.

Jake and members of the College Democrats also have been regularly volunteering for campaigns up and down the Democratic ticket.

They’ve also worked to help inform students about the candidates’ positions, and how this election will impact them, Jake says.

As the campaigns wind down, Mitchel says it’s rewarding to see the races tightening, a sign that the work he and others in his organization are doing to get their messages out is working.

“What we are doing is making a difference,” Mitchel says. “It’s not always easy to be a Republican on a college campus, but it all pays off in the end if we are able to get our message out.”

While this year’s presidential campaign has been especially challenging, Mitchel says it’s also teaching him how to sort through the rhetoric, decide what issues matter most to him, and then to use that information to determine how he will vote.

“This is the hand that has been dealt us,” Mitchel says, noting that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump are ideal candidates. ”It is now our decision to pick who we think will do the best job for the country. Only we can make that decision for ourselves. It is our job to be informed, so talking about the election is important.”

Blugolds seem engaged and interested in 2016 election, especially at the presidential level, Jake and Mitchel say.

”I know I am starting to get tired of the election personally,” Mitchel says. “At the same time, seeing all of my peers engaged in the election has been pretty inspirational. I’d say that generally, people are very informed.”

Both Blugolds say that being part of highly active student political organizations has added value to their college experience by giving them hands-on, real-world learning opportunities as well a chance to make connections — and friends — on campus and in the community.

“Just being able to meet and work with all of the super excited volunteers has been great,” Jake says. “And interacting with the candidates and campaigns has also been a great experience.

“This org has definitely become a major part of my experience here at UWEC. I love it so much. It’s been such a great outlet, especially coming from a conservative area, for me to express my progressive ideas with others who share them.”

Being part of the College Republicans has been a blessing, Mitchel says.

“I’ve met so many politicians that I never would have met otherwise, and the people in the College Republicans are some of my closest friends,” Mitchel says. “I’ve also met many people in the Republican Party of Eau Claire County, which has been inspiring.”

Equally important, Mitchel says, is the relationships he’s developed with people who don’t share his political beliefs, including members of the College Democrats.

“We have different ways of thinking and different ideas of what this country needs, but ultimately we all are just trying to do what is best for the country,” Mitchel says of building relationships with people with different beliefs. “Understanding this is key so that we can work together on the important issues.”

Mitchel and Jake say they are proud that members of the two student political organizations showed respect for one another’s views, and were able to work collaboratively to encourage their fellow Blugolds to vote.

That said, the Blugolds will watch the Election Day results Tuesday night from two separate locations.

Mitchel and other students in the College Republicans organization will attend the Republican Party of Eau Claire County’s watch party.

And Jake will spend election night with local Democrats, as well as members from College Democrats.

Mitchel and Jake’s final message to their fellow Blugolds regarding the 2016 election?

Get out and vote!

Photo caption: Mitchel Orlovsky (left) is the president of the College Republicans, and Jake McGuire is head of UW-Eau Claire’s College Democrats. Both say they are eyeing careers in the political arena.