R-MC students had a front-row seat to history. Through these blogs, R-MC faculty and students shared their diverse perspectives about the 2014 7th District U.S. Congressional Race and its impact on the R-MC community.
By: Henry Ashton, '15
This blog post was originally posted on R-MC's The Yellow Jacket
When the candidates entered Blackwell Auditorium at 7:25pm, the effect was immediate.
The entire room stood up, eager to show their appreciation for Professors Brat and Trammell from Randolph-Macon, who have given much to the college as faculty and have been participants in the exhausting campaign cycle since June.
For a moment on Oct. 28, time seemed to stand still.
The enthusiastic reaction from the audience expressed an uncommon connection with the candidates: although many political debates end up as stuffy, formal affairs, this one was the culmination of a political shock that threw R-MC into the media’s fishbowl.
By: Allison Carpenter, '16 President of R-MC College Republicans and John Rackey, '15 President of R-MC Young Democrats
The Randolph-Macon College Young Democrats and College Republicans have been compromising and overcoming typical partisan roadblocks. Both organizations have been working closely together during the historic election for the Virginia 7th Congressional seat. Both organizations’ presidents have the same general goal in mind, to educate not only our own members, but also other students on campus about political issues and why it is important to be politically active. R-MC Young Democrats and College Republicans have already worked together and are continuing to work together to re-introduce civility into politics, much like Dr. Brat and Dr. Trammell have done through this campaign. Already, both groups have enjoyed an ice cream social together, and we plan to host a voting registration drive together in the spring.
By: Zachary Spaeth, '14
Associate, Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies, LLC
On June 9th, I started my first day of work on Capitol Hill, and the next day, the American political landscape had been rocked by the news of Randolph-Macon College Professor Dave Brat beating the incumbent, Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The same day, I received word from current students that Professor Jack Trammell announced his candidacy with the Democratic endorsement. After June 10th, I was no longer required to explain from where I had just graduated. Why? Because it was the year of the Yellow Jacket.
For weeks, either in hearings on the Hill or discussions in the hallways of the House or Senate Congressional buildings, it was hard not to hear the new buzz words of “Trammell,” “Brat,” or “Randolph-Macon.” There was the genuine shock and awe on the stunning defeat, but the largest focus was on the community that was deeply rooted in the election: R-MC. Stories surfaced about how one academic institution, the one I proudly call my own, had two professors facing off to become the next Congressman from the Virginia 7th. There was genuine interest to find out more about R-MC, and I was available to educate people on why we help create public servants.
By: PJ Costello, '17
Before the 7th District Republican primary this summer, I thought that this would just be another average year at Randolph-Macon. The closer it came to the primary, the thought of “how cool it would be if Dr. Brat beat Eric Cantor” occasionally crossed my mind. When Dr. Brat won the primary in June, I was extremely excited. However, it was Dr. Trammell’s announcement to run that caught me off guard. Not one, but both candidates, are from Randolph-Macon College! Thanks to both Drs. Brat and Trammell, Ashland had gone from a small town outside of Richmond to the “Center of the Political Universe.” This transformation became very evident during the remainder of my summer. When people asked me what college I attend, I would state “Randolph-Macon” and immediately get responses such as, “That’s the school with both professors running for office!” Everywhere I traveled this summer, people suddenly seemed to know about Randolph Macon.
What has been most interesting this semester has been witnessing the camaraderie of the community on campus. The 7th District election is a perfect environment for anyone to become involved in politics. If you look at most election campaigns today, they involve both candidates and their supporters attacking each other for their views. This was fairly evident during the 2012 Presidential election looking back at ads placed by both President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney. That is simply not the case here at Randolph-Macon. It is truly amazing that everyone has come together to support both candidates regardless of party affiliation. Read more
By: Sarah Maxwell, '15
Having two professors from Randolph-Macon run for Congress for the 7th District of Virginia has caused a change in the political atmosphere on campus and in the local area. Since the beginning of this semester, I feel as though I have seen more students interested in politics and becoming politically active than I have seen in the previous three years that I have been at R-MC. Students, and not just those majoring or minoring in Political Science, have expressed interest in the election and actively sought to communicate with the campaign staff of both candidates.
The classroom has also changed with the events of this congressional election, as many topics can be discussed as they take place on our campus. I am taking a seminar in American Political Leadership this semester with Professor Bell, and the focus of this course is actually the 7th District Congressional race. The most exciting thing about this class has been the opportunity to have a relatable experience influence our classroom learning.
By: Lauren Bell, Professor of Political Science and Dean of Academic Affairs
Teaching political science is never more exciting than in a semester that includes an election. In Virginia, we stagger our elections more than many other states, so it seems like there is always an election happening. That’s good for business, as they say. With so many elections, there is no shortage of activities for students to participate in, whether it’s volunteering for a campaign, getting involved in a voter registration drive, or attending candidate debates and forums.
When the only two candidates on the local ballot are your colleagues, and your students’ professors, it takes teaching about the election to a whole other level.
By: Joan Conners, Professor of Communication Studies
I teach a class on American Campaigns and Elections every other fall, in the midst of local, state and sometimes national races. The “real-time” nature of the class looks at past elections and research, and then has students apply those patterns and past findings to current political campaigns.
I think students in the class have an interest in the topics just by virtue of usually being first-time voters. And some may be interested in working on a political campaign in the future. But this fall, many of my students will have the chance not only to study campaigns in real time, but to consider voting for a Randolph-Macon College professor as their next Congressman.
By: Lauren Bell, Professor of Political Science and Dean of Academic Affairs
I’m a political scientist, with a PhD in congressional studies, and I teach at Randolph-Macon College. In the three months since the 2014 Virginia Republican primary election, I’ve probably been asked more about Congress, congressional elections, and my employer than I’ve been asked about any of those things in my 15-year career. I know I’ve never had people ask about them in the same sentence before this past June.
On June 10, 2014, my colleague David Brat defeated sitting U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and received the Republican nomination for the U.S. House from the 7th District of Virginia. As someone who studies Congress, I was stunned. Sitting congressional leaders almost never lose elections—they not only have an incumbency advantage, but they also have perks available to them as leaders that help them to keep their constituents happy. The last sitting congressional leader to lose an election was Speaker of the House Tom Foley, a Democrat, who was swept out of office in November 1994 as part of the Republican Revolution of ’94 that returned Republicans to the House majority for the first time in 40 years.
By: Elliott Meyer, '15
I have always found “the center of the universe” to be an oxymoronic slogan for the town of Ashland. But on June 10th, the day after Dave Brat beat Eric Cantor in the Republican primary, I found myself sitting by the fountain, casually talking to Brian Naylor, NPR’s political correspondent. Satellite trucks crowded Henry Street and all the news stations swarmed outside Peele Hall, the campus administration building, anxiously waiting to interview anyone willing to speak about the election. Two of our professors were going head-to-head in the general election and one would become the next Congressman of Virginia’s 7th district. On June 10th, we were the center of the political universe.
And as fast as the media blew in, they vanished, leaving me excitedly wondering how the election will affect the campus. It is a weird feeling to see a professor you had in class become the face on the front of every newspaper. As a political science student, I am especially excited to see the student body engaging in politics. Both Democrats and Republicans have equally familiar and respected professors to cheer on. But no matter how politically inclined a student is, the Yellow Jacket community can unite behind both professors on the road to the Capitol Hill.