Maryville College Democrats held an interest meeting on Thursday, Feb. 10 with the intent to revamp the club in preparation for the 2022 midterm elections. Though the turnout was small with only four attendees, interest is expected to grow as the political year heats up.
MC Dems has struggled to maintain club membership during the pandemic, an issue further exacerbated by former President Alijah Lawson’s graduation in December of 2021. Freshman Connor Gahagan has recently taken on the position of President and says he is working towards getting the club back up and running.
Maryville College Professor Adrienne Schwarte, long-time co-advisor for MC Dems, says club leadership has always struggled with consistency as students often don’t express interest until their junior or senior year and then graduate soon after. The natural consequence of a four-year university is a routine turnover in club participation. In addition to these difficulties, Schwarte noted that the pandemic has made it even harder to secure membership as meetings were often held over zoom in the early days of the pandemic and are now transitioning back to an in-person format.
Nathan Higdon, chair of the Blount County Democratic Party, reached out to Professor Schwarte hoping to assist her in her search for a new President. Each president of the MC Democrats holds a seat on the Blount County Democratic Party Executive Committee, and that seat has been vacant since the graduation of Former President Lawson.
Higdon recommended Gahagan for the role as Gahagan has a history of political activism in the Blount County community and has worked with the Blount County Democratic Party in past campaigns. Gahagan is a local student who graduated from Maryville College High School in 2021 and is now pursuing his degree in history with additional courses for licensure.
As a freshman, he is in an excellent position to offer consistent leadership in the club for the next four years. Gahagan said his current concern is primarily meeting attendance, but he was not discouraged by the initially small turnout. When asked if he was worried about the workload of being President, he confidently stated that he is aware of the responsibilities and is prepared to see them through.
Gahagan used the time during the meeting to assist fellow students with voting registration and offered general information on contemporary local politics and upcoming elections. MC Dems has more leadership opportunities available, and Gahagan listed filling those roles as one of his top priorities.
MC Dems plans to hold its next event towards the end of February or the beginning of March, and an announcement can be expected in [email protected] in the coming weeks.