It’s Official: Presidential Politics Return to Campus

Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee dropped in as New Hampshire’s primary season gears up.

It’s official: The 2020 New Hampshire presidential primary is underway, and once again Dartmouth is in the thick of it.

Early in the parade of candidates stopping by the College in the run-up to the nation’s first primary was Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. He told a gathering of about 30 Dartmouth students and members of the local and national media at the Hopkins Center Tuesday that he is “very close” to making a decision about running for president.

The two-term Democrat made the near declaration during a speech on climate change that followed a lunch with a dozen campus Democrats, during which he asked for advice on how to get his message out to young voters. Inslee’s one-day swing through the state also included sit-downs with state party leaders and meetings with Democratic organizers, and was followed by a late drive to New York for an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon and a flight back to Olympia, where the new legislative session is taking up the governor’s climate initiative.

“Anyone who is thinking about running for president wants to come to New Hampshire, and everyone wants to talk to college students, so our workload is going to increase exponentially in the next few months,” says Gigi Gunderson ’21, president of the College Democrats, the student group that sponsored Inslee’s visit.

Inslee is by no means the first presidential hopeful to drop by. Rep. John Delaney, a Maryland Democrat, was at a meet-and-greet in Hanover on Jan. 19 and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was at an October event at Dartmouth campaigning for Democrats in the midterm—including Dartmouth’s own Garrett Muscatel ’20, who was elected to the New Hampshire House. (Also elected to the N.H. House in November was Republican Gates Lucas ’16.)

The visits began as early as last March, when former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander were testing the Democratic primary waters at Dartmouth.  

At the Inslee event, Arianna Khan ’22, who voted in her first general election in the November midterms, says the political environment at Dartmouth sparked her interest in politics.

“I was here for the small-group conversation with the governor and I think that is so cool. It was not something that I expected I would get to do when I came to Dartmouth. It’s such a unique opportunity. It’s awesome to be able to meet these people personally,” Khan says.

With a Republican incumbent likely seeking a second term, the run-up to a GOP primary has been quiet so far, but the open primary in 2016 brought a steady stream of Republican presidential hopefuls including former New York Gov. George Pataki, then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

And Dartmouth alumna Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ’88 of New York is one of four—along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Kamala Harris of California, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii—to officially declare they are running for the Democratic nomination for president in the 2020 election.

Students who are interested in politics have a unique opportunity at Dartmouth, says Michael Parsons ’20. “Politics is very special here. It’s all very close quarters, you get to meet a bunch of people, you get to listen, and exchange ideas. It’s what is known in New Hampshire as ‘retail politics.’ ”

William Platt can be reached at [email protected].