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Alec Hanna

Republicans often talk about how college students are indoctrinated by liberal faculty who have taken over educational institutions. The merits of this argument can be discussed at another time, but Republicans here in Colorado have seemingly given up entirely on college students.

Like many other political operatives, I got my start in politics during college. I attended Marquette University, a Catholic-Jesuit school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As with most Jesuit universities, Marquette is not known for its abundance of conservative students, faculty or policies from the college administration. That being said, we conservatives had a voice, a network and an ability to “be the difference” (Marquette’s tagline) through our chapter of the College Republicans.

During this past election cycle, as I was developing strategies and plans for the campaign I was working on, I wanted to connect with the College Republican chapters here in Colorado. Much to my shock and disbelief, only two colleges in the state had chapters — CU Boulder and CU Colorado Springs. There is zero presence at any of the schools in Denver, or at the second largest college in the state, Colorado State University, or any rural schools, or even Colorado Christian University, arguably the most conservative college in the state. Though some of these schools previously had chapters, they have since disbanded.

From a political operation perspective, this is damning. For those of you who read my Dec. 4 Sunday Perspective piece in The Denver Gazette, "How the Colorado GOP can prevail," you know one of the action items the GOP here needs to do is voter outreach. In my former home state, Wisconsin, the College Republicans play an integral part in being able to achieve the massive numbers of doors knocked and phones called.

In that piece, I also made the point about hiring professional political staff. Every political operative I know on the right side of the aisle was a College Republican. Of the numerous people I have hired on various campaigns, they have all been College Republicans.

I know some of you are probably thinking, well Alec, you majored in Political Science, being a College Republican makes sense for you, but how does that apply to the students who are not majoring in political science and not trying to pursue a career in politics?

College Republicans is open to all students regardless of their major. In fact, the vast majority of our chapter’s members were not political science majors, nor in the years since they graduated have they pursued careers in politics. For them, it was a place to be able to network with likeminded students, to help shape their understanding of something they were not majoring in, and to do a little to help elect candidates they supported.

Wisconsin is one of the best examples of a statewide College Republicans federation. Of the 13 four-year public institutions in the state, 10 have chapters. The three who do not are three of the four smallest by student population in the system.

On the private university side, Wisconsin has nine chapters ranging from the large urban research university Marquette University to the small Ripon College with barely 800 students in a small rural city in the center of the state.

These 19 chapters cover nearly all corners of the state and have a strong statewide federation. This collaboration allows College Republicans from crosstown schools to attend events the other chapters are hosting and gain insight as to what techniques and tactics have worked on their campus.

We can’t give up on having a Republican presence at our colleges. Founding more College Republican Chapters, and fostering their growth, is where we must start.

Alec Hanna is a Colorado-based Republican campaign strategist and founder of Dark Horse Campaigns. He previously served as a director for former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and has served on dozens of campaigns nationwide including three presidential campaigns (Walker, Rubio and Cruz).

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