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Local Opinion: Students are to thank for Arizona Dems' huge victories

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

When Arizonans think of elections, they think of canvassers banging at their door, flashy signs scattered at every street corner, and a gut-wrenching amount of rather terrifying TV commercials. It appears, though, that it wasn’t just those long-time strategies that won elections this cycle.

Now, trendy TikTok videos, text messages and social media graphics (plus the occasional pizza party on college campuses, of course) are turning younger voters out. Gen-Z is here and ready to fight for their rights. This year, students have witnessed how voting impacts their daily lives. From the overturning of a federal right to abortion to the introduction of “Don’t Say Gay” bills in many states, youth have been carrying the burdens of leaders who don’t represent their values.

This year, they chose to fight back and make their voices heard. At Arizona State University, gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs and other Democratic candidates held events and talked to students about the issues that mattered most. At the University of Arizona, Sen. Mark Kelly spent hours and hours throughout his campaign building relationships with students from all political affiliations and demonstrating his track record of working across the aisle to find solutions. At hundreds of high schools, student organizations mobilized their eligible peers to register to vote and cast a ballot for the very first time.

Republicans also tried to engage their nearly non-existent young voter base. With huge Donald Trump-attended rallies and Turning Point USA showdowns, the GOP reached enormous audiences of conservatives. However, their harsh messaging — a total ban on abortion, a refusal to fund public education, attacks on LGBTQ+ Arizonans, and an idolization of Trump — was not appealing to students across the state. On the contrary, Democrats strategically campaigned on the very opposite, showing the stark difference of sanity versus chaos and captivating the energy of young voters.

Data from CNN exit polls shows that 71% of 18-to-29-year-old voters supported Democrat Katie Hobbs for the governorship. Although a tight race, with Hobbs only leading by about 17,000 votes, increased student turnout truly gave her the numbers to defeat Republican Kari Lake and send her back home, or as Hobbs would say, “to whatever dark corner of the internet she came from.”

Over the next four years of (soon-to-be) Gov. Hobbs, it is important that she keeps engaging students and stressing how her agenda is making a direct impact, whether she provides much-needed relief from inflation, ensures protections for the LGBTQ+ community, or addresses the painful costs of university education.

Her Ninth Floor will most definitely be a deciding factor in the 2024 election — will she give students the motivation to mobilize for Democrats yet again?

Follow these steps to easily submit a letter to the editor or guest opinion to the Arizona Daily Star.

Bradley Reece is executive director at Engaged Arizona, director of finance at Keep Arizona Blue Student Coalition, and a student at the University of Arizona. Find him on Twitter at @BradleyDReece.

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