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The Blue & Gray Press | August 21, 2019

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Students aim to shut down extreme partisanship in politics


This week, No Labels, an organization at the University of Mary Washington advocating the practice of bi-partisan leadership, hosted No Labels Week, a week of events, to promote the upcoming election for Governor and other local positions in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

A month prior to election day, the events informed students on the candidates, their policies, bipartisanship and importance of voting.

“We would like students to get involved in the political process. That is what we are most excited about,” said Ben Hemerding, president of Young Democrats. “One of the biggest things with democracy is people have to participate. And if we do not, the government loses its legitimacy.”

On Monday and Tuesday, No Labels kicked off the week-long series with a two-day candidate information session. Club members provided non-biased information about candidates. The information session was then followed by voter registration, allowing students to learn how and when they can vote according to their district.

Wednesday was problem-solvers day, where Anthony Pigninelli and William Dittmarfrom from the No Labels national office in Washington, D.C. conducted a question-and-answer session where students learned about No Labels’ mission and how they can join.

On Thursday, the events will close with a writing party. Students are given the opportunity to write letters to their representatives, voicing their praise, comments, questions and concerns.

No Labels, whose motto is, “Stop Fighting. Start Fixing,” is a national organization that began in spring 2010 as an effort to bring the two opposing parties together to fix the issues that currently reside in the political system.

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote, No Labels founders felt it was time for a change. Together, they enlisted fellow Democrats, Republicans and Independents to fight for one common goal in government: progression.

Two years later after interning for the No Labels national office in Washington D.C., senior Camille Turner decided to start a chapter at UMW. Ben Harris, vice-president of No Labels, reminisced on the clubs beginnings in April 2012.

“It is actually kind of an odd story, I was friends with Camille, who is the president of the club,” said Harris. “One day I was walking down campus and I saw a flyer for a No Labels club about being ‘tired of all the fighting in Washington,’ and I was like, ‘Oh that is cool.’ As I walking away from the board, I saw Camille and I was telling her about it and she was like ‘Oh, I put that up.’

Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and international affairs, is the faculty advisor for No Labels.

“The students asked me if I would be willing to do it, and I said I would,” said Farnsworth. “I think it is important to have a student organization that’s really committed to trying to find a way to bridge these big political gaps we see today. More power to them.”