Georgetown graduates on both sides of the political spectrum are on the ballot as incumbents and challengers in elections across the country today.
Eighteen graduates currently hold seats in Congress, seven of whom received their undergraduate education at Georgetown.
In Michigan, Democratic Rep. John Dingell (COL ’49, LAW ’52) is seeking to enter his 29th term in Congress. In February 2009, Dingell became the longest serving member of the House in history. He has held his seat since 1955.
Dingell is accustomed to wide margins of victory in his district. He won his seat with 70 percent of the vote in 2008. This year Dingell faces a stiffer challenge than usual, however, with an increasingly unfriendly climate for incumbents and a tough opponent in Republican Rob Steele.
“This is probably the nastiest climate I’ve ever seen,” Dingell told The New York Times.
“It’s worse than the fights during civil rights, it’s worse than the troubles during the Depression.”
Still, recent polls show Dingell leading with 53 percent of the vote. Steele has 36 percent.
But Dingell is not the only incumbent graduate facing a challenge. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) (COL ’80) has attracted national attention for her election, due to her status as a write-in candidate. In September she lost the Republican nomination to Tea Party candidate Joe Miller, a “Papa Grizzly” of Sarah Palin’s. But according to the most recent polling by Dittman Research, Murkowski leads both Miller and Scott McAdams, the Democratic candidate.
“I’m very fond of Senator Murkowski,” Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming, who contributed to Murkowski’s re-election fund, said in an email. “I think she’s a terrific legislator and has made an effort to engage with the university since [she’s] been in D.C.”
If she wins, she will be the first write-in candidate to win a Senate seat since Strom Thurmond won in South Carolina in 1954.
In Massachusetts’s 4th District, Sean Bielat (COL ’98), the Republican candidate competing with incumbent Rep. Barney Frank, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, is using the surge of frustration with incumbents to his advantage. In February, Bielat trailed Frank by more than 30 points, according to polling aggregation service FiveThirtyEight.com. He has now cut that margin in half.
Georgetown is among the most well-represented universities in politics. Notable alumni include Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates (GRD ’74), Illinois Sen. and Democratic Party Whip Richard Joseph Durbin (SFS ’66), and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) (LAW ’66). The alumni presence on the national political scene comes as no surprise to on-campus political groups.
“Everyone comes to Georgetown with very high political expectations and it’s great to see that you really can go from here to Congress,” Georgetown University College Democrats President Bryan Woll (COL ’12) said.
“If you look at public service as a higher calling, in terms of serving your community and serving your state, that’s definitely something that is in line with Georgetown’s Jesuit ideals,” Woll said. “I think it’s a big part of why so many Georgetown graduates go into public service.”