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Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

State and local government roles offer source of passion to two UC Davis students

From collecting signatures to protecting the delta, these roles would allow for greater student voice, representation within government

With its proximity to the state capitol, UC Davis is often a top choice for students who want to pursue a career in politics. Two students are already starting to take their political aspirations off-campus and are making runs for local and state positions in 2020. 

Francois Kaeppelin, a third-year political science major, is running to be a member of the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee (DCC) and Sophia Racke, a fourth-year international relations major, is running for the California State Assembly.

Kaeppelin has actually occupied this position since March 2019, ever since he sought it out and was appointed to the position. Kaeppelin noticed that the committee had a vacant spot, and is now running for reelection. He saw this role as an opportunity to bring a new voice to the DCC.

“I have speaking privileges during meetings, and I can take votes on resolutions,” Kaeppelin said. “It pretty much gives me a place at the table, and the students’ voice was desperately missing at the time.”

In addition to having the much-needed power to bring attention to pertinent issues that affect students, Kaeppelin also puts a lot of his focus on housing and security in the community and has been able to completely revamp the DCC’s online presence. When he began working for the committee, the website’s domain had expired, making it almost impossible for people to stay up-to-date on the committee’s proceedings. Kaeppelin said having adequate technology is imperative for the success of the committee — and the Democratic party — in the upcoming elections.

“The biggest thing for me is technology,” Kaeppelin said. “I designed the website and made sure that everybody is on the same page when it comes to technology. I’ve basically been setting up the infrastructure to make sure that a Democrat gets elected in 2020. Just setting up the infrastructure is crucial.”

Even though he is currently running for reelection, Kaeppelin is going through the campaign process for the first time, which provides him with a unique perspective. The most difficult part of the process so far, according to Kaeppelin, has been collecting 40 signatures from registered voters in California’s 4th district, which he needs just to appear on the ballot. Though 40 signatures may not seem overly challenging to some, many Davis residents — especially students — are ineligible to sign his papers because they are registered to vote in their home counties.

Racke encountered an issue quite similar to Kaeppelin’s. 

“I had to collect 40 signatures in one week, and it was finals week at Davis,” Racke said. “My campaign manager and I reached out to everyone we knew, […] but they had to be registered to vote in the 4th district.”

Racke decided to enter the race while studying abroad in London, leaving her with just one week between the time she returned from her program and the deadline to turn in her petition papers, requiring 40 signatures. After having only one day to find her final 10 supporters, she secured 11 — bringing her total signature count to 41 and securing her place on the ballot.

Racke’s decision to run is a direct product of her time in London. While studying at the London School of Economics, she became involved in conversations regarding United Kingdom students’ concerns about  Brexit. The more she talked to these students, however, the more she realized that many of them were uneducated on the details of the issue.

Racke began to examine her friends’ opinions on politics back in the U.S. and found that they were similarly passionate about certain federal issues, but at a loss regarding how to get educated and involved. Racke explained that this sparked her interest in having a more expansive role in California’s politics.

“[My friends and I] thought that we could get attention through [the California State Assembly] and get more people involved in local politics and get people to realize that you can make a difference no matter your age or background if you have the passion and desire to do so,” Racke said.

She put together a campaign team, partly composed of friends she met in London, all of whom are featured on her campaign’s instagram, @sophia.racke. They began to brainstorm what issues they felt most passionate about, and Racke and her team came up with five specific policy goals going into 2020.

“One of them is protection of the delta and its wildlife,” Racke said. “Another one of them is investment in wildfire prevention. Awareness, intervention and prevention of sexual assault, especially on our campuses. Awareness, intervention and prevention of elderly abuse, and the […] reorganization of political finance and regulations.”

Racke now needs to pass the primary elections on Mar. 3, 2020. If she does so, her name will appear on the ballot for the general elections in November. Her message to students? Get involved in local politics, whether that be here in the 4th district or in your hometowns.

“Local politics have policies that affect your life every day,” Racke said. “It can be as simple as your housing — as students [at UC Davis] we have a housing issue. Young people have a unique voice, and they should use it.”

Written by: Katie DeBenedetti — features@theaggie.org


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