SEATTLE — For Kyle Curtis, president of the University of Washington College Republicans, it is nearly impossible to show support for his chosen presidential candidate.
“I can’t tell you how hard it is to get a Mitt Romney sign in this state,” Curtis said.
Curtis did find a sign, but he also found confrontation. While holding the blue-and-red Mitt Romney poster on campus he got a disproving reaction from a passerby.
“He glared at us, then he took a few steps back,” Curtis said. “He was like, ‘You’re kidding me. You’re actually going to vote for Mitt Romney?’ and then I was like ‘Yes.’”
Curtis and the man discussed their points of view and parted on good terms. But the skirmish illustrates how difficult it can be for a conservative living in a liberal area.
The sky might be grey in Seattle but there is plenty of blue in the voting population. Washington state has voted for the Democratic Party candidate in every presidential election consecutively from 1988-2008. Curtis predicts Washington voters will do the same thing in the 2012 election.
“It’s the look,” said Curtis. “The look is something we always get.”
That look is especially prevalent on the UW campus, where students typically lean to the left. The College Republicans struggle to gain a foothold on campus.
“One day we even had donuts and it was still hard to get people,” said Curtis. “For a campus that seems to be open to diversity, it definitely lacks [that value] when it comes to accepting conservatives.”
Some of the democratically oriented students at UW, such as Jacob Thorpe, a political science major, are skeptical.
“Try being a liberal in the south,” said Thorpe. “Just because most people don’t agree with you doesn’t mean you’re being oppressed.”
Oppressed or not, conservatives in the city of Seattle are outnumbered. Curtis and College Republicans took this fact into consideration earlier in the year when deciding how to prepare for the election season.
“With a state that’s already going to vote blue, are we going to put those efforts toward Romney, or toward our governor’s race?” He said of the group’s decision to focus energy on the governor’s race. “However, we’re all voting Romney, and we support Romney.”
Many conservatives in the Emerald City don’t only feel outnumbered but also unaccepted. Mike Stall, a 33-year-old member of the King County Young Republicans, said that a lot of people join the organization because “they just needed to be around some people who would just be nice to them, even though they voted for Bush or they thought capitalism was a good thing.”
“It’s kind of sad that we would have a city that pushes you to that, but at least there is a relief. So in that sense I’m happy,” said Stall.
Stall explained how a lot of members come to the group with stories of liberals who targeted them personally because of their conservative views.
Lauren Pettine, a 20-year-old UW student, was criticized via tumblr because of her conservative beliefs.
“I have had people send me nasty messages being like, ‘You have the most horrible perspective; you’re all wrong,’” Pettine said.
She eventually created a new blog to specifically address only politics, so that backlash against her views wouldn’t be directed towards her personal account. Pettine explained that people often jump to conclusions about her beliefs because of her association with the Republican Party.
People often assume she opposes Referendum 74, when in fact she supports gay marriage.
“I was baptized in a Christian church by a gay priest, so I’m all for it,” said Pettine.
And Pettine says that most young republicans think very differently than the older generation of conservatives.
“The national progression is to be like, well I’m fiscally conservative but I’m not socially conservative,” Pettine explained.
Despite the fact that Pettine doesn’t agree with all of Romney’s social views she will join Curtis in voting for him November 6.