The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

1,500+ students join Mock Convention delegations, preparing to predict GOP nominee

Mock Convention leadership shares updates and vision for the 2024 cycle
Anna Maloof
Elizabeth Marshall, ‘25, and Bailey Jordan, ‘26, table for North Carolina.

Over 1,500 students kicked off the year by joining state delegations in preparation for the 28th Mock Convention.

During a Sept. 6 event coined Delegate’s Day, students choose between the 56 state and territory delegations, and formally register and get their tickets for the convention weekend. This day is when Mock Convention, commonly referred to as “Mock Con,” transforms from a group of around 100 students to the largest student-run organization on campus.

Since 1908, the students of Washington and Lee have been replicating the national convention of the party not in power to predict their nominee for the presidential election.  This year, that party is the GOP.

According to the official Mock Con website, the organization has been correct on 74% of its predictions, making it the most accurate political mock convention in the nation.

Each cycle brings new changes in structure and programming, including the expansion of events and opportunities for students to get involved. Three years ago, the previous executive team hired General Chair Ramsay Trask, ’24, Political Chair Foster Harris, ’24, and Financial Chair Brandon Konlian, ’24, to shape what the 28th convention cycle would look like.

Since then, the executive team has expanded to six members, including Director of Operations Carly Snyder, ’24, Director of Communications Anna Connolly, ’25, and General Secretary Peyton Pack, ’25.

“It’s such a unique feeling to know that you’ve had a concrete impact on the W&L student experience,” Trask said. “We’ve built this pseudo-company from the ground up.”

This cycle has already included more programming than past conventions.

During last year’s Parents Weekend, the organization brought former First Lady Laura Bush and her daughter to speak on campus. And last March’s spring kickoff featured former vice president and current presidential candidate Mike Pence, along with Fox News journalist Bret Baier, a noticeable change from the casual get-togethers of past kickoff events.

“This cycle, we’re aiming higher than other conventions have done in the past,” Snyder said. “The team has put a lot of effort into promoting political engagement by appealing to the wide variety of interests that the student body has.”

But the core values of being student-led, research driven, and “united to predict,” as Mock Con’s slogan says, have remained constant throughout the 115 years of the organization’s existence.

Political Chair Foster Harris, ’24, spent the past summer conducting research with Mock Con’s political department. He and his team recently attended the first Republican presidential primary debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s already started sending out presidential race updates through the “State of the Race” newsletter.

The communications team under Connolly has also been involved in the distribution of Mock Con updates with a new role in educating students on American politics as a whole, rather than just the electoral process.

Another thing that Mock Con has improved on since last cycle, Harris said, is its outreach in finding and working with senior advisors involved with every candidate’s campaign on multiple levels of the Republican National Committee.

“We’re really working on building relationships with folks who, right now, are shaping what the primary will even look like and what the rules of the actual convention will be,” Harris said. “Of course we’re still keeping up with our database excellence, but polling cannot tell the whole political story.”

He also said that communicating with these key committee members gives students valuable educational opportunities to have access to legitimate, timely information as well as unique political experiences.

Like many other students, Harris found himself drawn to Washington and Lee because of Mock Con. During the last cycle, in 2020, he watched as the previous political chair, John Harashinski, ’20, was able to give “more updated information about the national convention than ABC News.”

But Mock Con isn’t just about politics, and recent executive teams have made sure that the convention experience and its lead-up has a place for everyone.

Konlian describes his experience as head of the organization’s financial department as a “great holistic experience” that has given him and his team a chance to explore the financial world by working with the organization’s large budget and all of its expenses. They have also learned to work with legal documents relating to Mock Con’s wide reach.

Together with communications director Connolly, Konlian has put together several fundraising events, including the upcoming Parents Weekend auction, which features several experience packages for participants to bid on.

Mock Con departments have grown to include new and more detailed positions, such as a director of grants and a director of merchandise.

Even journalism and communications students have been able to gain more exposure covering important political events and working alongside established news outlets. Pence and Baier’s campus talk was the first time Washington and Lee had “open press in the chapel, Snyder said.

What most students get out of Mock Con, however, is community and the chance to be part of something very unique. By joining delegations, Trask said members get to “shape their own experiences,” whether they get involved with research, building the parade floats, communicating with advisors or just being there with their friends.

Snyder said that the Mock Con executive team was very intentional when it was time to pick the state chairs who would lead each delegation. Diversity and inclusion and getting everyone involved was at the forefront of every decision.

“We wanted to reach into every corner on campus, including theme houses and international groups,” she said. “We want Mock Con to be the most inclusive it can be.”

She added that the team also wants students to have fun with it – no one is required to join the delegation of the state they are from. In fact, she said, the first delegations to fill are typically the U.S. territories, including Guam and the American Samoa.

“Obviously there are always some delegations, like Texas, that are especially attractive because of how many people there are from that state,” she said. “But beyond that you can never really predict which state is going to fill up. This year, a lot of first years gravitated towards Utah.”

As the fall term progresses, students can expect to hear more frequent updates from the team and their state chairs, including more information about the Presidential Gala on Nov. 11 and convention weekend Feb. 8-11.

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