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Student groups support presidential candidates

Madeline Buckley | Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Notre Dame’s College Democrats recently collaborated with other local schools to open a democratic campaign headquarters in South Bend, with the goal of helping elect Senator Obama in the November presidential election.

“We want to help elect Senator Obama and all the other candidates we are working for,” Notre Dame’s College Democrats president Spencer Howard said. “And in the broader scheme of things, [our goal] is to put the country on what we consider the right track.”

After months of raising money through various fundraisers and donations from South Bend residents, the office opened Thursday with an open house attended by a couple hundred interested students and members of the South Bend community, Howard said.

The Notre Dame College Democrats worked with Sean Dvorac and Caitlin Worm of the Indiana University of South (IUSB) Bend College Democrats to organize the office in town.

“We just met at the South Bend Chocolate Café and thought it would be cool to organize the College Democrats in the area, so we did it,” Howard said.

Howard, Dvorac and Worm’s collaboration became the Northern Indiana College Democrats, a group that now encompasses Saint Mary’s College, Holy Cross, Ivy Tech and Bethel along with Notre Dame and IUSB, Howard said.

The Northern Indiana College Democrats wanted an office “so students from schools can campaign as well as have a college atmosphere to do homework and hang out with friends,” Howard said.

The office is located on Mishawaka Avenue in South Bend because the group did not want the headquarters to be centered on one school, Howard said.

“We are trying to make it so all the schools can come together and students from multiple colleges in the area can get to know each other,” he said. “What happens in this area affects all of us so we might as well come together.”

Volunteers will use the office to focus on campaigning in Saint Joseph County, Howard said. The leaders have lined up students to make phone calls to South Bend homes and go door to door, canvassing various neighborhoods, he said.

Along with campaigning for Obama, the Northern College Indiana Democrats also focus on local democratic candidates such as congressman Joe Donnelly, who is up for reelection and gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson, Howard said.

The primary aim of the collaboration of different schools in the office was to pool the resources of the different colleges in the area, Dvorac said.

“[Each school] has different strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

While many Notre Dame students come from different parts of the country, most IUSB students are local, Dvorac said.

This creates a strong group of students mixing “local color” with a national student body, he said.

Notre Dame sophomore Andrea Green, a volunteer in the office, said she is excited to be involved in the campaign because of previous campaign work she did on behalf of Hilary Clinton in the primaries.

“[Working on the Clinton Campaign] was a great experience,” she said.

This election is really exciting because students are becoming more interested in the election, Green said.

“We had our first [College Democrats] meeting of the year and had the biggest turnout with 93 people,” she said. “Students are getting more involved in this election and trying to become more informed about what is going on.”

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The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

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Student groups support presidential candidates

Joseph McMahon | Wednesday, September 10, 2008

While the football team was gearing up for its first game against San Diego State, the Notre Dame College Republicans headed north to show their support for the presidential ticket of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at a Sept. 5 political rally in Sterling, Heights, Mich.

“The rally was absolutely awesome and inspiring,” College Republicans president Edward Yap said. “The 25 Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students that collectively drove more than 40 hours to see the McCain/Palin rally in Sterling Heights left ready to do anything and everything necessary to elect John McCain and Sarah Palin.”

Yap and 24 others drove to the rally despite the Student Activities Office’s (SAO) refusal to fund the trip. Originally about 125 students had signed up to go and Yap said the College Republicans were willing to pay for the trip with club funds.

However, SAO denied the group’s request, saying student funding cannot be used in support of any political candidate and also refused to give group members excused absences from their classes.

“What angers me the most is that if the College Republicans cannot use money in support of a candidate, what can we use the money for?” Yap said. “So in essence the University was telling us that we were essentially forbidden from going to the rally as a group. We had to drive our own cars and spend hundreds of dollars on gas to get to the event.”

However, members of the College Republicans said the trip was well worth the cost as all 25 students were given special front row seating and were able to shake hands with McCain and Palin. Yap said Palin even signed his Fighting Irish flag.

“I’ll be cherishing that for the rest of my life,” he said. “I felt as if they were speaking to me and every other person in the room, young and old, and telling us that the future – our future would be well protected in their hands.”

Junior Cynthia Curley said he was able to connect with McCain and Palin during their speeches.

“You realize that they are real people and in the brief 15 seconds that you get to speak with them, they really look you in the eye and really connect with you,” she said.

Curley even invited McCain to stay in her dorm room for football games, adding hosting a presidential candidate would be well worth breaking parietals.

“As he was leaving John McCain said he wanted to come to a Notre Dame football game, and I told him he could sleep in my dorm. It would be worth breaking parietals,” she said.

Education chair Andrew Clark and junior Christine Romero, who also co-chairs ND Votes ’08, both said they were most excited to see Palin speak.

“I’m really excited about Governor Palin as the vice presidential candidate,” Romero said. “She’s an idol of mine and she shows that the liberals don’t have a monopoly on feminism anymore. I love her.”

Clark said while he supported McCain, he wasn’t really excited for the upcoming election until Palin was picked as the vice presidential candidate.

“Everyone would just kind of tolerate McCain and support him because he was the Republican candidate, but they weren’t really excited. I think everyone’s excited now,” he said. “She brings the same charisma to the Republican ticket that [Barack] Obama brings to the Democratic ticket.”

The members of the College Republicans all said they hoped the ticket would consider visiting campus in the months leading up to the election.

“Indiana right now is becoming a battleground state,” Yap said. “According to polling, John McCain is only up by 2 points, so I think [he] would consider coming to campus.”

However, the members questioned the University’s hospitality for candidates, citing the fact that in the past 20 years only Joe Lieberman and Bill Clinton have visited campus in the midst of their bids for the White House.

“It’s kind of making Notre Dame fall off the map a little bit because we can’t attract candidates to campus,” Romero said.