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Students campaign in South Bend mayoral election

| Friday, November 6, 2015

In the midst of ongoing speculation about the 2016 presidential race, the city of South Bend reelected Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg to serve a second term as mayor Tuesday.

Some Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students – who for the most part could not vote in the South Bend elections as residents of other cities  – nevertheless found a way to participate in the election process.

More than 20 interns from Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s volunteered for Buttigieg’s campaign, performing a variety of functions including calling voters to find out their concerns and to encourage them to vote, going door-to-door to speak with constituents and sending out absentee ballots to voters, Notre Dame sophomore Andrew Pott said.

Mayor Pete 1106Matthew McKenna | The Observer

Pott, who was the intern coordinator for Buttigieg’s campaign, said many students initially became involved in the campaign through the College Democrats and from there took on varying degrees of responsibility.

“There were a few people who were really involved and who were there every day or every other day, but then there were other people that were there once or twice,” Pott said.

He said overall, Buttigieg received more than 80 percent of the vote.

“We wouldn’t have gotten that if it wasn’t for all these students showing up,” he said.

Notre Dame junior Casey Baker, one of the college interns for Buttigieg’s campaign, said she chose to work on the campaign because she agrees with Buttigieg’s platform and his approach to governing.

“Even though we’re not going to have a say directly in the polls, everyone’s out there because they really support Pete’s message and think that he is the best option for South Bend,” Baker said. “It’s really cool to be able to indirectly have a voice. … You get to make a difference without even casting a vote.”

Because this was a smaller election, Baker said, student interns were able to interact directly with Buttigieg and his campaign manager throughout the campaign.

Alex Rosselli, Buttigieg’s campaign manager, said the dedication and commitment of student volunteers was a central component to the campaign as a whole.

“[Students] have been coming in multiple days a week, we’ve got students in every day, and they’ve just been unbelievable,” Rosselli said. “They’ve really been the core of our campaign.

“They’ve brought a ton of energy into our operation.”

Rosselli said he hopes the students who helped with Buttigieg’s campaign will continue to participate in politics on a local, as well as regional and national level. He said student engagement in politics is important because current students are the same people who will be assuming leadership roles in future campaigns and elections.

“When young people make their voices heard, when they show up, they can have a tremendous impact on our political system and our civic environment because [they] have a lot to say,” Rosselli said. “[They’re] going to be around a long time.”

Sophomore Sarah Tomas Morgan, a South Bend native, was one of the few Notre Dame students who was able to vote in the election. She said this was her third election voting and that she valued the opportunity to be able to cast a vote in person.

“I felt like I could make an informed decision [in the election] and cast my ballot in a way that I felt comfortable with,” Tomas Morgan said. “I do feel like it’s my responsibility to choose the people who will be leading my city because inevitably someone will get elected, and I would like to have a say in that.”

Tomas Morgan, who is also a co-chair of ND Votes ’16, said ND Votes hosted a few events earlier in the year that offered students from South Bend the opportunity to register to vote in Tuesday’s election.

Buttigieg’s opponent, the Republican candidate Kelly Jones, said like Buttigieg she recognized the political value of engaging students and a younger demographic. Jones said she made an effort to connect with the younger voting population by means of Facebook, as well as through her daughter, who encouraged her friends and acquaintances to vote in the election.

“I honestly believe we did everything we could to run a fair and clean race,” Jones said in an email.

No students worked for Jones’ campaign, although Jones said she reached out to the College Republicans several times and received no response. She said she found their lack of response “disheartening.”

Secretary for the College Republicans Rachel O’Grady said she was not aware of any attempts to contact the College Republicans on the part of Jones (Editor’s Note: Rachel O’Grady is a news writer for The Observer).

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