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Democrats campaign for Donnelly

Teresa Fralish | Monday, September 6, 2004

Notre Dame students gathered Sunday afternoon to register South Bend residents to vote and listen to Joe Donnelly, Democratic challenger of U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola, talk about his campaign.

About 20 students departed Main Circle to knock on doors and register people to vote. Each student carried a clipboard with voter registration forms and absentee ballots. Organizers said the group would target traditionally liberal neighborhoods, mostly on the west side of South Bend, that were likely to vote for Donnelly.

“We’re hitting neighborhoods that have a turnout around 20 percent. These are Democratic neighborhoods,” said Jonathan Diffley, Donnelly’s press secretary and a 2004 Notre Dame graduate.

Diffley said the team of students covered about 500 houses, which equals one precinct.

Notre Dame College Democrats became involved with the Donnelly campaign through Notre Dame sophomore Helen Adeosun, outreach coordinator for the club. Over the summer, Adeosun worked for the Donnelly campaign and continued helping once the school year started.

Though Donnelly staffers have been working to register people throughout the summer, Adeosun said Sunday marked the first time Notre Dame students became involved with door-to-door campaigning.

“It fills that gap we have between the campus and the community,” she said.

Adeosun said groups of students plan to gather each Sunday until the election and register people in South Bend’s west side.

“I realized that I needed to be involved. One man who opened the door didn’t speak English,” said sophomore Pete Lavorini. “It was difficult, but in a good way.”

At the end of the afternoon, students had succeeded in registering about 40 people, and then gathered to hear Donnelly himself speak at a College Democrats meeting. About 100 people were at Sunday’s meeting.

Donnelly spoke to the students about the issues of this year’s election and the importance of involving young people in campaign politics. Donnelly, a Notre Dame graduate and Notre Dame law school alumnus, is running against one-term incumbent Chris Chocola.

“What’s going on in this country in the long run is going to affect you a lot more than it’s going to affect me,” he said.

In addition to young people and the election, Donnelly also touched on some key national issues, such as the war in Iraq and economy.

“The next time we talk about going to war, those decisions will be a lot harder,” he said. “If we don’t have a Congress that stands up for what’s right, I can’t tell you what will happen.”

Donnelly also discussed his and Chocola’s congressional race, saying it was one of a small number of seats that could go Republican or Democrat.

“This decision is so critical. Our congressional seat here is a 50-50 district,” he said. “We’ll have a Democrat president and a Democrat House if you are willing to work hard. It’s up to you.”