U students create groups to back 2004 candidates

by Stephanie Kudrle

Fifty-seven days remain until the election, and political campaigns are about to escalate to the next level.

Whether it is in national or local races, student groups are gearing up to support their candidates on Nov. 2.

Many groups have already started campaigning by handing out fliers, setting up tables in Coffman Union or holding meetings to gain more supporters.

Peter Strohmeier, a member of Students for John Kerry, said his group wants to attract new, young members this fall.

“We’ve already received 20 to 25 e-mails from freshmen and sophomores who want to be involved with the campaign,” he said. “That’s amazing.”

Strohmeier said he thinks students will vote for democratic presidential nominee Sen. Kerry because the senator cares about issues important to young people, such as the economy.

But his group isn’t the only one on campus committed to electing a president.

The student committee to re-elect the president will campaign for President George W. Bush this fall. Its members hope to convince swing voters to vote Republican.

Group member Aaron Solem said the group will set up tables and work to promote Bush to students.

Other groups on campus are taking a more local approach to the election.

U-DFL president Austin Miller said his group will be campaigning for politicians in local races. They will hand out fliers, hold social events and set up tables in Coffman Union, Miller said.

However, he said the group will be less involved in the re-election campaign of Rep. Phyllis Kahn, D-Minneapolis, because he thinks she will easily win her race.

Kahn has represented the area around the University at the Legislature for about 32 years.

The U-DFL will also be volunteering for the Kerry/Edwards campaign. Miller said he thinks students “overwhelmingly support Kerry” because the University is traditionally a very liberal campus.

But Tony Richter, vice president of the College Republicans, said he disagrees with that idea.

“That might have been the case in the ’70s or even into the early ’90s,” he said. “But Minnesota is turning Republican, and that is carrying through the college campus.”

He said there has been increasing membership in the College Republicans, which he hopes will top 1,000 students before the election is over.

The group will be active in voter-registration drives and local races, Richter said, but the main focus for this semester will be re-electing Bush.

“There are some tough choices facing our country, and as a Republican, I don’t want to see those decisions go to the Democrats,” Richter said.

Democrats and Republicans aren’t the only ones gearing up for the election. Matthew Tajbakhsh, co-chairman of the College Greens, said his group is working for Green Party candidates.

The Green Party of Minnesota will have several candidates in local races, including the District 5 U.S. House race and the State House districts.

The College Greens have 400 registered members, Tajbakhsh said, and he hopes more students will take an interest this year.

“We have a unique progressive platform that we follow through with, unlike other parties,” he said.

He said it is difficult to get third party candidates elected because of the “winner-takes-all” voting system.

“The Democrats and Republicans try to keep us out,” he said. “We’re a young party and there’s a lot of work to be done. But I don’t feel discouraged.”