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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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Once upon a parade

The Homecoming Parade was a chance at publicity for backers of President George W. Bush and potential Democratic rivals.

Almost one year before the 2004 presidential elections, University students have begun to organize support for the candidates.

Shaun Laden, a College of Liberal Arts junior and Students for Dean events coordinator, said more than 30 students marched in Saturday’s Homecoming Parade to rally for Democratic presidential hopeful Dean.

“Marching in the University’s Homecoming Parade is a great opportunity to reach a lot of different Minnesotans,” Laden said.

Junior Emily Souza organized the University group last March and said it now has more than 250 people on its e-mail list.

Former University DFL president and current member Andy Pomroy said students supporting Democratic presidential candidates John Kerry and Wesley Clark also plan groups on campus.

University junior Peter Strohmeier said Monday he is starting a “Students for Kerry” organization.

Strohmeier said there are currently six group members, but he said he hopes the group will grow once it starts meeting.

“Our group isn’t planning on going bonkers,” Strohmeier said. “We just want to let students know that there is another candidate out there besides Howard Dean.”

Supporters of Democratic hopeful Dennis Kucinich also marched in the parade Saturday, as did University College Republicans students in support of President George W. Bush.

Despite this, Pomroy said, Dean supporters are in the lead among the DFL.

“I think the early start-up (of Students for Dean) is reflective of the Dean campaign as a whole,” Pomroy said. “The campaign had a lot of momentum this summer, and right now Dean is the strongest presidential candidate in Minnesota.”

Early activism

While other groups plan to start soon, Students for Dean meets every other Tuesday and Thursday to organize volunteers, coordinate events and raise interest in Dean’s campaign.

Souza said there are about six new members at each meeting.

“Students have so much interest in Dean,” Souza said. “So many people want to get involved with his campaign.”

Tyler Richter, University College Republicans president, said his group also meets regularly, but he said members have not begun serious campaigning yet.

“It’s less crucial for us to start so early because we don’t need to get Bush’s name out there,” Richter said.

Richter said he hopes to start more campaigning midway through spring semester.

Laden said Students for Dean have already been active in campus political issues.

On Saturday, members marched beside members of the striking American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800 – and they also brought them coffee last Wednesday to show their support.

“We want (the union) to know that we support them,” Souza said.

In January, Dean won the Paul Wellstone award from the national AFL-CIO for his pledge to fight for social and economic justice and his support of workers’ efforts to form unions.

“Dean is a big labor guy,” Laden said. “He is supportive of the union organization that’s going on on campus.”

Making an impact

Political science professor William Flanigan said although it might seem early to some, it is not too soon to start campaigning for the 2004 election.

“These candidates need to do well in early primaries,” Flanigan said.

He said he believes student groups contribute to candidates’ successes in primary elections.

“I think student organizations do make some difference,” Flanigan said. “As in any campaign, the more people you have behind you the better.”

Laden said he also feels it is important to start organizing early.

“We need to turn out a Democratic nominee that people want to support,” Laden said. “People can find a lot of appeal in what Dean is doing.”

Laden said that in December, Students for Dean will begin networking with other colleges in the area to expand its campaign.

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