Students evaluate Dems in televised party debate

by Beth Hornby

DFL representatives joined students at Coffman Union on Thursday to watch a live debate of Democratic presidential hopefuls, telecasted from Phoenix.

The Minnesota Young DFL – an unofficial branch of the Minnesota DFL composed of students, young professionals and community members under age 35 – hosted the event along with the University DFL.

Local representatives from several presidential campaigns were present at the viewing to answer questions and recruit student votes.

Emily Souza, chairwoman for Students for (Howard) Dean, said she was glad to see the seats in the Coffman Theater filled even though more than a year remains before the presidential election.

“We need to pick a leader soon if we are going to get (George W.) Bush out of there, and we need a candidate who we can agree with and who excites us,” Souza said.

Brad Robideau, a representative for candidate Joe Lieberman, said he chose to watch the debates from Coffman Union because he wants Democrats at the University to become more involved in politics.

“We need young people to build a foundation for this generation and future generations,” Robideau said.

Minnesota Young DFL President Alex Eaton said the event was also meant to inform students about different candidates. He said getting feedback from students and the community will help the group understand what people are looking for from a Democratic candidate.

“We want to inform people on how we’ll roll out our plan for the presidential elections,” Eaton said.

Students who attended the event laughed and applauded during the approximately 90-minute debate. Many said the program was informative.

“I am here because I am very interested in voting Democratic for 2004. I feel the positive momentum, but I’m unsure which candidate is best,” Spanish sophomore Danny Carlson said.

First-year student Mike Floyd said, “It is hard to find where the candidates stand. Now I’m more clear.”

The crowd particularly reacted to candidates’ comments on the war in Iraq. Many cheered when Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said he was the only member on stage who voted against the war.

“I am seeing different opinions on war,” first-year student Margaret DeTrempe said. She said she is interested in seeing troops pulled out of Iraq.

Andy Pomroy, former U-DFL chairman, estimated that at least 200 students attended the debate.

The Minnesota Student Association also had a booth at the event. MSA representative Amy Pierce said MSA is looking for new student members. She said MSA also wants to keep students well informed.

“We are trying to lead interest for Lobby Day including writing to legislators, calling legislators and organizing a really successful Lobby Day for next year,” Pierce said.

MSA was disappointed with the Lobby Day turnout of 100 students last year, Pierce said, and it is getting an early start getting people interested in issues that affect the University.

“It is a day that MSA gets a lot of students to go over to the Capitol. MSA will set up interviews with individual students to go in to give their own personal stories on whatever issues they want to talk about,” Pomroy said.