Students hit streets, Net to help candidates

Karlee Weinmann

Whether it’s posting lawn signs, knocking on doors on political candidates’ behalf or working with them directly, students continue to demonstrate political activism this election season.

Many students make their voices heard by providing tangible support for their chosen candidates. With primary results still fresh and November’s general election looming, they’re being heard louder and more clearly than ever.

University DFL President Noah Seligman, a former Minnesota Daily sports reporter, is no stranger to the campaign trail. He said he already was attending Bill Clinton rallies at 7 years old.

In 2002, the Madison, Wis., native volunteered for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s campaign. He said he’s been active in the political community ever since.

The U-DFL is planning a fall campaign drive, which will include canvassing campus in true grassroots fashion, Seligman said.

And while political propensities are not being cast aside in the movement, he said sheer voter turnout will be a definite point of emphasis.

“If students vote in higher numbers, there will be a higher number of Democrats in office. Democrats do more for higher education,” he said. “The least amount young people have to do to get their voice heard is vote.”

English and Russian language junior Pat Smith is also familiar with the campaigning process: He’s been blogging about the 6th District U.S. Congressional campaign this summer.

Although Smith writes in support of Democratic candidate Patty Wetterling, he is unaffiliated with her official campaign.

Wetterling’s Republican opponent, state Sen. Michele Bachmann, represents Smith’s hometown, Stillwater.

Smith said he is supporting Wetterling for two reasons.

“(Bachmann’s) done a poor job,” he said. “And, (Wetterling) is offering a way out of the chaos in Iraq, a tax plan for the middle class and she’s done great work in the past lobbying. I’m proud to have cast a vote for her in 2004 (when she ran for Congress).”

Smith also worked for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign at an on-campus phone bank and went door-to-door to promote the candidate.

Smith is not the only student with presidential campaign experience. Andy Post, a first-year marketing and political science student, said he’s met President George W. Bush three times while helping Republican campaigns.

Since 2002, Post has worked for U.S. Rep. John Kline, where he directs lawn-sign distribution in Dakota County, answers phones and marches in parades.

“If you don’t get involved, you can’t see how much work is put into the whole campaigning and election process,” he said. “There’s no good reason not to get involved.”

Post has broadened his campaign résumé to include supporting this year’s Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Mark Kennedy, and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s re-election bid.

“Without volunteers, (the candidates) don’t get elected.” Post said. “That’s a simple fact of American politics.”

For many, the act of increasing awareness and drawing support for candidates reinforces their beliefs and ideology.

“Getting these candidates elected gets the set of values we want in Washington and Minnesota,” Post said.

Math and genetics junior Josh Baller first dabbled in political activism this Labor Day at the Minnesota State Fair, working at the Independence Party booth in support of the party’s gubernatorial candidate, Peter Hutchinson.

“I got some literature from a friend and I liked what it said. It seemed like a way to help out a good politician,” he said, adding that he plans to continue campaigning until the general election.

Smith said he has strengthened his personal political identity and his understanding of government on a broader scale.

“I have become more informed and I feel more of a connection to the process of government,” he said. “Voting’s very important. It is both a privilege and a responsibility – and it can have an impact.”

Despite his different party affiliation, Post agrees.

“If not for anything else, vote for your own personal security,” he said. “The people we elect make decisions about everything and that affects us all.”