Wellstone women, Ben & Jerry’s court voters

Libby George

In an effort to get students to vote for U.S. Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone, his wife Sheila and daughter Marcia were on campus Tuesday speaking to students.

“The reaction of students has just been incredible,” Sheila Wellstone said after speaking to a crowd of medical students Tuesday afternoon. “Students have the capacity to be the voters who put (Wellstone) over the top.”

Marcia Wellstone, a 34-year-old mother of four, took a leave from her teaching position at White Bear Lake high school in order to campaign for her father. She knocked on doors in Territorial Hall from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., encouraging students to vote for her father.

She said students want to get involved but are simply uninformed.

“I was surprised at how many students were registered to vote and wanted to vote but didn’t know where to go,” Marcia Wellstone said. “Students have a general interest in being part of the process, but they need to know where to go.”

The Wellstones were joined later in the afternoon at the Stadium Village Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop by company co-founder Ben Cohen, a Vermont resident who flew in for the event.

“I’ve maxed out my financial contributions, and now I’m donating my body,” Cohen said, referring to his presence on campus.

Free ice cream was offered to students who promised to vote, and upgrades to large cones were given to students who signed up to volunteer for the Wellstone campaign on Election Day.

Campaign staff said the Wellstone campaign was aiming for 4,000 volunteers statewide on Election Day.

Junior psychology student Tim Nault said he went to Ben & Jerry’s specifically for the event.

“I think it’s really important to support (Wellstone) because I’ve always been a Democrat,” Nault said, adding that it’s especially important this year because if Republican Senate candidate Norm Coleman gets elected “the (George W.) Bush administration could do whatever it wanted.”

Nault said he was also skeptical of the event’s success.

“I don’t imagine many students vote to begin with, so I’m not sure what kind of effect targeting them will have,” Nault said.

Cohen, however, saw things differently.

“I definitely see (students) as a target demographic because students are notorious nonvoters,” Cohen said. “They’re the voters that can change the election.”

Other students had mixed reactions to the event.

Sophomore electrical engineering student James Skarie said he was unmoved by the Wellstones’ efforts.

“I think it helps students get free ice cream,” Skarie said, adding that he signed up to volunteer in order to get the free cone but plans to vote for Coleman.

Judy Ly, a sophomore retail merchandising and finance student, was positive about the event.

“I think (the Wellstones) really get us involved,” Ly said.

Sheila and Marsha Wellstone spoke at a DFL rally at Comstock Hall on Tuesday night and were joined by representatives from other DFL campaigns, including that of gubernatorial candidate Roger Moe.

Sheila Wellstone said she and her daughter will both continue to campaign nonstop until Election Day, adding “it’s critically important to get out the vote.”