DFL combats student apathy with fund-raiser at a bar

Nathan Hall

The Minnesota DFL sponsored an unorthodox fund-raiser at a University-area bar and grill Tuesday night in hopes of attracting the college vote.

U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., had planned to make an appearance at The Library Bar and Grill, but he was unable to attend due to business in Washington, D.C. Wellstone campaign spokesman Jim Farrell said a similar on-campus event is in the works for October with Wellstone in attendance.

“Session, of course, doesn’t end until mid-October, so Paul’s only in town once a week,” Farrell said. “But we are, regardless, working hard at getting students involved in this campaign.”

Andy Moore, a University political science major and a team leader for the Wellstone canvassing program, said attempting to snare the historically apathetic youth vote at a bar is not inappropriate.

“The reason we chose this spot is for the dance floor,” Moore said. “There aren’t any around here that don’t have alcohol attached to it, unfortunately.

“We are not in any way shape or form encouraging alcohol abuse Ö we are simply doing our best to encourage students to engage in the political process.”

University political science graduate and Wellstone team leader Zach Rodvold helped plan the event.

Rodvold, also known as “DJ Z-Ro,” provided Tuesday’s underground house music and said the idea for the party sprang from the “Saturday Night Live” skit “Janet Reno’s Dance Party.” Reno later implemented the skit as a widely publicized fund-raiser for her contested 2002 Florida senate bid.

“We chose the Library not only because I have residency there but also because it’s a big room with a good campus location,” Rodvold said. “Young people are going to be down there doing what they do anyways, so it’s all the better if it benefits Wellstone.”

Tyler Richter, a College of Liberal Arts student, along with seven other protestors held signs outside the bar alleging, among other things, Wellstone’s failure to pass a single bill in his 12-year stint as a U.S. senator.

“For me, (the fund-raiser’s location) is not really a big deal,” Richter said. “Obviously, you would get a different reaction and crowd at, say, the Mayo Auditorium, but that’s not really the issue here.”

A.J. Anderson, staff security for the Library, said he shares the same feelings about having the gathering in a campus bar.

“I don’t find it inappropriate at all,” Anderson said. “The atmosphere here is great and people are having a good time, so it’s fine by me.”

Independence Party senate candidate Jim Moore and Green Party senate candidate Ray Tricomo both said they will be focusing on issue-orientated pushes at college students.

Neal Levine, newly hired campaign manager for Moore, said the Wellstone party was not the first partisan charity performance to be held at a nightclub. He recalled a 1999 IP benefit show that he hosted, which included a performance by Bobby Llama.

“We got a decent turnout and a lot of press but we ultimately lost money on the thing,” Levine said. “I think the bottom line here with all of this is that politics is supposed to be fun.”

Wellstone recently turned down an opportunity to engage in a campus issues debate sponsored by the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and The Minnesota Daily.