ore campaign pitches education plan to students, ignores latest scandal

George Fairbanks

Less than a month ago, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore found himself trailing his Republican counterpart George W. Bush by 2 percent in Minnesota polls. Since then, Gore has surged back to take a 10 percent lead.
The unlikely political comeback contributed to the upbeat atmosphere Thursday afternoon as more than 150 students and supporters gathered outside Willey Hall to listen and talk to representatives from Gore’s Minnesota campaign staff.
The staff seemed unaware that another round of campaign finance trouble was brewing for their candidate in Washington, D.C. Late Wednesday night — a report surfaced linking Gore to an illegal phone solicitation with a potential donor.
It has been alleged that Gore held a telephone conversation with Texas trial attorney Walter Umphrey, who gave $800,000 to the Democratic Party after President Clinton vetoed Republican efforts to limit financial awards gained in lawsuits. Gore aides claim records indicate the vice president never made the call.
“We take contributions from trial lawyers,” said Buck Humphrey, who is serving as the state director for the Gore campaign. “Other than that, I don’t care to comment.”
The rally Thursday was targeted toward students milling about, and few policy topics other than education were offered up by speakers. The reaction of the people listening reflected that the topic would be a key issue in gathering the youth vote for the November general election.
For his part, Humphrey told the audience at the rally he is still paying off the college loans that he incurred as a student at American University in Washington, D.C., where he graduated in 1993.
“A lot of people underestimated Al Gore,” said Humphrey, explaining Gore’s sudden rise in popularity. “He’s a very focused public servant.”
Mary McEvoy, the associate chair for the Minnesota DFL Party, has her own theory on Gore’s comeback. She said Gore did a good job setting up the issues at the Democratic convention and energizing his supporters.
“And people are now really starting to pay attention now that summer’s over and the kids are back in school,” McEvoy said.
Humphrey also noted Gore’s climb has forced Bush back into states like Florida. Earlier in the year, Bush enjoyed a comfortable margin in the state where his brother Jeb is governor. However, now he has been forced to campaign in the state because of his dwindling ratings, spending valuable time and resources.
Students listening to the rally heard stories, promises and hopes on education issues, including college loans, job availability after graduation and lifelong learning. While offering up no specifics, the topic did manage to drum up cheers and applause from the audience.
Rick Stafford, Gore’s state director, managed to steer the rally away from education when he spoke briefly about Ralph Nader and the environment. “I know that a lot of times Ralph Nader appeals to youth. No one can match Al Gore’s record on the environment. Not even Ralph Nader,” he explained.
Yet not everyone at the event was there as a friend to the ticket. Brian Manning attended to distribute “revolutionary Marxist literature.”
“We’re against the Democrats and the Republicans and for a workers party to fight for socialist revolution,” he said.
Additionally, a number of students who haven’t paid close attention to the campaign so far and are undecided also stopped to hear the speakers.
“I’ve kind of made up my mind,” said nursing freshman Kira Sapoz, who noted she hasn’t been following the campaign too closely.
While Gore’s lead in the state is significant, the national election is a different story. “We have 55 days to go. The race is tight, and I think it could get tighter,” Humphrey said.

George Fairbanks welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3221.