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Senate hopeful moves into C-U

An office space on Green Street that once housed a flower shop is now the home of a budding political career.

Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Jacob Meister opened his new regional campaign office, 509 E. Green St., in Champaign, to the public Wednesday night to meet with local constituents and to discuss his hope to fill the Illinois seat in the upcoming 2010 elections.

The office, previously the site of New Town Flowers, has been vacant since 2008. Flaking paint on the walls has been replaced by maps of Champaign County and campaign signs reading “Jacob Meister for U.S. Senate”.

This is the first time Meister, an attorney with his own firm in Chicago, is running for political office. He said opening his first field office in a college town was not an accident.

“Champaign is a very important city in the state,” he said in a phone call Tuesday. “It is a hub of learning and home to a great university.”

He said it is important for the race to reach out to people in the state that live outside the Chicagoland area. The Meister campaign is planning to open up to seven field offices across the state, he said, including one in Peoria.

“It is a central theme [of the campaign] to be where people are,” he said. “To go where the rubber meets the road and get to know people.”

However, Meister’s campaign is not the only one trying to place offices across the state. Staff for the campaign for Democrat Cheryle Jackson, CEO of the Chicago Urban League who is on leave during her Senate run, said they will be opening several offices throughout the state in addition to their Chicago offices.

“The election is important to all of Illinois,” said Rodney Shelton, campaign manager for Jackson. “She wants to run for all the people of Illinois.”

Soon, the staff and volunteers at Meister’s office will conduct extensive door-to-door campaigning, distribute pamphlets and educate students about voter registration, said Pat Matzdorff, field director for the Meister campaign in Champaign County.

“It’s a challenge making sure the student voters that are registered in their home districts send in absentee ballots,” she said. “Or if they’re registered in Champaign, to get them to vote here.”

Some students said an office for a prominent political position will not greatly affect political activity on campus.

“It’s a good location,” said Pete Servatius, sophomore in engineering. “But the students here are as politically active as they want to be, and the people that want to get involved will. Some of us are busy enough as it is.”

The Meister campaign has the office space until Feb. 3, but Karen Craven, media director for the campaign, said they will renew the lease until November if they are successful in the Feb. 2 Democratic primary.

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