Rodger’s candidacy marks a first

Dan McDonald

Dan McDonald

By Frank Krolicki

Susan Rodgers works the local farmer’s market almost every Saturday morning. But she’s not there to peddle fresh flowers or peruse the grounds for the best produce – she’s campaigning.

Rodgers, sophomore in LAS, has been campaigning for a seat on the Champaign County Board as a Green Party candidate since March.

She said her decision to run has given her the distinction of being the Eighth District’s first-ever Green Party candidate and its first female student to run in the last decade. She said she was fueled mostly by her involvement with the Campus Greens, a Green Party student organization.

“Early in the year, when I found out the Greens were looking for someone to run, I took it on and I don’t regret it,” Rodgers said. “I think it is important for students to get involved politically.”

Tom Abram, treasurer of the Campus Greens, said he quickly saw Rodgers as a strong leader.

“She has such a strong dedication toward changing things,” Abram said. “She joined our group as a freshman and dove right in. We ended up making her the (Campus Greens’) president because of her drive.”

Rodgers said she had to collect about 315 signatures last semester to secure her place on November’s ballot for County Board, while the Republican and Democratic candidates needed fewer than 20 signatures each.

She said that through rigorous petition drives and hard work, she obtained 400 signatures.

Rodgers said she found out about the Green Party when she was 14, and was instantly attracted to its values and goals, such as ecological wisdom, equal opportunity, nonviolence and respect for diversity. She began volunteering for the party’s campaigns and events the following year, and has been heavily involved ever since.

She attributes much of her drive and dedication to her ever-changing family life.

“My father has been involved in the military for 30 years, so for the first 10 years of my life we were always moving,” she said. “I think this really helped me become more social and unafraid of new people and experiences because I had so much direct exposure to them.”

She also said that because of her father, she gained a strong respect for the military.

“While I might not agree with the way the military is used in the country today, I definitely respect people in the service, those who dedicate their lives to protecting the country,” she said.

When she is not busy “working tables” and recruiting at Campus Greens events or trying to secure votes for the County Board, Rodgers said she enjoys reading, writing, cooking and hosting dinner parties for friends.

“I’m an English and rhetoric major, so I love to read and write. It’s one thing that has been consistent in my life,” she said.

After her career as an undergraduate, Rodgers said she plans to go to graduate school, work toward her master’s and Ph.D., and eventually become a professor.

“I want to be very involved in the community, to be in touch with people, and that would give me the opportunity to do so,” she said.

Jen Walling, Rodgers’ campaign manager, said Rodgers’ passion for all aspects of her life have played a major part in dealing with and overcoming difficulties that have risen during the campaign.

Walling, a graduate student in law, said local Democrats challenged Rodgers’ candidacy over the summer, attempting to remove her from the ballot for loss of residency in the county.

“Susan left the state for about six weeks over the summer to visit her parents, so they were saying she was no longer eligible to run,” Walling said.

Rodgers said she was allowed to stay in the race because there was no state statute that stated she was not allowed to visit home.

“I also received a threatening letter from the head of the Democratic Committee in Champaign, trying to get me to drop out,” Rodgers said. “It’s very disappointing that these people would try to keep democracy from happening.”

But Walling said Rodgers has remained dedicated and hopeful.

“She has been continuously optimistic,” Walling said. “I haven’t seen her shaken or overwhelmed yet.”

She said that if Rodgers was elected, not only would she would be the first Green Party candidate on the board, but also the only Latina woman.

“I’m very hopeful she’ll be able to do this,” Walling said. “We only need about 2,500 votes and it is definitely a goal within reach.”

While discussing the firsts that she has brought forth by running, Rodgers made it clear that she has one simple goal in mind – to get more people, particularly students, involved.

“It’s exciting,” Rodgers said. “I’d like to think I’m starting a trend.”