UI political groups organize events to promote candidates

By Alissa Groeninger

Come Sept. 5, both the Democratic and Republican national conventions will be finished. Both parties will officially have a candidate, meaning campaigning will be in full gear.

The University campus will be buzzing with campaign activity, according to Robert McNeily, president of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign chapter of the College Republicans, and Abby Erwin, secretary of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign chapter of the College Democrats. While the University is expected to be filled with political activity, the enthusiasm may be dampened in the Champaign-Urbana area because of the presumed likelihood that Illinois will vote overwhelmingly in favor of the Democratic Party and its candidates.

However, both the College Republicans and the College Democrats are gearing up to help their candidates. McNeily said the College Republicans are working events to support local and national candidates. They recently worked a fundraiser thrown by Jim Oberweis, who is the 14th Congressional District Republican nominee for U.S. representative.

College Republicans, along with the College Democrats, have been making phone calls in support of their candidates.

In campaigning, McNeily said the goal is “trying to promote ideals.”

“(The members of College Republicans) all work together to push conservative movements,” he added.

The College Democrats have also worked to increase voter registration. Erwin said the goal is to promote awareness.

“That way people who want to vote get their vote counted,” she said.

Along with the Champaign County Democrats, the College Democrats are working to help politicians. They are working to bring Senator Richard Durbin in to speak during the fall.

There are also plans for a debate between Senator Durbin and his Republican challenger Steve Sauerberg.

The members of the College Democrats have also traveled across the country and gone door-to-door to help their candidates.

Erwin said that people are very excited with Senator Obama, and this drives people to get involved.

“(We are an) outlet to really get students involved in the political process,” McNeily said.

McNeily said that technology such as the Internet has helped to get more people involved in the political process.

“Just with the push of a (computer) button (people can participate),” he said.

In the 2000 Florida presidential election, Al Gore lost by less than five hundred votes, making people aware of the importance of individual votes.

The closeness of the election made people realize their vote might influence the outcome, he said.

He said, “People are more aware of the power they have.”

Michael Krassa, political science professor, does believe that the University community can expect to see more campaigning, as students across the country are getting more involved in the political process.

“Nationally, Obama has excited younger people to work for him, and I imagine that translates to more students active in his campaign locally as well … or will become active in it once they are back in Urbana-Champaign area,” Krassa said in an e-mail.

While University students are preparing for the elections, Krassa does not believe citizens outside the University community in the Urbana-Champaign area should expect to see much campaigning.

Brian Gaines, associate professor in political science, said there will not be a lively local campaign, even if voter turnout is higher than it has been in the past, because people know Illinois’ electoral votes will go for Senator Obama. He also said that there are not likely to be any suspenseful local election races.

“We aren’t seen as a competitive state, and thus neither candidate will devote [many] resources to Illinois,” Krassa said.