Bernie Sanders opens campaign office in Urbana


Jeremy Jordan

Handwritten signs showing local support for the Bernie Sanders campaign in Champaign-Urbana.

By Teagan Vogel

A new Bernie Sanders campaign office opened on Philo Road in Urbana on Feb. 20. The office is one of 16 Sanders campaign offices that cover the state of Illinois. The office and the volunteers that run it take part in grassroots efforts to help Bernie get elected for office.

Rose Rodriguez, junior in LAS, is the secretary for Illini for Bernie and attended the office opening. She said over 100 people were at the kickoff event for the Urbana office.

There were local community leaders who attended and spoke on behalf of Bernie Sanders as well as a training workshop that went on to teach volunteers how to canvass, Rodriguez said.

Bernie Campaign offices from Virginia and California sent free pizza to the Urbana office to show their support.

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    “Basically it was just a huge party with a lot of members of Champaign-Urbana for Bernie there, as well as the students, kind of all coming together,” Rodriguez said.

    Many students are involved in the campaigning and this office is largely the center of their work.

    Illini for Bernie is a RSO that was thought up in July and put into action in early August by Matthew Pasquini, Dean Meyer, Rose Rodriguez, Jason Arendt and Brandon Hudspeth. They projected that there would be a large number of students on campus who agreed with Bernie’s beliefs.

    Richard Daniels, junior in FAA, is the events and volunteer coordinator for the group.

    Daniels said canvassing and phone banking are a big part of the role the students play in the campaign.

    Canvassing consists of “going door to door to potential supporters, usually like registered democrats or likely democrats that are targeted by the campaign,” Daniels said; phone banking is “calling potential Bernie supporters throughout the country and the state.”

    Daniels said typically 25 to 30 students attend the general meeting each week; the group also meets in Davenport Hall two days a week to conduct phone banking.

    Though only University students are involved with Illini for Bernie phone banking, the campaign office is open every day for volunteers to come and help out.

    “We do stuff out of that office all the time,” Daniels said. “Sometimes we do phone banking and organizing stuff through the office. That’s where we canvas out of.”

    Outside of the University, a group called C-U for Bernie also takes part in furthering the campaign.

    Jared Miller is a lead organizer of the group that formed last June. The group is made up of volunteers from the community who dedicate their time to spreading Bernie’s message.

    Miller mentioned that the goal of the group is to “have an outstanding primary result out of Champaign and the surrounding counties.”

    “The office has opened up the ability for us to get access to campaign resources we couldn’t before,” he said.

    Different materials ranging from bumper stickers, yard signs, and technology that allows campaigners to input data from phone banking right into the system are all available to them now, Miller explained.

    Clem Balanoff, the Illinois state director for Bernie Sanders for President, mentions that the campaign has offices across the state because it is important to reach all voters.

    Office location is often decided based on population. Offices are sometimes put in areas with bigger populations or near university campuses, such as the Urbana office.

    Other locations include Rockford, Waukegan, Lombard, Batavia, Joliet, Collinsville and DeKalb.

    These offices fall in the chain of command that connects the campaign efforts throughout the state. Balanoff and a few of his deputies oversee the state’s operations. There are also members who oversee outreach to particular constituencies. Additionally there campaign members who oversee regional operations, sometimes in leadership of two or three offices. Field organizers also help conduct activities.

    Bernie’s campaign puts emphasis on the grassroots effort.

    “You will not see other campaigns credit (volunteers). I mean they may be planning on the millionaires and billionaires to be there to get their message out; they really don’t depend on people like the good students at the University of Illinois,” Balanoff said.

    With the primaries underway Balanoff said, “Bernie is going to win Illinois. We’re working hard.”

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