Campaign groups amp up efforts on campus as primary approaches

By Aaron Navarro

Senior Matt Pasquini, President of Illini for Berniess, had one advantage that the other student groups have not: his candidate came to campus. Pasquini and 40 volunteers from Illini for Bernie helped run Sanders’ event last Saturday, helping with crowd management and making the Activities and Recreation Center accessible for all who wanted to go see Sanders. Pasquini was one of the speakers that addressed the mixed crowd of students, alumni and Champaign-Urbana residents, and simply put, he was stunned by the crowd’s support.“I had a moment where I paused and said, ‘Wow, this is happening,’” Pasquini said. In addition to helping with the event, Illini for Bernie does a lot of similar things as other student campaign groups: it makes phone calls, goes door-to-door and sets up tables to promote Sanders on the Quad. The organization has gotten a lot of reception and feedback from students and has become one of the more popular groups on campus, Pasquini said.

Pasquini says he hasn’t seen a campaign this popular in his four years at the University. He says this is in part due to Sanders’ overall appeal to college students.

“I’d be lying if I said [the group’s popularity] has anything to do with my organization skills, it has to do mostly with the nature of his campaign,” he said.

When talking to potential voters, Pasquini says the group is committed to empowering people and letting them know how the voting process works.“We don’t push his agenda, A, because it is a long convo,” Pasquini said. “And B, this demographic is already for Bernie. So we don’t have to do too much.”

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?Illini for Hillary

Starting as long ago as June 2015, Illini for Hillary is a grassroots campaign of a small, “tight-knit” group, said the group’s primary contact and student trustee Jaylin McClintonss.

“The group is very small and tight-knit in its current format,” McClinton said. “We are always trying to engage with more U of I students.”

The group campaigns at tables on the Quad, phone banks and has also traveled to Iowa during the caucuses. Last semester, they also worked with the Illini for Bernie group, hosting a joint debate watching party. Despite having candidates directly against each other in the Democratic primaries, McClinton says everything has been cordial.“While our candidates have different views I think for the most part the groups have been civil,” McClinton said. “Illini For Bernie’s group is much larger, but we still get emails all the time from students expressing interest.”

He says that though college students naturally flock to Bernie, he doesn’t anticipate any big implications on Illini for Hillary.

“Naturally, I think that right now more young people especially college-aged students are flocking to the messages that Senator Sanders is shouting,” McClinton said. “However, I do not think that will be a problem in the long-term.”

For this Tuesday, McClinton says that voter registration is the first step to a large turnout. In terms of getting the young votes from campus, McClinton says the process needs to be adjusted.

“As for Tuesday and getting more young voters, I think we need to make the process more accessible,” McClinton said. “Ideally, there should be a polling place accessible for students and with enough resources to ensure that the process of voting is not overbearing in time.”?Illini for Rubio

Senior Katherine Brown ssis the president and campaign manager of the Illini for Rubio group. On campus since October, the group of about 30 interns has weekly meetings to discuss the campaign as well as to give out more information on the political and voting system.

Their other work includes phone banks, fundraising and going to other areas that are “crucial to winning.” Brown, as well as some of the interns, went to the Iowa caucuses in February to help out with the campaign. Their work was effective, Brown said, as each of the precincts that they worked in went to Rubio.“We got to meet Marco Rubio after we worked all week,” Brown said. “He is a very affectionate, energetic person. He doesn’t feel like a politician when you meet him, [my students] got to feel that energy.” The group also does research as well, conducting and learning how to analyze polls, Brown said. While they have been pushing a type of “Anybody but Trump” campaign, Brown said that Rubio is more than just a last choice option.

“Rubio is showing them a way forward,” Brown said.

As the only major GOP student organization on campus, Brown said that the pressure from other supporters is present, but tells her interns to keep their “head above the fray.”

“We recognize we are in a very liberal campus in a liberal state,” Brown said. “I have been intimidated, (but) I’ve been doing this for so long. You just have to keep your head above water and keep going.”

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