This story was written by Lauren Winchester, Daily Texan
The past five presidents of University Democrats opened an office in the Dobie Mall Monday to help Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois win the Texas primary.
The presidents worked with community activists and political leaders to open the office. They have a budget large enough to fund 40 interns and a "seemingly endless supply" of campaign volunteers, said Brandon Chicotsky, one of the founding five.
Volunteers and interns will participate in phone banking, organizing visibility events and getting voters to the polls.
"The office is a place for students to come during their free time to volunteer and have ownership in presidential politics," Chicotsky said.
Community activist Ian Davis approached the presidents with the idea of an on-campus office to garner support for Obama Â- an idea he said originally came from UT students.
"This could be the tipping point in the campaign," Davis said. "By opening an office on campus, I think the student volunteer effort will grow exponentially."
Benjamin Trotter, another former president, said the office was organized in the last couple of days. He said he believes Obama will win the nomination, and the office will help him win the state's increasingly competitive Democratic primary.
Austin Democratic Rep. Mark Strama spoke at the office's opening, saying he would not have won his first election - a race he won by 500 votes - without volunteers.
"It's the first time I know of that any presidential campaign has gone so far as to open an office this close to campus in order to give students a way to make a difference," Strama said.
Austin City Councilman Mike Martinez also spoke at the opening, touting the importance of volunteering.
"This is a tremendous opportunity to be directly plugged into a presidential campaign - a world-changing campaign," he said. "You are not the future; you are the present. You can make a difference for Barack Obama."
Alta Valliant, an information studies graduate student and intern in the office, said she is working to get Obama elected because she wants his ideas and programs to be implemented.
"Students should be involved with helping get Obama elected because it's our generation," she said. "I think we need to look at the long term, and Obama is the right choice for the long term."
The Beta Brothers from Sigma Lambda Beta also performed a step routine at the opening to fire up the volunteers and interns.
Marcus Ceniceros, Alex Hunt and Nick Chu are the other former presidents who help run the office.
The office will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. After the March 4 primary, the past University Democrats presidents hope to keep the office open to work on Democratic outreach, but their tentative future plans are dependent on funds, Trotter said.
© 2008 Daily Texan via U-WIRE