This story was written by Jill Lowthian, Daily Illini
With the Feb. 5 Illinois primary approaching, University of Illinois Democrats are confident in a victory for their preferred candidate, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
"We think we have a really strong playing field," said Katie Dawson, president of the University's College Democrats and senior in LAS.
At the first officer meeting of the semester, the College Democrats chose to endorse Obama by a vote.
Many members of the organization also belong to the University chapter of Students for Barack Obama.
The endorsement was partly effected by the number of mutual group members, said Heather Hanks, publicity officer for College Democrats and sophomore in LAS.
"There was a lot of overlap between the two groups, so we decided it was best to join resources and endorse him," Hanks said. "Plus, we're his home state."
The endorsement was also a result of the lack of student support groups for the other two Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, Hanks said last week.
Edwards suspended his candidacy Wednesday morning in New Orleans after a third-place showing in the South Carolina primary.
"We voted on whether we should endorse Obama because there was no one really representing the other candidates," Hanks said.
Although a student group in support of Clinton attempted to get started on campus, it never got off the ground, Dawson said.
At the first general meeting of the semester on Jan. 24, the College Democrats held a candidate forum in which group members volunteered to give an overview of each of the Democratic candidates' policies.
"Even though we've endorsed Obama, we thought it would be interesting to present the policies of Clinton and Edwards in case people are on the fence," Dawson said at the meeting.
Andrew Robinson, president of Students for Barack Obama, presented an overview of the senator's policies at the meeting.
"I really think that Obama has a message that is bringing change to Washington that is different from the other candidates," said Robinson, a senior in LAS. "The way he works with other constituents and other groups that don't agree with him has shown time and again that he can bring people together."
With the upcoming primary, both the College Democrats and Students for Obama are encouraging students and Champaign-Urbana residents to go to the polls.
"We've been phone calling our supporters in Champaign-Urbana," Robinson said. "We definitely have a plan for getting out the student vote."
On Feb. 5, both groups plan to have volunteers on campus to direct students to the polls, Robinson said.
College Democrats also put in an effort to promote early voting, which was available at the county clerk's office from Jan. 14 through 31.
The group posted fliers around campus to promote early voting and offered to drive people with no transportation to the polls, she said.
With issues that will affect college-age Americans, such as education funding and the war in Iraq being debated this year, Hanks said she thinks it is important for students to vote in the primaries.
"We have the chance to be extremely influential in the national election," Hanks said. "(Voting in the primary) is vital, it really is."
© 2008 Daily Illini via U-WIRE