U. Illinois Organizations Work To Help Their Party's Campaigns

This story was written By Jonathan Jacobson, Daily Illini
Every other weekend, the Students for Barack Obama at the University of Illinois board a bus and head to Iowa to caucus with the rest of the Democratic candidate for president's campaign.

"The campaign pays for the bus and I sometimes buy everyone breakfast, but they're on their own for lunch," said Andrew Robinson, president of the organization.

While student political activity on campus may have seemed muted this semester, many student groups, including Robinson's, are mobilizing behind their respective candidates and trying to get the word out to college students. And they are reaching out in diverse ways.

In order to get some more obscure Republican candidates on the ballot, College Republicans President Kelly Solomon said that her Registered Student Organization is helping to collect signatures.

"We're not allowed to support or endorse any one candidate," Solomon said. "What we try and do is find all the opportunities we can to help out any of the campaigns."

One of these campaigns is Rudy Giuliani's, who Solomon said "has the biggest presence on campus."

The College Republicans recently even went to a Republican debate party that Giuliani's supporters held here on campus.

Matt Filter, the president of Students for Giuliani and a senior in LAS, said that he supports Giuliani because he believes the former mayor of New York will improve his chances at getting a job after leaving college.

"In New York he created an enormous amount of jobs," Filter said.

The group is the only campus campaign that has its own domain name and website that it uses to keep in touch with supporters.

"We do weekly phone banks where we call local registered voters," Filter said. "We've been doing stuff on the Quad, but for about a month, we had a table on the Quad where we passed out pamphlets and had a raffle." Filter said the group has about 30 to 50 members, depending on which day you ask.

Other campus campaigns have worked more behind the scenes, if only because their candidates don't have the star power of a Giuliani or an Obama.

Cody Skees, senior in ACES, decided to take Republican Fred Thompson's campaign into his own hands, seeking out signatures by himself for a petition to get Thompson on the Illinois ballot.

"After I started circulating the petitions, Thompson's campaign got a hold of me," Skees said.

Since then, he has filled out the forms to establish an official student organization in support of the former Tennessee senator, just as supporters of Giuliani and Texas Rep. Ron Paul have already done.

"We're going to organize a drive and a bar crawl with Fred Thompson for president shirts," he said. "A lot of people know him from Law and Order, but they don't realize he's running for president."

With the Illinois primary looming on Feb. 5, the groups said that they realize they don't have much time to motivate students, since winter break brings students back only three weeks before the election.

"We're going to really be going into overdrive and get the community involved," Filter said, adding that recently it has been difficult to generate interest because of finals and other end-of-semester commitments.

Katherine Dawson, College Democrats president, said that her group, like its Republican counterpart, cannot endorse a candidate.

As a consequence, her biggest goal for the group has been non-partisan.

"We just are really trying to get people registered (to vote)," she said.

But after the primary comes and everyone can line up behind a candidate, she said, things will be different.

"Intensity will pick up," she said.
© 2007 Daily Illini via U-WIRE