GW politicos hit the road last weekend to advocate their parties’ platforms and boost support for candidates in Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York.
Thirty-seven members of GW Students for Nader joined 15,000 Green Party supporters in Madison Square Garden in New York Oct. 13 for a rally headlined by several celebrities and Ralph Nader. The group joined students from Georgetown and American universities, the University of Maryland and the University of D.C.
Ten GW College Democrats traveled to Philadelphia last weekend in a van plastered with campaign signs to work on a joint campaign for presidential candidate Al Gore and Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D-Pa.).
About 30 GW College Republicans campaigned for former Virginia governor and Senate candidate George Allen in Old Town Alexandria, Va., Saturday, and passed out literature for presidential candidate George W. Bush.
The CDs and CRs spent the weekend dropping off literature, handing out pamphlets door to door, phone-banking (calling voters on the phone to discuss the election) and hanging signs for candidates in an effort to increase visibility of the candidates.
Because Nader was not included in the presidential debates, this weekend’s rally allowed his supporters to boost his media coverage and relay Green Party viewpoints, group members said. Activists urged thousands of people to register to vote before the deadline.
The CDs chose to go to Philadelphia because Pennsylvania will play a key role in the upcoming election, said CD President Anjan Choudhury. Many GW students from the Philadelphia area went home to work in areas where their families live, he said.
The CDs helped with several rallies and events, culminating Saturday evening with a question and answer period and dinner with Rep. Hoeffel, who is running for a second term as representative of Pennsylvania’s 13th District.
GW students also worked on Hoeffel’s 1998 campaign, Choudhury said.
“It’s a very close district,” Choudhury said, adding that Hoeffel lost by only 84 votes in 1996.
“It is an amazing experience to get in the community,” Choudhury said.
Sophomore CD member Jessica Duffy said part of the trip to Pennsylvania was spent going door to door and leaving pamphlets to make the voters feel that the campaigns care and get the candidates’ names out.
The CDs are trying to get people to “vote the democratic ticket,” Duffy said. The GW group is concerned with getting the majority of Democrats back in political office, she said.
“It is an incredible feeling to help out in something you believe in – you get to help make a difference in the country,” she said.
CR Treasurer Brian Pasquarelli said the CRs traveled to Virginia to help in a neck-and-neck race.
George Allen’s Senate race in Virginia is particularly close because both Allen and his opponent Senator Charles Robb (D-Va.) are popular figures in the state, Eldridge said.
“The Virginia senatorial race is probably the most hotly contested senatorial election in the country, next to (Rick) Lazio and (Hillary) Clinton in New York,” CR Chairman Bill Eldridge said.
The CRs were optimistic, group members said, because they believe the state has become more conservative.
“I think it was a success,” Pasquarelli said. “We went to a good amount of houses and talked to a lot of people.”
Students for Nader
At the Nader rally, GW students listened to former talk show host Phil Donahue, actor Bill Murray, musicians Ani Difranco, Ben Harper, Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder and actress Susan Sarandon voice their support for Nader in a sold-out Madison Square Garden. The Nader campaign had held “super rallies” in Minneapolis and Boston before the New York event, which carried a $20 attendance fee, participants said.
Green Party member Mark Dunau, a candidate in the prominent New York Senate race, was also on hand at the event.
“The best part of the night for most of the GW supporters that went was when Michael Moore went to the microphone and asked, `Is the New York Times here?'” junior Mike Sieburg said.
Sieburg said a man near the front raised his hand, and Moore looked straight at him and said, “New York Times, I’d like you to turn around and meet the resistance.”
Choudhury said that CD campaign workers appreciate student supporters because of their energy and enthusiasm.
“People say we are the apathetic generation and these campaign trips are a way to prove people wrong,” said Choudhury, who also serves as the national political director for the College Democrats, helping to get students involved all over the country.”A lot of money goes to the media so we get in the community and do the real field work,” he said.
Jason Benion, a member of the GW CD Political Affairs Committee said he thought the trip served its purpose.
“I think we made a difference in a really close race,” he said. “People got to see what happens behind the scenes and how a campaign is actually run.”
Nader supporters said they enjoy the political-season excitement.
“It was empowering,” said Kareen Asmus, a sophomore at GW who attended the Nader rally in New York.
“Although this rally was not as big as the one in Boston, it was still incredible that it was sold out,” said junior Shrayas Jatkar, who also traveled to New York.
Eldridge said the election year has drawn a great response for the CRs. He said weekend trips have consistently attracted between 30 to 60 people, in addition to campaign efforts at various Metro stops across the D.C. area.
The CRs will travel to Pittsburgh next weekend to support Bush and attend a rally with Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).
During the next three weeks, the CDs will help absentee voters and campaign around GW, Maryland and Virginia, especially on election day, Choudhury said.
Upcoming CD events include a barbecue with Senator Charles Robb (D-Va.) Saturday and rallies to highlight the importance of the presidential election Oct. 24 and 26, and an internship fair Oct. 25.