Student activity in state primary races on the rise

first_imgThough the fall semester is just a mirage on the distant horizon for most students, a few are already looking ahead to November and the California elections.“I don’t think people realize that November is not that far away. It’s really just around the corner from a campaign standpoint,” said Alexa Ekman, president of USC College Republicans.Two important California contests will be decided this November — the race for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office and Sen. Barbara Boxer’s bid for re-election.Students at USC have recently begun throwing their support behind their favorite candidates. Two Silicon executives — both women — have already drawn organized student support.Daniel Gabel, Los Angeles regional chair for Students for Meg Whitman, founded and co-chairs a chapter of the group at USC. The group supports the former eBay CEO, who is one of several Republican candidates for governor.Ekman and Lauren Korbatov are co-chairing Carly Fiorina’s campus campaign group, USC Students for Carly, which started a few weeks ago. Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard CEO, is running against Boxer.Ekman said many students don’t know who the candidates are at this point, and she thinks it is because the elections seem so far away.She said she expects student involvement to heat up in April and May, but that it likely won’t reach the levels seen during the 2008 presidential election.“For the presidential campaign, every student was wearing a pin, was volunteering,” Ekman said. “It was exciting to be involved, to take a position. Once this cycles back around again, there will be a resurgence in student activity but probably not to the same extent.”Many students said they don’t know who the candidates are or where they stand on key issues.Geovanni Juarez, a junior majoring in public relations, said he hasn’t been paying attention to the campaigns.“I haven’t looked into it yet, I’m kind of in the dark,” Juarez said. “I’ve been busy with the start of the semester. As the election approaches I’ll obviously take a side.”Stacy Jones, a freshman majoring in chemical engineering, said she hasn’t followed politics to this point, but she plans to start learning about the races soon.“I don’t keep up with politics because I’ve never been able to vote,” she said. “I didn’t want to get involved and then get upset if I didn’t have the power to change things. Now that I can vote this year, I certainly plan to get involved.”Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, said it’s too early to know whether the unprecedented student involvement in the 2008 campaign was the beginning of a general trend in student activism or an aberration. As a California state election, it is likely it won’t have such a marked manifestation on campus, since many students are registered to vote in their home states.But Schnur emphasized that student activism is especially valuable to politicians during these elections.“The vote from a 19- or 20-year-old counts just as much as the vote of a 50- or 60-year-old,” Schnur said. “And young people are much more likely to donate time volunteering. Finally, there’s great symbolic value in having the support of the next generation; it sends a message to all voters. So there’s statistical value, organizational value and a symbolic value for having students involved in a campaign.”Both Students for Meg Whitman and USC Students for Carly are currently focusing on recruiting members and raising awareness about the groups’ respective candidates.Gabel said Students for Meg Whitman has recruited about 30 members in the last few weeks and the group hopes to increase that number substantially this month. They will have a table on Trousdale Parkway next week.“This month is all about recruiting, raising awareness about Meg’s campaign, finding people who are interested in becoming involved,” Gabel said. “[In] March [we] will shift to spreading her message and her platform, organizing events on campus, bringing in local politicians who support her, allowing students to become involved in the nitty gritty of the campaign, walking precincts, calling voters, etc.”Students for Carly will also be hosting speakers, and Fiorina herself has already visited campus to speak with students. Ekman said the group is also planning to host forums.“It’s a way for us to find out what [students] want or expect,” Ekman said. “We have to go out and educate young voters about why [Fiorina] is the best candidate for the United States Senate. Education of potential members and voters is going to be our main focus.”So far, only Republican candidates have generated student groups on campus, but Schnur said it’s only a matter of time before groups will form in support of the Democratic candidates — specifically for Boxer and former California Governor Jerry Brown.“Neither Boxer nor Brown has a primary challenge, so they’re able to start their campaigns a little more gradually,” Schnur said. “My guess is by fall you’ll see very sizable student groups for both parties’ nominees.”last_img read more