Representatives from the presidential campaigns of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Senator Barack Obama, D-Ill., Senator John Edwards, Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas answered questions about volunteer opportunities and candidate platforms.
Maya Shah '09 volunteers for Clinton and recently started a St. Olaf chapter of the Hillblazers, Clinton's national online campaign aimed at college students. "I sought out working for this campaign," said Shah, "and I am absolutely excited about how it is going." Clinton's campaign was also represented by former state senator Ember Reichgott Junge '74.
Scott Benson '83 spoke on behalf of the Edwards campaign, saying he is "proud to be associated with the candidate that is going to achieve change." Benson also pointed out that Edwards has tried to make college tuition more affordable and has a "detailed plan to combat global warming."
Obama's campaign was represented by James Hannaway, a Carleton student who is taking the year off to run the regional youth vote effort. "I could go on for hours about Obama's policy plans," he said, "but what really distinguishes us from other campaigns is our enthusiasm. We're bringing people into the political process who have never been involved before."
Richardson's representative spoke about the New Mexico governor's qualifications, electability and positions on issues she cares about. "Richardson combines change and experience in a way this country desperately needs right now," she said, citing his experiences as Secretary of Energy under Bill Clinton, United Nations ambassador, governor and state representative.
The only Republican candidate who sent representatives to the Fair was Ron Paul, a 10-term representative to Congress from Texas. Paul's volunteers spoke about his record-breaking fundraising numbers on Monday, when Paul became the first presidential candidate in history to raise $4.2 million in a single day (in this case, via the internet.) "It just goes to show that political power is popular," his campaign representative said. "Paul's campaign is based on a lot of grassroots support."
Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrats Mike Ciresi, Al Franken and Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer '73 also had campaign volunteers at the event. Coleman currently represents Minnesota in Paul Wellstone's former Senate seat, and is up for re-election in 2008.
Ciresi's representative touted his candidate's focus on affordable health care and his successes fighting big corporations as a successful Minnesota lawyer. He will be speaking on campus Dec. 9. Team Franken, representing the candidate who drew over 400 to his event on campus last month, mentioned in their campaign that "college students can make a difference in elections."
Coleman's camp defended his record in the last five years as Minnesota's senator and announced his campaign is reaching out to both the College Republicans and College Democrats.
Pallmeyer, an alum who often speaks of his life-changing experience on Global Semester, was described as a "candidate of courage and conviction" who is focused on issues like global warming, nuclear energy and getting U.S. troops out of Iraq.
The candidates for the Minnesota House of Representatives from district 25B are not only both Oles, but both showed up in-person instead of sending campaign representatives. David Bly '74 is the current representative, and serves on the early childhood, energy and higher education committees in the House. Ray Cox '73 was the state representative for four years and spoke about the importance of education as "what brought Minnesota to the prosperity we have today." Cox also spoke on behalf of presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Political science professor Dan Hofrenning, who emceed the event, pointed out that there are more Oles now in the Minnesota state legislature than from any other school. "We may be third in MIAC for football, but we lead the conference in civic engagement," he said.
The CEL-sponsored event was put on in order to help St. Olaf students become involved in presidential, state and national legislature campaigns over the next year. Organized by Nathan Jacobi, assistant. director for civic engagement, it focused on "helping students see connections between service in political work and social justice."