By Sarah Carlson, Copy Editor
Many Republicans and Democrats will be campaigning for their respective candidate Nov. 1, the night before the general election.
Meanwhile, the College Republicans and College Democrats, led by two sophomores, will come together and debate at a political forum where they will discuss various issues at stake in the presidential and congressional elections.
The groups watched the presidential debates together and put together a voting manual for students, detailing the candidates and where they stand on political issues. Both organizations are working with their respective Congressional candidate’s office, making phone calls and block walking to campaign.
Casey Bingham, chair of College Republicans and sophomore political science major from Conroe, said for the most part the groups were civil toward each other while watching the debate. However, he said the Republicans didn’t feel entirely welcome because the Democrats had decorated the meeting place with Democratic paraphernalia. Despite feeling uncomfortable, Bingham said the groups joining together went well.
Amy Perez, chair of the College Democrats and sophomore education major from Houston, said she had a difficult time communicating with the Republican group because of Bingham being elected the new chair. Missy Mae Walters, senior political science major from Bentonville, Ark., was the acting chair after Jason Knight, junior political science major from Abilene, stepped down at the beginning of the semester, and Bingham was elected several weeks ago as the new chair. Perez said when the College Republicans came to the University Park Apartments Club House, where they watched the debates, she told them they could decorate with Republican items, but they chose not to.
For the upcoming gathering, Perez said she would rather discuss items in the format of a forum because a debate might turn students off.
Even though the campus chapter of College Democrats is so young, Perez said she is pleased with it, with the organization having about 25 to 30 members.
“What I’m not really pleased with is the student response,” Perez said. “I’m disappointed at the apathy on campus.”
One of Perez’s main goals is to educate students about government and clear up misconceptions about the Democratic Party. She has worked this semester to try and educate the student body about the issues Democrats stand for, using flyers around campus and an information table in the Campus Center as tools. She said her reasoning behind flyers that said “Do you really think Jesus was a Republican?” was meant to get students to really think about the question and create interest, saying she didn’t mean to insult anybody by it.
The College Republicans, who also have about 25 members, are forming a Texas Team Strike Force of about five to six members who will travel over fall break to New Mexico, a battleground state in the election, campaigning for President Bush. The group may also go to another state in a sweep that will return them to campus Nov. 3, the day after the election.
Bingham said he is proud members are willing to give up their fall break to campaign for the president.
“They’re very active; they’re very motivated to do it,” Bingham said, “so they stepped up to the plate.”
While both presidential candidates have discussed Christianity and its relevance in politics and their campaigns but not necessarily agreed about it, both Bingham and Perez think Christians should be involved and voice their opinions; they do not think, however, Christians can only be involved in a certain type of party.
Perez said some students views that Christians cannot be Democrats stems from a lack of knowledge of what the party stands for, especially going beyond social issues.
“I see the Democratic Party being more Christian than the Republican Party,” Perez said, citing Jesus’ teachings on helping the poor and needy.
Bingham said that Christians are called to act upon their convictions, and he does not stand by those of the far religious right who claim a vote for Bush is the only one Christians can cast. The question should rather be, “Who do you think better represents your Christian values?” he said.
Regardless of differences, both parties want to encourage students to get involved in either organization, or at least exercise their right and vote, especially in the Congressional race for the 19th District. Both agree that Texas will go to the Republican Party in the presidential election, so they are focusing on the battle between incumbents Charles Stenholm and Randy Neugebauer who were paired in a new district as a result of redistricting last summer.
Bingham said that Neugebauer would better represent the 19th District’s conservative values because he is a Republican and that Stenholm receives pressure from his constituents on one side and his Democratic Party on the other, making it hard for him to represent West Texas.
Perez said Neugebauer has absolutely no power in Congress because he is in his first term, and if Stenholm is not reelected, the 19th District will lose its seniority in the House Agriculture Committee, of which Stenholm is the ranking member in his 26th year in office.
Perez said the presidential election is one of the most important in recent history because of the social issues and the war in Iraq, and she encourages students to vote, especially if they are from out of the state.
“It is a civic duty to get involved in politics,” Bingham said. “College students for some reason have a knack for being apathetic.”