The Cavalier Daily
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Battleground: Charlottesville

University students turn political to campaign before Election Day

Tomorrow, television political attack ads, signs and speculation will come to an end - at least until 2012.

After winning the White House, majority in the House and super-majority in the Senate in 2008, the Democratic Party is faced with the possibility that the Republicans will sit in the majority of both houses of Congress, jeopardizing President Obama's ability to push his legislative agenda. If the election were held today, Republicans might pick up eight to nine seats in the Senate, eight state governors' seats and 47 seats in the House of Representatives, according to Prof. Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball - the first nonpartisan rating service to call the House for the Republicans this year.

Because of this potential party swing in the House, the local contest between Republican candidate Robert Hurt and Democratic candidate Tom Perriello for Virginia's Fifth District carries a significant load of importance. So, too, do the candidates' campaigning efforts in an attempt to educate voters about their credentials and policies, garner support and secure votes.

But the candidates have not been campaigning alone. Two of the University's major political contracted independent organizations - University Democrats and College Republicans - have been actively participating in the political process since classes began this semester. Each organization has undertaken its own campaign methods, and their focus has been specifically on Virginia's Fifth District race.

College Republicans Chair Loren Monk said campaigning for Hurt, who is currently serving as a state senator, is important because "he will do a better job at providing Virginians with jobs as well as get rid of the high cost of health care and do more to represent the interests of small businesses in Virginia." Among the College Republicans' efforts, student activists made sure all group members are registered to vote in either local or hometown elections. This past week, for example, the group went door-to-door to raise awareness about Hurt's platform. On Election Day, members will cover precincts and voting locations, handing out campaign literature as a last-minute effort to educate voters as they head to the polls.

Rachel Schoenewald, of the Fifth District for the Republican Party of Virginia State Central Committee, noted all the hard work that the group has put into the election, calling the College Republicans "a powerhouse of enthusiasm for Robert Hurt this year."

On the other end of the spectrum, University Democrats has worked to promote reelecting the incumbent candidate.

"It is extremely important that Congressman Perriello get reelected," said Lauren Dunkle, campaign and party coordinator for the University Democrats. "He has done well in representing Virginians in his district."

The group has tried to participate in three to four campaign activities per week since the beginning of the year, Dunkle said. Working in conjunction with Perriello's campaign office - located on the Corner behind Mellow Mushroom - the organization has actively tabled on Grounds and since August, has helped register 1,100 University students to vote, she added.

The organization also hosted Campaign Invasion, a large event in which other Democratic Virginia college organizations traveled to Charlottesville to support Perriello.\nPerriello campaign spokesperson Caroline Heil said University students may become more involved with political campaigns in Charlottesville.

"Many students come from less competitive districts where, as a Democrat, their vote does not count as much," she said. "Seeing as how Charlottesville tends to be more liberal, it's better for them to register to vote here, where their vote counts more."

Fourth-year College student Philip Carter, a Fredericksburg native registered to vote in his home district, agreed about the importance of casting one's ballot.

"Everyone should take this opportunity to vote"