The WCU College Democrats hosted local party members at the Chester County Kerry Kick-Off, to rally support for Democratic candidates and to organize volunteers for upcoming campaigns, on April 14 in Boucher Hall. County Commissioner Andrew Dinniman said Pennsylvania voters, especially those in Chester County, are going to play a key role in the November presidential election, giving voters a great sense of responsibility. Dinniman said this election deals with the “essential character of the country,” and voters should take advantage of the opportunity for voice their opinion for change.
Representatives from the Chester County Democrats stressed the importance of volunteers in a successful campaign. Volunteers are needed in local, state, and national campaigns to work phone banks, distribute literature, and travel door to door handing out information. Larry D’Antonio, spokesperson for the Chester County Democrats, said that although these jobs are not glamorous, they make up 99 percent of a campaign.
Mike McGann, a Democrat running for the State House of Representatives in the 160th District, said both volunteer efforts and democratic voter turn out are needed for local elections. He said “ground forces” can potentially make up for Republican candidates who are “entrenched” in special interest campaign funding.
Working to build a strong democratic party in Chester County, currently 80 per-cent Republican in registration, makes a difference on Election Day, McGann said. The Chester County Democratic Committee suggested that the best way increase voter turnout to get to know people Chester County and meet-ups or informal meetings. Meet-ups, a key feature of Howard Dean’s campaign, are a grassroots effort to reach voters in a personal way. Hilary Zwerdling, a field coordinator for the Joe Hoeffel Senate race, said meet-ups are a “critical effort” and are “a good time to talk about what we can do to win back our country.” Zwerdling said President Bush currently has 180 million dollars more than Senator Kerry in campaign funding, making it impossible to keep up with the Bush campaign ads. However, Zwerdling said, “We can win with face-to-face support.” Members of the Chester County Democratic Committee encouraged voters to hold meet-ups at their homes, showing videos, answering questions, and showing support for their candidate. After the meet-ings are held, they requested that the committee be notified and names of interested volunteers be submitted through their Web site.
Wayne Burton, Chair of the Chester County Democratic Committee and a former professor of political science at WCU, said it is important to remember local elections and to organize effectively for local candidates. While Chester County has a high number of registered Republicans, many do not vote a straight ticket. In fact, in local and state elections, up to 45 percent of Republicans vote outside of party lines.
In presidential elections, the number of Republicans voting Democrat increases to 50 percent. Larry D’Antonio said that in Chester County, many Republicans are “in the closet” Democrats who are afraid to voice support. He said this increases the importance of the role of party members to “spark interest” in Democratic candidates and hold meet-ups.
Erik Anderson, founder of the WCU College Democrats, encouraged students to get involved in campaigns and support local candidates. The Pennsylvania primary on Tuesday, April 27 should not be discounted for Democrats, Anderson said, because there are other highly contested races, like the Pennsylvania Attorney General race. “It’s a very exciting time for Democrats right now” Anderson said.
Larry D’Antonio said people who want to become more involved in local politics should volunteer to work at the polls. It is a good way to get a taste for what local politics is like and meet other members of your party, he said. County Commissioner Andrew Dinniman quoted Margaret Mead, reminding voters “‘Never doubt a group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.'”
For more information or to volunteer, contact the Chester County Democratic Committee at www.chescodems.org, www.wcucollegedems.8k.com. or the Young Democrats at email@example.com.