Primary concerns

Primary concerns

The Northeastern community is abuzz with students flexing their political muscles and working together to gather support for the six candidates for Massachusetts governor.

From creating Facebook groups called “Huskies for Healey” to volunteering at daily phone banks and knocking on residence hall doors, students are expressing their views on the issues and helping to educate voters.

The Democratic nomination is the only contested race in the Sept. 19 primary, with three candidates: Deval Patrick, Chris Gabrieli and Tom Reilly.

Current Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey is running unopposed as the Republican gubernatorial nominee. Christy Mihos, a Massachusetts drug store magnate, is running independently and, to round out their field, Grace Ross is running for the Green-Rainbow Party.

With less than a week remaining until the primary, the three Democratic candidates are making a final sprint toward the polls. And nearby, politically active Northeastern students are out in force supporting their parties and candidates.

More than 100 students from seven area colleges gathered in the Curry Student Center Saturday afternoon to show their support for the Democratic candidates in the election.

“The whole campaign process rests on the shoulders of young people like you and me,” said Joe Kennedy, a Harvard freshman who worked throughout the summer on the Victory ’06 Democratic campaign, at the start of the rally.

The event, called “Help Elect a Democratic Governor,” was hosted by the Northeastern College Democrats and co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Victory ’06 Democratic Coordinated Campaign and the College Democrats of Massachusetts. Students from Northeastern, Wellesley College, Boston University, Boston College, LaSalle College, Harvard University and Tufts University attended the rally.

Members of Victory ’06, a state-wide campaign focused on supporting Democratic candidates on the 2006 ballot, used the opportunity to register students for the vote while student volunteers working for the Patrick, Reilly and Gabrieli campaigns set up information tables for their respective candidates.

Former Massachusetts governor and Northeastern professor Michael Dukakis spoke at the event, discussing the value of a grassroots campaign.

“When I tell you grassroots organizing is important, I’m not kidding,” Dukakis said. He emphasized the value of organizing a campus the way a campaign organizes a community. Victory ’06 appoints a campus coordinator to organize the on-campus grassroots movements for each school.

Josh Robin, president of the Northeastern Democrats, serves as the campus coordinator for Northeastern.

If half of the roughly 14,000 students at Northeastern were Democrats, it could mean nearly 6,000 votes for the party – enough to get the notice of politicians and to swing a local or state election, Robin said at the event.

“Young people need to realize that we can make a difference, but to do that we need to vote in large numbers,” Robin said in an interview with The News.

The Northeastern Democrats hope to get 4,000 to 6,000 Democratic votes from Northeastern alone, he said. From phone banks to canvassing door-to-door, there is an event every night that allows students to get involved and help in the campaign, he said.

“We want to know every Democrat on campus by Sept. 19 and make sure everyone on campus votes,” Robin said. “After the primary we have seven weeks to make sure everyone is voting Democrat.”

As an official university student group, the Northeastern Democrats are not allowed to endorse a candidate, but Robin said he works for Northeastern for Deval Patrick outside the organization.

In a debate between the three Democratic candidates Sept. 7, Patrick spoke on the importance of the grassroots campaign.

“We run a campaign that reflects a different way to govern. It is about getting out into communities, where people live and where they work and asking those who have checked out to check back in,” he said.

Jamie Waller, junior political science major and public relations co-chair for the Northeastern College Republicans, said the campaign process “is an incredible procedure to watch and learn from.”

Waller said he is working for the Kerry Healey campaign because of the valuable hands-on learning that can be gained from working a campaign.

“Kerry Healey does have a good shot and I would love to be a part of that win,” he said.

The Northeastern Republicans are planning to work the campaign Tuesday night to get the vote out. They have set the goal of making 1,000 calls a day at the phone banks to rally support for their candidates, Waller said.

Amy Bacon, a middler political science and secondary education major, volunteers for the Patrick campaign. After interning with the campaign over the summer, she volunteers on days she doesn’t have classes and works in the Boston community making connections with people and talking about Patrick and the issues through door-to-door campaigning and working at the phone banks, she said.

Billy Haddad, former Student Government Association executive board member and recent graduate, works as the volunteer coordinator for the Gabrieli campaign. His focus is on the Gabrieli volunteers across the state and at campaign headquarters in Boston, as well as managing the college coordinators across the state, he said.

Haddad said his co-ops and work in SGA at Northeastern prepared him for what work experience is like. As vice president for financial affairs, Haddad said he gained an understanding of supervising and stayed in the political loop on issues like financial aid and tuition cost.

“Students particularly should pay attention to what candidates are talking about with tuition cost,” he said. Haddad praised Gabrieli’s proposed plan to make college savings plans tax deductible.

Freshman Jessica November said the complex debate over tax cuts inspired her to sign up to volunteer with Victory ’06 at the College Democrats’ event.

November, an undecided major, said she didn’t know a lot about the tax cuts when she signed up, but is hoping to learn more through volunteering.

At the debate Gabrieli said he would lower the state income tax from 5.3 percent to an even 5 percent in his first term as governor. Reilly agreed and said now is the time to roll back taxes. However, Patrick said the state income tax was the “wrong” tax to focus on and instead the property tax should be cut.

Other issues discussed at the debate were health care, the state of the Massachusetts economy, stem cell research and preparation in the event of a major crisis like the September 11 terrorist attacks or Hurricane Katrina. –>

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