College political groups gear up for elections

By Luke Glaser

Last May, Kentucky’s primaries produced a dismal voter turnout — 10.34 percent. As Election Day approaches, student political groups have been working to get UK students registered and their candidates’ names out to the public, with the hopes of increasing both student and voter turnout.

Highlighting this year’s races is the gubernatorial election between Democratic incumbent Steve Beshear and Republican challenger David Williams. Gatewood Galbraith, the independent candidate, is also running.

College Republicans

This year the College Republican National Committee sent seven field representatives to various states. As Kentucky is the only state of those seven with a Democratic incumbent governor, the Bluegrass was chosen for the GOP. Despite Beshear’s staunch lead in the polls, the College Republicans are optimistic.

“Kentucky wants to send a message,” Leanna Cannafax, Kentucky’s field representative from the committee, said. “People are pretty mad.”

Cannafax, a graduate of Samford University, grew up with politics and was president of College Republicans at her university. Her credentials include an internship with Alabama Senator Saxby Chambliss, but she left Washington D.C. to work in the field. “I wanted to see the grassroots side of campaign,” Cannfax said.

She arrived in August, and has since been tabling outside the Student Center and recruiting students.

“The bottom line is it’s about students getting involved in politics,” Cannafax said. “It effects their tuitions, loans, everything.”

Cannafax has been working closely with Brian Rose, the president of UK’s College Republicans and the chairman of the overall Kentucky Federation of College Republicans. Rose, originally from Cincinnati, is a key player in college level state politics.

“Brian knows everyone,” Cannafax said. “You walk into the State House, he knows all the representatives.”

As State Chairman, Rose acts as a middle ground between nationals and state chapters.

“We give students opportunities and rewards to get off UK’s campus and plugged into elections,” said Rose. These opportunities include fundraisers, meetings with candidates and debate watching parties.

The College Republicans have just finished with their recruiting phase, and are now beginning to get the word out for their candidates. Working from their “Victory Centers,” College Republicans have been making phone calls, distributing information and insuring that voters, students in particular, are familiar with Williams and other state candidates, including Attorney General candidate Todd P’Pool. They plan to continue their work all the way up to Nov. 8, including a 72-hour blitz before the election.

Their candidate, David Williams, is working hard to receive the support he needs to defeat his incumbent opponent, and Rose will continue to work with him.

“David Williams is one of the most intelligent politicians in Kentucky,” Rose said.

Victory or no, the College Republicans hope that their work will bring more students into the party and work to make Kentucky better.

“We’re looking for tomorrow’s leaders,” Rose said. “College Republicans is a place where if you want to do something, you’ve got the resources.”

College Democrats

When Nick Kilby, a political science senior and president of College Democrats, began planning his group’s strategy for college campaigning this year, he began with the club itself.

“Our main goal was to expand membership,” Kilby said.

This included increasing visibility on campus, registering voters on campus and getting students to register as voters in Lexington.

“It’s easier to vote on a Tuesday here,” he said. “A lot of students don’t know that they can register as voters with a dorm address.”

After registering a couple hundred voters, the College Democrats began campaigning for their main race.

“The Governor’s the top of the ticket,” Matthew McGrail, vice-president of the College Democrats, said. “He’s who you push for.”

They have intitiated a coordinated campaign with their state party, operating phone banks and canvassing neighborhoods. While their governor sits well in most polls, the College Democrats have not compromised their enthusiasm. “The only poll that matters is the one on Nov. 8,” Kilby said.

Efforts on campus include a “Get Out the Vote” campaign to raise student awareness.

“Students are a difficult demographic,” McGrail said, “But we know them. We see them around.”

Kilby is concerned that Beshear’s poll numbers will have democrats so overconfident that they won’t bother to go to the polls. His goal is to ensure that all democratic voters, especially students, are not deterred from participating in the process.

“We’re in good shape if we can get the people out to vote,” Kilby said.

The College Democrats are confident in their gubernatorial candidate, citing his record. “Beshear has had the biggest impact on education,” Kilby said. “He’s been a big help for UK.”

As the contest inevitably heats up, both the College Republicans and Democrats look to increase their presence on campus. Despite polarizing ideological differences, they are united in their mutual goal to raise awareness about the elections on campus. On Nov. 8, they hope students go out and vote.

“It’s about getting students involved,” Cannafax said. “Whether they are Democrats or Republicans.”