Students prepare for municipal elections

Partisan and nonpartisan student groups are campaigning on behalf on municipal candidates

By Katherine Vega

As the Chicago mayoral and aldermanic elections draw near, University of Chicago students are getting involved with campaigns across the political spectrum. The municipal elections will take place on February 24.

A number of student groups, both partisan and nonpartisan, have been campaigning for both mayoral and aldermanic candidates. Most focus on grassroots efforts, such as canvassing and phone banking. Both methods interact directly with constituents, but through different mediums: canvassing involves direct contact, such as handing out flyers or knocking on doors.

Second-year Alex DiLalla, the communications director for the University of Chicago Democrats (UC Dems), arranged phone banking for Democratic mayoral candidates twice a week. Participants, most of whom are members of UC Dems, can choose to campaign for Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, or both. Last quarter, DiLalla helped organize the RSO’s campaign efforts for the unsuccessful re-election of former Governor Pat Quinn.

DiLalla said that although there are political motives for members of UC Dems to phone bank, this opportunity also exposes students to a more active role in the elections as a whole.

“[Phone banking] offers a programming opportunity for members to get their feet wet in political campaigning close to campus,” he said. “In addition, I’m in contact with the [Garcia and Emanuel] campaigns to connect our members to fellowship opportunities for those who want a more long-term experience with the campaigns.”

On the other side of the aisle, College Republicans said in a statement that after spending most of their energy on the Illinois gubernatorial race last quarter, they are focusing their efforts on increasing their presence on campus.

“While we would welcome the entrance of a qualified Republican to the race, we are in the unenviable position of mostly sitting this election out,” first-year representative Matt Foldi said in a statement.

Other organizations on campus, such as the Southside Solidarity Network (SSN), are working toward different goals. Fourth-year Emma LaBounty, an organizer for SSN, works to connect outside organizations and partnerships with student activists.

LaBounty works closely with Reclaim Chicago, a partnership between The People’s Lobby, a Chicago-wide electoral organization, and National Nurses United, the largest nurses’ union in the United States. Like SSN, these organizations do not officially endorse any political party; rather, they work to elect progressive public officials.

Many members of SSN participate in the aldermanic elections by phone banking and door-to-door canvassing. In their work, there is special emphasis on the campaign of Tara F. Baldridge, a University of Chicago alumna who is running for alderman in the 8th ward. (The 8th ward is located just south of Woodlawn and Washington Park.)

For LaBounty, campaigning is as much about the communities involved as it is about the election.

“The election cycle is a huge uphill battle,” she said. “I think that by going door-to-door and calling people on the phone, we’ve really been connecting with people on a neighborhood level about what issues are occurring in their communities that are upsetting to them. This is an ongoing project of building an engaged citizenry and giving people hope.”