In Texas, Democrat Bill White Rallies on College Campuses

Oct 20, 2010 1:02pm

Democrats are busy trying to get young voters out to help head off Republican gains Nov. 2nd and the Texas gubernatorial race, which we recently profiled, is no exception. Here’s a dispatch from on the ground:
ABC News on Campus reporter Ashley Jennings reports: A guitarist clad in Bill White campaign memorabilia belted Nora Jones tunes while hundreds of students and Austin Democrats gathered in front of the University of Texas tower. Longhorn Students for Bill White teamed up with the University Democrats last night to host “Bill White’s Rally to Restore Competence,” discussing issues ranging from education to Texas unemployment rates. The rally kicked off with UT student government representative Jeremy Yager urging students to vote in the following two weeks. “Let’s move Texas forward and finally restore competence to the governor’s mansion,” Yager said. Student involvement isn’t new for the White gubernatorial campaign, which has set up more than 40 student-run Bill White groups across college campuses statewide. It’s a more aggressive approach than that of Republican candidate Rick Perry, whose campaign contacted already established student conservative groups, such as the Young Conservatives of Texas. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, only 17 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds voted in the last Texas governor’s race in 2006, whereas 45 percent of people older than 30 years old voted. During the rally Yager introduced one of White’s head campaign spokespeople, 21-year-old daughter Elena White. Elena White, a junior economics major at Rice University, took off a semester to aid the campaign trail. She’s visited schools across the state including St. Mary’s University and Southwest Texas Junior College and has been to nine cities in the past 24 hours, all in hopes of reaching out to young people. “I see him speak in front of thousands of people and in front of the camera,” said White. “I can tell you he’s the same guy in front of the cameras as he is at home.” Cameron Miculka, public relations representative for UT’s University Democrats group, says combating voting apathy on college campuses is the main focus this year. Clubs use their own resources to pass out flyers, set up information tables, make phone calls and even go door-to-door. “A vote from a student has just as much importance as anyone else,” Miculka said. “When they see that a candidate is coming to their school to speak to them about education reform it really resonates, he isn’t just a face on television.” Education reform wasn’t the only issue on the agenda, though. White’s overall message focused on public service vs. political machine. “We will be deciding in the next 14 day whether we want to continue with a governor who uses state offices as part of a political machine or whether we want a governor who will use the state machinery for public service, bringing the best and the brightest together,” said White, who served as the former mayor of Houston and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy under former President Bill Clinton. The gubernatorial candidate stressed the importance of jobs in the future, including those in cleaner energy and technology. He went on to say it’s not ok to be the “leader of minimum wage jobs” and that Texas’ unemployment rate is currently higher than Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas. “We want a state that leads the nation in ethics and integrity, not one that becomes a laughing stock,” White said. But not everyone in the audience walked away convinced. Kevin Cissell, a 20-year-old pre-med student, asked White a few questions after the rally concerning the future of higher education. His main concern- Texas cutting 25,000 students from the Texas (Towards Excellence, Access and Success) Grant. “You cut grants that are helping people like myself, poor students who are trying to just go to college, that’s cutting opportunity for the future,” Cissell said. Early voting in Texas began Monday and will continue until October 29th. Photo, Above, of Candidate for Governor Bill White is by Melanie Torres.

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