Candidates use various tactics to earn support, get votes
By ERIN LaRUFFA
With memories of the recent federal election still fresh in their minds, Notre Dame students are once again seeing campaign messages from presidential hopefuls.
But instead of talking about Social Security, taxes and prescription drug plans, the most recent wave of candidates are talking about bookstore policies, campus entertainment and parietals as they campaign to become Notre Dame's next student body president and vice president.
Since the official campaign began two weeks ago, the six tickets in the race have been working to make themselves known to the student body.
"Our strategy was to get our name out the first week," said Ryan Becker, who is running for student body president. So, Becker, along with running mate Nikki McCord and their campaign staff, hung posters in dorms and put table tents in the dining halls.
Brooke Norton, another candidate for president, said her campaign decided to hang a general poster around campus during the first week of the allotted campaigning period. During the second week, Norton said, her campaign displayed a new poster with a more detailed explanation of the ticket's platform.
In addition to two main campaign posters, the ticket of Maureen Gottlieb and Victoria Fetterman created a personalized poster for each dorm, Gottlieb said. Most of the posters use the dorms' mascots as a theme.
The ticket of Chris Zimmerman and Andy Nelson decided to not put up as many posters as the other tickets in the first few weeks, though Zimmerman said they are planning to hang more during the last week of campaigning.
"We simply think when you put posters up three weeks in advance, people get sick of them," Zimmerman said.
In addition to platform ideas, many of the posters also have slogans the tickets designed to highlight specific parts of their campaigns.
For example, the ticket of Demetra Smith and Yogeld Andre are using the slogan, "Let's keep it real."
"We're coming at this from an outsider's perspective," Smith said. "We've been asking our fellow students to ask questions."
Smith and Andre's platform focus on social issues, such as greater interaction with the South Bend community and a living wage for campus employees.
"[A slogan] helps you remember their issues," said Liddy Bishop, who along with Peter Rossman is managing the campaign of Norton and vice presidential candidate Brian Mascona.
"Brooke and Brian are really trying to stress their experience," Bishop added, referring to the ticket's use of the slogan, "Experience Counts!"
Another Norton and Mascona slogan — "The time is now!" — is more open to interpretation, according to Norton. In part, Norton said, the slogan can mean that it is the right time for many of the ticket's platform ideas to become reality. However, the slogan can also carry the meaning that it is now the time for Notre Dame to have its first female student body president.
"I do think our school is ready for a female president," said Norton who along with Smith and Gottlieb are the three female presidential candidates.
Either way, the slogan is reinforced by pictures of clocks on the ticket's Web site, another important way for the candidates to express their ideas.
Norton and Mascona, however, are not the only candidates with an Internet sight. In fact, five of the six tickets have a site.
Presidential candidate Holt Zeidler said he is not sure that a significant number of students actually visit each candidate's site. Similarly, Zimmerman said the number of people who visit his Web site is probably limited, but he added the Internet can still be useful.
"It's the easiest way," Zimmerman said. "It gives you a good way to explain your platform."
"It's an extra medium for all of the candidates to have a place where they can flush out their ideas. We have limited space on posters," Smith said.
Becker and McCord have used their Web site to show students that the ticket has a plan for carrying out its platform, according to campaign manager Dan Loeffler. He said many students have questioned whether Becker and McCord will actually be able to get the bookstore to lower its prices. The campaign has directed those students to the ticket's Web site, which has on it Becker and McCord's actual plan for changing bookstore policy, said Loeffler.
Reading about platforms on posters and the Web, however, does not replace meeting the candidates face to face. The different tickets have already visited dorms, and plan to continue doing so throughout this final week.
"We're going to talk to as many students as possible," said Becker. He and McCord have visited a few dorms already, and will visit the remaining ones this week, he added.
"They're spreading it out so they can spend time talking to people," Loeffler explained.
Indeed, the candidates believe it is crucial for them to interact directly with students during the campaign.
"We're trying to go door to door," Zeidler said. "I think it's important for people to have a conversation with the person who's going to be representing them."
"It gives a chance for students to give ideas and ask questions," said Norton.
Some of the campaigns use the strategy of sending the presidential candidate to some dorms and vice presidential candidate to others. Gottlieb and Fetterman, on the other hand, are visiting dorms together.
"It would be easier to split up, but we think it's important to go together because otherwise you're missing half the ticket," Gottlieb said.
Behind the campaigning the candidates themselves do, each ticket has other students helping to get its message out.
Becker and his supporters, for example, began planning his campaign several months ago. Since then, they have been meeting about once a week to develop a platform of issues. The group covered a different topic at each of the meetings, which Becker described as "informal."
Despite Becker's early start, Loeffler concedes that Becker and McCord might have started the actual campaign period slightly behind the Norton/Mascona ticket due to Norton's high profile as current student body vice president. However, Loeffler said he believes that Becker and McCord can become just as well known.
Norton, on the other hand, waited until Christmas vacation to make her final decision to run.
"I was just trying to concentrate on my job," Norton said. "I've been thinking about [running] for a long time."
Although starting later than Becker, Norton still has a wide base of support across campus. Bishop said their campaign has three official campaign representatives in almost every dorm, in addition to a few additional unofficial supporters.
Similarly, Zeidler and running mate Allison Henisey have established a support network around campus.
"We're trying to have a core group of two or three, then an expanded group around campus," Zeidler said. That expanded group gives feedback good or bad in the campaign based on what members hear in their dorms.
However, not all tickets decided to find campaign representatives in each dorm.
Gottlieb and Fetterman, who are debate partners, have relied on teammates from the debate team to help with their campaign, according to Gottlieb. She added that the ticket probably has official supporters in about half of the dorms on campus.
"It's a good network. We're all pretty close," said Gottlieb.
Smith actually decided to run only four weeks ago, when a group of students approached her with the idea of running. She and Andre then developed their platform themselves and then drew together campaign supporters from people who responded to the ideas of that platform.
"It was a strategy based on interest," Smith said.
While Zimmerman and Nelson do have a campaign manager, they do not have someone working for them in each dorm.
"We don't have the vast campaign teams as some others, like Brooke Norton and Brian Mascona," Zimmerman said.
What strategy pays off will be determined next week. But students are taking notice of what the candidates are doing.
Freshman Drew Dewalt, who has not yet decided which ticket to vote for, said a major factor in his decision will be the platform each ticket presents and "if I think they're attainable goals" — not just rhetoric the candidates think students want to hear.
Another freshman, Kerry Perez, said she has already decided whom to vote for. Perez based her decision on posters and the impression she has gotten of four or five candidates that have come to her door.
"I think that's impressive if they take the time to come around," Perez said.
All News Stories for Monday, February 5, 2001