March 3, 2004

Ithacans, Cornellians Turn Out to Vote in State Primary

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Students and Ithaca residents headed to the polls yesterday to vote in New York’s Democratic primary. Students went to polling locations on North Campus, West Campus and in Collegetown, open until 9 p.m.

According to Irene Stein, Democratic Party chair of Tompkins County, the voter turnout for primaries is generally low. For yesterday’s primary, however, “there [was] a lot of interest in the race,” said Stephen DeWitt, Democratic commissioner of elections in Tompkins County. DeWitt estimated that voter turnout for primaries generally runs in the 25 to 30 percent range but expected participation well above 30 percent in yesterday’s election. DeWitt further noted that there was “lots of absentee activity.”

The excitement generated by yesterday’s race between Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), with Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Rev. Al Sharpton trailing behind, was regarded by many as an important step towards November’s presidential election. “Our main concern is beating George Bush,” said Peter S. Cohl ’05, co-president of Cornell Students for Edwards. Cohl formerly endorsed Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) as the co-president of Students for Dean, but transferred his support to Edwards after Dean withdrew.

“We feel strongly that John Edwards will be a much more competitive candidate with Bush than John Kerry, and a large portion of [Dean] supporters have renewed their excitement in the campaign as they have shifted their support to Edwards,” Cohl said, prior to yesterday’s primary. He hoped their support of Edwards convinced Cornell students as well as groups outside of Ithaca to vote for Edwards.

“Cornell’s status as a liberal haven has helped us in persuading other Dean groups across the country to switch to Edwards and we hope our inspiration has made it safe for other groups to switch to Edwards,” Cohl said.

The necessity of finding a strong Democratic candidate to face Bush in November was echoed by Ithaca residents. “There’s just an unusual sense of when this is over, we’ll get down to the real work and people will unify strongly over the Democratic candidate. There is a feeling of the need to change the administration that is stronger than anything I’ve ever seen,” Stein said.

Stein criticized Bush’s policies regarding the economy, the environment, education and civil rights.

“He has not been honest with the American people. The accumulated impact of his policies is creating a sense of the necessity to beat him,” Stein said.

Elliot Reed ’05, speaker of the Cornell Republicans, disagreed that the Democratic candidate would present a threat to Bush, due to a lack of unity within the party.

“I think that the Democratic Party is pretty split up right now. The Dean campaign contributed largely to that — little fissures have turned into major, major canyons,” Reed said, also arguing that all the Democratic candidates would be too liberal to defeat Bush. However, Reed said, “I’d like to see John Kerry go up against President Bush, Edwards wouldn’t be a strong candidate.”

Earlier in the year, Ithaca’s support and rallying for the potential Democratic candidates did not focus on either of last night’s two main contenders, Kerry and Edwards.

“[Tompkins County] is somewhat different from the rest of the nation,” Stein said. The three active groups in the county supported Clark, Kucinich and Dean, with only Kucinich now remaining in the race.

In comparison, Cornell student groups enthusiastically supported Kerry and Edwards. Matt Gewolb ’04, president of Students for Kerry, said that he felt energy on campus surrounding yesterday’s election and “found a tremendous amount of support for Senator Kerry.” Gewolb added that “people value [Kerry’s senatorial] experience, his foreign and domestic policy and his status as a Vietnam veteran while still having [a stance] against an unjust war.”

Support for Kerry’s campaign was also found on campus over the weekend by his daughter, Vanessa. “I absolutely think Vanessa’s visit really energized our group and deeply affected undecided voters. Her passion, intelligence and ability to articulate her father’s ideas has a tremendous effect … it was an invaluable presentation,” Gewolb said.

Yesterday’s “Big Ten” contest included primaries in New York, California, Connecticut, Ohio, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Archived article by Diana Lo