Published: Oct 2, 2008
As John McCain and Barack Obama crisscross the country campaigning,
their supporters at The University of Tampa are echoing the candidates’
messages on campus and in the community.
With every election
year, the heightened political climate enlivens UT’s political groups,
which include the College Democrats, College Republicans and the newly
created UTampa Libertarians. This year is no different, as the groups
are raising awareness of the candidates as well as the political process
as a whole.
“Our prime goal is not just to get Barack Obama
elected president,” said Christopher Brown, a senior and president of
the UT College Democrats. “It’s sustainability. It’s bringing students
to events and making sure they’re concerned about their future and not
just getting one man elected.”
College Republican Chairwoman
Katrina Castillo, also a senior, echoed these sentiments, saying the
election is just as much about John McCain as it is supporting local
candidates and spreading the Republican message.
years you get an influx in members because there is a revised interested
in politics,” Castillo said. “But especially this year there is a lot
of interest among our age group.”
Enrolling at UT last year as a
transfer student, Brown was at first hesitant to get involved with the
College Democrats when a friend first invited him to the group. Less
than a year later, he was elected the group’s president.
said one of the group’s main goals this year is to recruit 538 new
members of College Democrats – 537 being the number of votes by which
Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore lost the state of Florida in
the 2000 election. On Sept. 24, the Democrats held a “Barack the Vote”
event in the Vaughn Center Plaza – an event to which Brown invited the
College Republicans to protest.
“I’m a strong bipartisan guy,”
said Brown, who is pursuing a degree in government and world affairs. “I
don’t want to just preach to the choir because that’s just a waste of
For Castillo, also a government and world
affairs major, boosting membership and getting students involved in the
grassroots efforts of the Republican Party have been enduring goals
since she was first elected chairwoman in 2006. Her involvement in the
group was also a steppingstone that led to her election as treasurer of
the Florida Federation of College Republicans and the Tampa Bay regional
co-director of Students for McCain.
“We want to spread the message that Obama is not the only candidate supported by the college age bracket,” Castillo said.
addition to campaign events, student volunteers assist with phone
banking and door-to-door walks with the local Republican Party in order
to spread the word about their candidates.
“It’s how we get not
only our national figures elected, but also our local figures,” Castillo
said. Locally, the group is promoting the reelection of Gus Bilirakis,
the U.S. congressman representing Florida’s 9th district.
College Democrats and College Republicans came head-to-head Sept. 25 for
a debate in Plant Hall’s Fletcher Lounge. A team of four panelists from
both groups defended their respective candidate’s position on a variety
of issues, including homeland security, the economy, civil rights and
In the midst of the battle between the two main
political groups, a third group catering to young libertarians has also
emerged this semester. The UTampa Libertarians, started by senior Paul
Lotierzo, seeks to promote ideas such as limited government and
individual liberty, rather than the election of a particular candidate.
lot of people seem to want to get involved, but they have no idea what
libertarianism is,” Lotierzo said. “I’ve gotten a lot of positive
feedback, especially from faculty. I think a lot of people are just fed
up with the political system.”
In forming the group, Lotierzo
has sought to build partnerships with organizations like the CATO
Institute – a Libertarian think tank – in order to build the group’s
“It seems like there really isn’t much choice for
people out there,” Lotierzo said. “What we try to do is educate students
and the local community about the other options besides the Democrats