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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Cal Aggie's Criticism of Brown and McNerney Misses the Mark

Someone has sent me a copy of the Op-ed from Thursday in California Aggie that attacks Charlie Brown and Jerry McNerney for failing to show up at a UC Davis campus event. The op-ed piece is filled with errors and inaccuracies.

First, the charge that the campaigns “they disrespected the campus population and demonstrated that the student vote is not a priority for their campaigns.” The UC Davis campus is nowhere near the districts for either campaign. The campaigns had been invited by a local political operative and the College Democrats of UC Davis to recruit volunteers to help with these campaigns. Unfortunately given the length of travel time--well over an hour-and-a-half round trip--it seemed better for the candidates to remain in their districts speaking to actual voters and to send surrogates in their place.

Second, “The two men are vying for the opportunity to represent the fourth district, which encompasses several counties in the Sierra Nevada area, including El Dorado and Sacramento.” Actually the two men are fighting for different districts. Brown is opposing Republican incumbent John Doolittle in the 4th district (which encompasses Roseville, Auburn, Lake Tahoe all the way up the eastern side of California's Nevada boarder to Oregon.) McNerney is in the 11th district, facing incumbent Republican Richard Pombo (which encompasses Stockton, Tracy, down into the south Bay Area.)

Third, “While Stenhouse said his candidate believes young people play an important part in the election, Brown did not have the courtesy to give sufficient notice of his cancellation, thus potentially alienating student voters who showed up to hear him speak.” Potentially alienating the student voters who showed up? Only five students showed up and none of the students who showed up could have voted for them. Only 12 people in total attended the event including the students, the event organizers and the candidate's representatives. The campaigns were hoping to be able to mobilize young volunteers to help with their final effort. Unfortunately, due to the suspected low event turnout and the amount of time that the candidates would have to take out of their busy day, it was determined that it would not be productive use of their time to have the candidates themselves there. Facing many obligations each campaign must judge the value of using their candidate, their limited resoures and their time wisely. One of the lessons that people need to learn about politics is how much work a campaign involves. I’ve been to numerous events that have had to be altered or cancelled because of other commitments and priorities.

Fourth, “Students deserve to hear the political goals of congressional candidates as much as older voters. As such, any campaign official who visits the campus should be prepared and focus on the campaign issues.” The op-ed writer apparently was unaware of the purpose of this rally.

Finally, “With the election less than two weeks away, time is crucial. These candidates must now work to garner the support of student constituents before it's too late.” Again, the op-ed writer apparently has no idea where these districts lie or the fact that none of these students are constituents.

The bottom line is that while the California Aggie is a student paper, they need to do their homework and understand that this rally was not about garnering votes but tapping volunteers. Instead of throwing uneducated accusations towards the Brown and McNerney campaigns, had they done so they would have realized that these two candidates represent districts far from the UC Davis campus but were hoping to tap into the energies of young students to add grassroots workers in the final days of the campaign and had been invited to do just that. I find it illustrative that the op-ed never mentions the number of students (again, five) who actually attended this rally or explains to us what the purpose of the rally was. Unfortunately, the writers do not appear to understand it themselves.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting