UDems

Photo Credit: Rory Harman | Daily Texan Staff

University Democrats and members of the Central Austin Democrats met Saturday to co-endorse candidates for the 2012 election season.

The two groups awarded their Austin Progressive Coalition endorsement, a package that guarantees the material and campaign support of both organizations, to Paul Sadler for U.S. senate and five other local candidates in different races. Sadler served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1991 to 2003 and is hoping to replace the open seat to be left by Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Over 20 campaigns from around the state came to the meeting, including two senate and four house candidates.

Each candidate was given about five minutes to speak, after which the UDems and CAD caucused and then broke into separate groups to select their endorsement.

“We think it’s great to be able to bring so many qualified candidates to our meetings,” said UDems president Huey Fischer. “Every member of the UDems makes legitimate points in our caucus and it gets us fully involved instead of being some student group that just makes signs. It just shows how many people are affected by these issues that the candidates want to come out and speak to us.”

While the UDems represent the interest of democratic students in Austin, CAD members are comprised of Austinites who are politically active in the Democratic Party, said CAD member Nicholas Chu. A former president of the UDems, he said he disagrees with the idea that students are not involved in politics.

“If you see who goes to the meetings for the UDems, it’s amazing to see how candidates will go out of their way to find out what the UDems think,” Chu said. “It’s very rare for any regular club to have the district attorney and mayor and a U.S. Senate candidate at a meeting. That level of engagement from our elected officials comes from the members being highly politically active people in Austin.”

David Feigen, campaign elections chairman for the UDems, said he was glad to be active in Austin’s political scene where candidates are interested in student issues.

“As a Texas native it’s unusual to see so many Democratic voices,” Feigen said. “Students often feel shut out from politics because we aren’t able to contact a candidate, so we are interested in getting student issues out by bringing these candidates to our meetings.”

Feigen said he and the other UDems will be working closely with the campaigns they have endorsed to get their candidates elected.

“Part of that stigma about student activism is our own fault for not participating,” Feigen said. “If candidates reach out to us, we are willing to reach out to them as well. We will show our candidates how much we care by getting these men and women elected.”

Printed on Monday, February 20, 2012 as: Austin Democrats announce 2012 election endorsements

Talent is lacking in the Democratic Party, and it is up to the future generation to change it, a political writer told a group of about 50 students at a University Democrats meeting Wednesday. Paul Burka, senior executive editor of Texas Monthly, writes a political blog and has worked for the magazine since 1975. He also served as an attorney in the Texas Legislature for five years and holds a degree from UT’s School of Law. UDems President Billy Calve said Burka speaking to the organization is a great opportunity to get a different perspective on Texas politics. “Paul Burka is an institution in Texas politics,” Calve said. “We really hope our members will build on their understanding by hearing from him.” It’s over for Anglos, Burka said. He said the future of Texas is up to the Hispanic majority because there has not been a significant time when Hispanics have voted in large numbers. If all Texans voted, the state would prove to have a much stronger Democratic voice, he said. “If you plan to spend your life in Texas, you will live in a blue state,” Burka said. However, Burka that the increase in affluence in South Texas threatens Democrats because increased wealth, combined with a cultural sense of family values and patriotism, could lead more Hispanics living in the Valley to vote for Republicans. The Democratic Party hard said ly exists in Texas, he said. He said the party’s infrastructure is not strong because it has not been able to reach out to the Hispanic population. “The talent level you have to replace is not very high,” Burka said. Burka said Gov. Rick Perry is an unsympathetic politician who is not interested in the Legislature but is a political pro who knows what to do and always has a plan. “There’s nobody better at running a campaign and nobody worse at running the state,” Burka said. Burka said charisma is what makes a very strong candidate. He said the next generation of lawmakers need to be better at it. “The ball is there, and somebody has to go pick it up,” Burka said. Government sophomore Huey Fischer said he appreciated Burka’s insight on Texas politics because he came from a nonpartisan perspective. He said UDems members gained new insight into how to move forward for the 2012 elections. “We do need to start recruiting tougher candidates, better candidates, charismatic candidates,” Fischer said.