A flock of big-name Democratic senators descended on the University yesterday to rally Democratic troops for the Nov. 7 election.
U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Mary Landrieu (D–La.), Patty Murray (D–Wash.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) came to Ann Arbor in support of Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who is seeking re-election this year. The six of them make up two-thirds of the women in the Senate.
The senators’ day began with a “Women on the Road to Victory” brunch, a private fundraiser in Ann Arbor. Attendees paid $150 for tickets, and some paid $1,000 to attend a pre-brunch event and to take photos with the senators.
Following the fundraiser, the senators spoke at a rally organized by the College Democrats. In an attempt to appeal to the students, rally organizers played “Clocks” by Coldplay and “American Baby” by the Dave Matthews Band.
Stabenow led her Republican challenger, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, by 19 points in a recent poll, but speakers at the rally warned their faithful constituents not to become complacent.
Ann Arbor City Councilwoman Wendy Woods (D-Ward 5) encouraged Democratic supporters to work for Stabenow’s campaign. Six Democratic senators speaking in Ann Arbor might be an example of preaching to the choir, she said, but “a choir has to sing.”
Landrieu stressed Woods’s point by recounting her close 2002 re-election in Louisiana, where she said she won her seat by one and a half votes per precinct.
Throughout the rally, there were several mentions of the Michigan football team’s victory over Notre Dame, earning cheers from the crowd.
“We’re going to see a completely different kind of blue victory,” College Democrats chair Jamie Ruth said.
The success of female Democrats was a dominant theme throughout the event. Amos Williams, the Democratic candidate for state attorney general, summed up his experience with women like Stabenow and Gov. Jennifer Granholm: “They don’t have hot flashes. They have power surges.”
Stabenow was the last to speak. She rose to the podium amid the loudest cheers of the day. Supporters waved their blue and green signs with the word “Debbie!” emblazoned on them.
“I’m just proud to be a part of that team,” Stabenow said, motioning to the senators sitting behind her. She went on to echo previous speakers’ themes – criticizing President Bush, stopping the war in Iraq, keeping jobs in Michigan and funding education.
Support for Granholm, who is in the middle of a tense re-election campaign, was a popular topic for the speakers. Boxer, the California senator, called a series of negative ads against Granholm some of the “nastiest” she’d ever seen.
After the speeches finished, the senators spent a few minutes shaking hands and talking to students – Sen. Lincoln even received a blue University of Michigan hat – before rally organizers ushered them away.
An event with such big names is bound to attract some detractors.
Speckled throughout the crowd were signs varying in political agenda. Some, such as the anti-Israel protesters, were issue-specific.
Other signs were more general.
Ann Arbor residents Megan Andrews and Libby Hunter protested Stabenow and the other Democrats, saying they did not accurately represent their party’s liberal constituency.
There was also a small contingency of Republican protesters, including Morgan Wilkins, an intern for the College Republican National Committee who recently made news for radical campaign event ideas such as “Catch An Illegal Immigrant Day.”
The Republican protesters brandished signs attacking Stabenow’s physical appearance and her stance on abortion. Wilkins held a sign that read, “Debbie kills babies.”
As the rally went on, several of the protesters began to get closer to the front of the stage to get their signs noticed. The supporters tried to block out the unfriendly signs with their own signs, which organizers had handed out earlier.
At one point, a student supporter and an elderly woman began elbowing each other for a space in the crowd. A party organizer settled the scuffle and the student yielded.