Edwards visits Tucson

By Mitra Taj
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Vice presidential candidate John Edwards rallied thousands in Tucson yesterday, urging young people and other voting blocs to help turn out the votes needed to guarantee Democrats a victory this November.

Edwards said the policies of the Bush administration - from education to foreign policy - have shown how "out of touch" it is with the American people.

"When John Kerry is your president, he's not going to wake up every day working for Haliburton," Edwards said. "He's going to wake up every day working for the American people."

Edwards made an appeal to the younger members of the audience, criticizing Bush for not providing enough financial aid for college students who need it.

"What about the young people in America who want to go to college, are qualified to go, but they're not going?" Edwards said.

Loud cheers from younger members of the audience interrupted him before he could continue.

Edwards said 84,000 people have been cut from Pell Grant funding since Bush took office despite the president's promises of making education more affordable. Edwards urged those who want to make college education available for more people to vote for Kerry.

"We want to make up to $4,000 in college tuition available for tax credit," Edwards said. "We want to say to young people, give us two years of public service and community work and we'll give you four years of college education."

Dan Orenstein, a political science and sociology senior, said he liked those ideas and said they could solve a lot of problems. Students who are still undecided about which presidential candidate to vote for should "read a newspaper," he said.

"Leave the rhetoric out and look at Bush's record," Orenstein said. "He's had four years to do something positive and he hasn't."

Erik Trevino agreed. "Students really need to take a look at what the administration has done in the last four years," said Trevino, an aerospace engineering junior who was an Arizona delegate at the Democratic National Convention. "It's done a lot of bad things."

Trevino said a vote for Kerry should come naturally for students.

"I can't understand people that support Bush who are in college," said Trevino, a UA Young Democrats member. "He has cut funding for education, making education for the elite, not the masses."

Students who went to the noon rally at the Tucson Convention Center said they're hopeful they and others can "turn Arizona blue" and put the country back on the "right track."

Edwards said millions of Americans have lost their health care coverage and jobs since Bush has been in office and urged those fed up with a weak economy and jobs migrating overseas to vote for Kerry.

"You want to know what would be good for the American economy?" Edwards said. "What would be good for the American economy is to outsource this administration."

A group of protesters interrupted Edwards' speech with loud chants of "four more years" and were quickly booed out of the center. Edwards laughed and responded with "two more months, two more months," for the Bush administration.

Danielle Roberts, political science junior and president of the UA College Republicans, was one of the Bush supporters who decided to make the statement in "support of Bush."

Alicia Cybulski, president of the UAYD, called the interruption "crass and rude."

"There's a lot of hard work that goes into events like that and to have them disrupted like that is unfortunate," said Cybulski, a political science senior.

Cybulski said she and about 35 other Young Democrats "Kerry-vanned," or carpooled, to attend the event. Other students came on their own, she said.

Student volunteers ushered and handed out signs. To spread the word about the event, they also phone banked, passed out fliers and waved signs on street corners.

Roberts called Edwards' rally, "his basic stump speech we've heard time and time again as he continues his farewell tour."

The Republican Party called the Edwards' visit to Tucson a "farewell tour" and suggested the Kerry-Edwards campaign was giving up on the possibility of swinging the state for Kerry.

Sue Walitsky, communications director for the Kerry campaign in Arizona, said nothing could be further from the truth.

Walitsky said many activities are being planned in Arizona from now until the election because Kerry has a strong chance of winning.

"We wouldn't be coordinating all this and this visit if Arizona were off the radar screen," Walitsky said. "Arizona is very much a battleground state."

Walistsky said the campaign doesn't look to the polls but instead looks to its fieldwork and grassroots organizations to paint a full picture of what Arizonans are thinking.

"We're very confident," she said. "The debate in Tempe will definitely help. We hope Bush will eventually agree to the debate. It'll give people a side-by-side comparison, and there will be no contest."

Edwards also refuted the accusation that the Kerry-Edwards campaign was backing out of Arizona in his speech.

"We're going to give George Bush a farewell tour," Edwards said to loud cheers. "He said he wants to be judged on his record. We want George Bush judged on his record."

Walitsky estimated 8,000 people filled the convention center, making the rally the "largest Edwards-only event so far in the campaign trail. "

Edwards spoke in front of a large sign that read "Un País Mas Fuerte," or "A Stronger Country."

Other speakers included Governor Janet Napolitano (D) and Congressman Raul Grijalva (D). Grijalva is up for reelection in District 7, which includes the university area.