UO feels the Bern as Sanders opens first Oregon campaign office in Eugene
On your walk to morning classes, you may have seen the Bernie Sanders booth across from the Duck Store or noticed the clipboard-clad volunteers making sure that Sanders supporters are registered as Democrats in time for the primary. As the presidential spotlight makes its way toward Oregon’s May 17 primaries, Eugene is already feeling Sanders’ presence.
This is largely due to the fact that the Lane County for Bernie chapter just opened its Eugene Headquarters at 2809 Friendly St. With coordinated phone banking and public events, the Sanders camp hopes to solidify a win in Oregon. They appear to have a strong voice in Eugene.
“We are seeing a really strong voter base for Sanders and a lot of volunteer action,” said Chris Wig, chairman of the Lane County Democratic Party.
Wig said that Sanders typically does well in areas with a large white, liberal population, and few places fit that description as well as Eugene.
“This is still a very close race. I didn’t honestly expect Bernie to do as well later on in the primary season,” Wig said. “But he still tends to struggle in areas with a more diverse voting block.”
The Bernie Sanders Center in Eugene was started by Democrat voters and then approved by the national campaign. Candidates’ headquarters are typically started by the campaigns themselves and then local volunteers join in.
The Sanders campaign is expected to open offices in Portland, Medford and Bend as well.
University of Oregon Senior Xander Berenstein has been volunteering for the UO Students for Bernie group since last summer when he co-founded it along with recent UO graduate Chase Kelly-Reif.
“This is the first election that I’ve seen where a candidate is bringing up issues that actually affect me,” said Berenstein. “I haven’t really been active politically before, but I really saw the need to join in on this movement.”
Berenstein refers specifically to Sanders’ promises to make public universities accessible and his awareness of climate change as two large areas where college-aged supporters connect to his campaign rhetoric.
Berenstein is often one of the students out gathering signatures and registering voters around campus.
“People often recognize me as that ‘Bernie guy’,” Berenstein said, clad in a green and yellow “Imagine Bernie” shirt. “They have seen me out around campus all year long.”
Berenstein said that the group coordinates a lot with the larger Lane County campaign. The group’s next big focus is going to be canvassing the Saturday Market.
Considering that Eugene has often been a hotspot for Democratic hopefuls, and Sanders’ son Levi graduated from UO with a degree in history, Berenstein said it’s almost certain that Sanders will make an appearance on campus before the primaries.
The UO group meets every Wednesday in Gerlinger 301 and also attends the Lane County chapter meetings on Saturdays at noon at the campaign center.
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